I believe we can’t really say we were ever fully disconnected in this entire pandemic. Physically we are apart, except the presence of various kinds of devices, social media, and the Internet has kept us far from feeling isolated and lonely. I think we all are thankful for having that, yet that’s the oversight of it. There are still locations where communication and connectivity to the world, both digitally and physically, is nonexistent, especially when it comes to learning. Yes, that’s right. The simple, empowering phenomenon of learning has still not been encountered by countless, much to this day.
Presently, the digital society is serving the most important purpose it probably will ever have - contributing to the continuity of education amidst a rapidly spreading health crisis. I’m lucky enough to have access to almost all resources that I would have otherwise received at school, at home as well. I have the access to textbooks in both print and PDF, fast and efficient communication methods of e-mail to contact my teachers, easy and convenient texting structures to quickly seek friends and classmates for help, and the entire landscape of the Internet laid out in front of me, prepared to display anything I am of need to discover in order to complete my studies. I am endlessly grateful. But, there are places where this kind of aid is utterly unimaginable. The perception of being educated together is devoid from classes, homes, and entire countries.
Goal number four of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) is quality education - extending teaching resources, tools, and assistance to each and every adolescent in the world because education is the fundamental for breaking the cycle of poverty, and opening the door to burgeoning economic independence. Before COVID-19, the population of children out of primary and secondary schools was declining, with only seventeen percent not attending in 2018, with approximately 260 million children absent. There are currently 617 million individuals without basic mathematical and literary skills. With COVID-19, the UN has accounted that 91% of the world’s children have been affected by closures and by April 2020, 1.6 billion students had begun to study from home. That is more than one-fifth of the world’s population!
These numbers are undeniably overwhelming, however they speak the truth. The unfortunate thing is that education hasn’t just declined now after school closures escalated, it was already turning downhill before. Quality is degrading, withal access - the foundation of an internationally widespread education - is dissipating.
I agree that the quality of education is equally significant and it differs by country or region, and the availability of assets and support. Nevertheless, access to it is the ultimate bedrock that has been continuously lacking, surprisingly in many urban locations, in addition to rural areas. It is what truly can and does influence the quality, itself.
So, for me and every determined child, this unprecedented course of time is an opportunistic prospect to reimagine and revolutionize the accessibility to education. As schools have been forced to shut down, teachers and their students have put in tremendous efforts to ensure that schooling remains unceasing at home, either that is with calls, watching videos, posting worksheets online, having a program where the entire class can collaborate, or using mobile applications for sending homework.
Seeing how much we have done in the pandemic, I can only wonder if we can do the same when the world begins to normalize. Could we indeed do as much or even further, now that there is the experience of education exclusive and external to school, when a pandemic is no longer persisting?
Nothing can prevent us from attaining this, but there is inevitably the question of passion, encouragement, and determination - each of which I truly believe thrives inside each child of this world. Children want to learn, work hard, seek and discover more, and understand and create more. Will individuals who have attended and completed their studies take up the role of transporting the accessibility of their education to others? After all, we all are humans, we all live on the same planet, Earth, and we all breathe the exact same air.
As the youth of now, I have been taught for all my life that working together is how we achieve everything that we have - just like in these circumstances, we must coalesce with every community and country in order for the entire planet to reach accessible and quality education.
In fact, goal number seventeen of the UN SDG is global partnership. Every Sustainable Development Goal “can only be realized with strong global partnerships and cooperation” as quoted from the UN webpage. This is the world I reimagine after COVID-19; where international cooperation is at its prospectively highest extent.
Moreover, I reimagine the development of some sort of platform that centralizes on basic education. A platform in digital and substantial form, in which youth would communicate with youth through learning, sharing and building ideas that could bring about awareness of a highly unified education. Support staff would travel in their own countries, and take the hands of education and carry them to the places it has not been able to advance by itself. This program would put forth the commotion of higher progress in innovations, and technical infrastructures and industries, besides generating sensations of unity, ardor, independence, and vitality.
For now, as we battle a virus that has invaded our homes, spread education in your own unique way, whether that is by having a conversation, sending a message, writing up an email, or simply acknowledging the presence of a certain issue to someone you know. Education is not delineated and restrained to the walls of schools or to the illuminated screens of computers. Education is in all of us, in our minds, in the past, in the present, and in the future.