It began much like any other year, with optimism and motivation to achieve dreams and goals in different aspects of life. The dynamic quickly shifted as COVID-19 spread across the world and transformed life as we know it. The pandemic called attention to areas where inequalities were stark due to the changes in how individuals experienced daily life. At the same time, stories of incredible resilience from individuals, communities and businesses sprung to the forefront as the human race learned of new ways to persevere. 2020 has, for many, brought into perspective what matters most and where time and energy should be spent. As the year comes to an end, it is important to take the time to reflect on the progress made and setbacks faced in order to be able to plan effectively for the future. If not that, to remind ourselves of the incredibly capricious nature of life, to never forget to cherish every single day because nothing is guaranteed. To YOLO!, as the millennials echo.
One immediate effect of the pandemic was on education and the way in which it was being delivered. Various countries attempted to engage students in online schooling, the key word being ‘attempted’ because some students did not have access to the internet, a parent at home to get them through the technical aspects or the resources required to perform online school successfully. For online learning to achieve the desired outcome, the responsibility goes beyond the teacher and the school, even more so than in traditional learning. Parents and mass media have major responsibilities to improve socio-economic levels and contribute to this social experiment.
Online learning especially highlighted the digital gap in different countries and communities across the world. Most schools, especially from middle and low income countries did not have the capacity and resources to deliver online learning to their students. This is due to the fact that teachers had limited digital skills, little or no access to the correct software and hardware and lacked internet connectivity in the majority of locations. In most cases, even if most of these aspects were available, the curriculum did not integrate with the new systems.
To leave no one behind, a lot of changes need to take place. The pandemic started off as the rich man’s curse but quickly became the poor man’s burden. Similar inequalities manifested themselves in other socio-economic areas including in health care systems, urban development schemes and access to water & sanitation services.
Before the pandemic, pollution and carbon emissions had almost reached irreversible levels, with air pollution killing over seven million people per year! COVID-19 brought about numerous restrictions and most countries implemented lockdown regulations. Due to economic and industrial activities being on hold, pollution levels plummeted. China, Italy and India reported having nitrogen levels fall by more than 70 percent. Clean air was experienced in several parts of the world and in some places, a beauty that hadn’t been experienced in years. Reports of stunning vistas of the Himalayan mountains for the first time in years, iridescent sea creatures in clear waters and birds chirping in what were once grey skies went viral on social media. Even though this was a short term win as industries reopened and economic activities resumed, this experience provided a glimpse into the kind of future we should strive for, a cleaner, less polluted, more beautiful environment. This can only happen if all nations band together to actively find and implement substitutes for high pollution activities.
One can argue that in many aspects, the quality of life for many individuals has improved in the long run. National shutdowns forced life to slow down and gave people the chance to introspect and reevaluate life’s priorities. Most communities now place a higher value on being kind and empathetic as opposed to being first and the best. It has become abundantly clear that we are mutually dependent and thanks to technological advancements, we have been able to stay connected during this perilous time. As we head towards the holidays, that spirit of giving and family has never been more profuse. People the world over are more conscious of how their individual actions affect others and have placed health and family at the forefront.
2020 is hindsight, hindsight is 2020, that old age adage. But what does it really mean? According to Merriam Webster Dictionary it is “the full knowledge and complete understanding that one has about an event only after it has happened”. Is this true of 2020, the year? Hardly so. While scientists and research analysts may have full knowledge of what exactly happened in 2020, we are fairly certain that no-one will ever truly be able to comprehend it. From the disparities in how COVID-19 hit countries to the striking individual reactions to it which, in many cases, led to an upsurge in COVID-19 infections and deaths, one indeed would not desire to seek comprehension. One thing is certainly clear though, if we can survive 2020, we can survive anything.
From our Youth Connekt family to yours, we wish you all the best holiday season and love and light as you enter the New Year.