Education in the post-COVID world: a youth vision
Young people #Reimagine the future they want after the COVID-19 pandemic.
UNICEF Kenya asked young people to #Reimagine the future they want after the COVID-19 pandemic. Isha and Prajna are finalists of the 2018/19 Generation Unlimited innovation challenge. Their idea was Coming up with a new composite material made from wastes of plastic, glass and rubber which are shred or crushed, melted and mixed in an appropriate ratio to produce a composite. The waste is sourced through a reverse vending system for mutual societal benefit. The material is then used for Gardening equipment, Road Curbing, light poles, sign posts and fencing, window grills.
For a moment, let’s imagine iconic boxer Mike Tyson was one of our world leaders: he would have termed COVID-19 as an unforeseen uppercut to the face. We weren’t prepared, and neither was the world. With hundreds of prospective vaccines and treatments for the virus being developed, one can only hope for the best in the months or years to come. Until then, it is up to us to paint a post-COVID world. What makes this pandemic unique is more than the fact that the world wasn’t prepared for a global health crisis. Economies are broken, jobs have been lost, the healthcare system is strained and, worst of all for children, students haven’t been going to school.
The Ministry of Education has declared that students have already lost 24 weeks of learning, with the number set to increase until schools reopen. This is time that teachers and students cannot recover. However, there is something about this crisis that is making us stronger. Humanity has never come together like this before. It is a historic moment, where people from all over the globe are bringing in ideas to help adjust and rebuild. With this, we can begin to see what education would look like in a post-corona world.
Many schools and learning institutions across the world and in Kenya have adapted to technological solutions, such as video conferencing for their classrooms and online exams. The circumstances have given us an opportunity to change the way we do things, and this includes the opportunity to change how we provide education to future generations. Such an opportunity may not come around again for another hundred years.
Education has never been about bringing all students to the same level, it’s about bringing out the best in each one of our dreamers. Einstein reportedly said: “If you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” Now imagine this: five years down the line, Moses, an aspiring filmmaker in western Kenya is able to get access to the internet and go to any school in the world. He uses this not to learn basic academics such as math and English, but to spend an hour every day exploring what interests him. No dream is too small, and no dream too big. These children should be given a chance to experience such ideas from a young age.
After the pandemic has been beaten and the possibilities of student learning have become endless, policies made initially to limit the effects of the pandemic will have allowed the sector to be redefined. In this future world, an aspiring Kenyan astronaut can tap into the free learning resources of a university thousands of miles away. Conversely, a young American biologist can explore the rainforests of the Congo while seated at home. As author C.S. Lewis once said: “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.”
By Mitesh Varsani and Azarias Mehta, both 18 from and former students of SCLP Samaj school in Nairobi, Kenya.