School can be a tough place. Aside from learning, you have to navigate your way through friendships, disagreements and bullies. That's what people across Africa are tweeting about using the hashtag #IfAfricaWasASchool.
#IfAfricaWasASchool is a twitter hashtag that started trending on Wednesday this week. A Zimbabwean based in South Africa, Winston Manjengwa, is behind it. Tens of thousands of tweets using the hashtag have been posted. In some instances, they touched the real issues affecting many Africans.
The hashtag creator imagined how life would be like if Africa was a school. Twitter users across the globe poked fun at African countries and celebrated the rich and diverse African culture from clothing to cuisine. But for others, it was time to express their views on political issues affecting their countries.
The hashtag's creator, Winston Manjengwa, told DW how the internet is changing many lives in Africa, especially young people.
DW: How did you come up with the idea for this hashtag?
Winston Manjengwa: Recently someone started the hashtag #IfAfricaWasABar which took Africa into a bar setting. But I just thought why not take Africa and put it in a school setting. I thought that would be better and it made sense and most people could relate to it.
Were you anticipating that this hashtag would go viral?
Not really. It just flew-off. I started on Wednesday evening before I went to bed and then the next morning it was all over the place.
The hashtag has generated a lot of responses from around Africa. Why do you think people connected to it?
I used the "Curate Africa" account, which is a community account that I started. We get a curator from different African countries to come through and curate for seven days. The account has attracted an audience from different African countries. That's why it got so much response because many people follow the account and could relate to the hashtag.
From your experience, do you think social media could be a platform for serious discussion in Africa?
I can't say that it could be because it's already a broad platform for African people to speak out about different issues. We didn't use to have a platform where we could voice our opinions and what we think of our governments.
Social media is just a voice for everyone, especially young people, to express how we feel about issues affecting us in daily life. If you look at things that happened in South Africa last year, it did make a difference and that started via social media. If you look at #ThisFlag in Zimbabwe right now, it started via social media and it's already making an impact.
Some governments in Africa have heightened measures to stifle dissenting voices on social media platforms. How is this affecting social media enthusiasts?
You can't block the internet. You can't do anything to stop movements that started via social media. There is always a way to around it. If there's police brutality in Kenya, Uganda or in Zimbabwe, we are still going to see the videos on social media even if they block the internet. We are going to use a VPN to get around it. As much as African governments will try to block the internet to stop movements started on social media, they can't succeed in 2016 because technology is advanced and our voices have become too loud.
Winston Manjengwa is a Zimbabwean social media enthusiast based in South Africa.
Interview: Fred Muvunyi