Pandemic Oriented Resetting of Educational Goals: Challenge of being a Global Citizen

Dr. Bandita Baghchi

As COVID-19 pandemic struck in the year 2020 almost entire world came to grinding halt one by one. Rich and poor everyone’s health has been affected and people continue to suffer till date. As the pandemic progressed, vaccine has been touted as the panacea to come out of this challenge, but unfortunately this does not end here. Pandemic has cascading effect on all aspects of our life. People have been thrust into poverty and from there arises the compelling need to survive under most adverse circumstances. There are several places where such issues have led to mass exodus of human beings looking for a better living condition. Citizens from different parts of the world are being thrust into uncertainty. Travel has been banned, both domestic and international.

Global Citizenship a term inspired by the concept of globalization/global village has become a challenge. Those who have been following the news and are aware of the current world affairs would be able to fathom that how tough it would be to thrive as a Global Citizen. Versatility and knowledgeable personality, would be prime hallmark of such people. This would require immense levels of survival skills which can be provided with proper education and a good health. This touts for the need of continuous upskilling and education.

Digital platforms have become a necessity for education and our well-being at large. E-learning has taken up education by storm during this pandemic, which does not seem to be ending anytime soon. In fact, going forward it may never be same again. So sooner we accept this fact and move ahead better we will be. Continuing our lives and education, will require adoption of technologies. However, we also know that digitization is beyond the means for many people in our country. This invariably leads to increase in existing gap between various sections of our societies. Herein, I will try to analyze few cases from various backgrounds in order to highlight our educational shortcomings, which can be very easily mitigated by some efforts. This is especially important in today’s context because we need to improve our quality of work. Learning is not all about holding degrees, but many more like being capable to execute work and compassion.

Before I express my thoughts on how to help ourselves remodel or adapt to technology driven by new normal in the current era of pandemic and build societies for national interest, I will present a few narratives from my own experience. Let us consider them one by one.

Firstly, an incident from a COVID vaccination center. I was getting an eligible person his first dose of made in India vaccine. This is during the early days, when vaccine had been rolled out for the most vulnerable category of people and the vital information which are generally included in the fact sheet of a medicine were yet to be formulated. This information is supposed to emerge in a time-phased manner, yet we were desperate to get vaccinated. A situation created by the pandemic. Unprecedented circumstances are faced by global pharma giants, medics and public at large in the entire world. Post-vaccination we were handed a form at the center, but no one explained anything about it. Later, I realized that it was an Adverse Report Form. So, I assumed at some stage one would take interest in finding it out from the candidate, but even during the second dose of vaccination no information was collected from any source, which was a disheartening thing for me. A case of Missing information.

Secondly, a courier guy comes to collect the parcel, and I realize he endorsed the district in place of State and did not bother to write the sender’s address. Upon being questioned, he very confidently said that it will be endorsed by the barcode. A case of Mis-information. Thirdly, I needed to buy a household article of American brand, nothing important to be of national interest, and to my utmost surprise, they require me to register my most valuable identity in order to sell me the product. A case of excess-information.

Let us explore the intricacies involved in these incidents and identify the facets of life where we can contribute and improve. There are very well qualified and capable people in our country, no doubt about it, but this article is intended to look into the backyard and tidy it up. All these examples are from totally different background, but I visualize improper education as a common factor herein.

Quantity vs Quality

The data available from 2018 depicts that 74.4% population of India is literate. So, we have a good amount of educated people, but what is the general quality. Let us consider the first case, people from different strata have been working for the ultimate goal of vaccine development. This is an ultimate cause of national and global interest. However, what happens at the ground level? A detailed and precise data collection which could save us from going back and forth and avoid wastage of time is in a limbo. Due to the lack of synchronized effort smooth operations is missing. Result: we are lagging behind in getting an international recognition for our remarkable development. Here comes the question of quality performance by manpower.

On the other hand, in the second case, we depend on the barcode to do all the detailing. Mind you this is happening when digitization is becoming a norm. How does this work? A person with scientific lineage would say, algorithm has to do the needful. The system has been programmed in such a way that it will pick up all the values on its own. But how is the artificial intelligence work, if it is not provided with the requisite basic information (database)? Errors can prove to be disastrous.

In both these instances, fairly educated people, have led to gaps in data points (courier information, wrong endorsement), by providing incomplete or wrong information. Such negligence, deliberate or unmindful can mount to criminal magnitude in some cases. As we aspire to adopt technology, be global competitors, these are the facets where we need to re-train our national work- force to do a good quality performance. For instance, in the third case, the effort is being done in advance, by collecting data for an anticipated benefit in future. Foreseeing an issue and working for it will save time and energy.

Dignity of work: Transition from GID to DIY

Let us elaborate the socio-economic aspect of work in a bit more detail. For an instance, I had been cleaning the portico of my house, a passerby stops over and asks me why don’t I get it done by a helper? I wonder, what’s wrong with me? I am fit and fine, capable of some physical activity, can spare some time, so doing my work is a winning stance for me. Saves me from Get it done (GID) attitude, which is very normal for us in India, saves me the money, keeps me healthy.  Unfortunately, people would take pride in watching a Do It Yourself (DIY) video on YouTube and then emulate it, whereas in real life we fail to adopt DIY. Had a video call from my friend in US he was making a temple for his house (DIY). I am sure he would have purchased one, if he was here back in India. Another doctorate friend in Europe visits his father’s farm every weekend and contributes in the upkeep of cattle. There is no hesitation in doing any kind of work. One simply needs to have the skill and will to do it.

Why we do not find the dignity in doing any kind of work here in our country. The very same people when in India will refrain doing those jobs here. It is absolutely fine to employ some person and get the work done, if one is physically infirm, or due to lack of time. This will also provide a livelihood to a needy person. But the problem arises when we label work to a particular social section. For example, it is very common to see a graduate find it difficult to do menial job or work in his own field or farm here in India. Hiring a person from poorer background  (GID) will became an egoistic necessity in order to execute work for such people. Herein, again actual education is missing. Holding degrees is not enough. We should be capable, have the skills to thrive the most challenging situations, which we will eventually face owning to global changes. This is another aspect wherein we can very easily contribute on an individual basis. Take it up as a personal social responsibility and help the social building. It has mostly to do with our attitude which is a part and parcel of our mental well-being.

Mental Health and Emotional Training

 "Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity." As per World Health Organization. An important implication of this definition is that mental health is more than just the absence of mental disorders or disabilities. It is a state of well-being in which an individual realizes his or her own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and is able to make a contribution to his or her community. Mental health is fundamental to our collective and individual ability as humans to think, emote, interact with each other, earn a living and enjoy life. On this basis, the promotion, protection and restoration of mental health can be regarded as a vital concern of individuals, communities and societies throughout the world.

The cases cited above provides us an example of ill-performance. Such sub-optimal work could be indicative of some factor, which is looming large in our society or is an individual. Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point of time. For example, violence and persistent socio-economic pressures are recognized risks to mental health. Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, physical ill-health and human rights violations. There are specific psychological and personality factors that make people vulnerable to mental health problems.

Relevance of Personal Social Responsibility (PSR)

Having highlighted some lacunae in our education, which has led to increase in a mass of people who are unable to perform their best, now I would try to analyze and seek ways to equip our society deal with such shortcomings. There are several things that we can do on a personal basis to help out. This will provide us with a better workforce, which in return will add to our prosperity, peace and safety.

1.   Social outreach: Contribute towards economic equality. Pandemic has affected us in various ways. Not so well to do people and the poor are badly affected because of pandemic. Digital technologies have taken over education by storm and this has accelerated the divide. Even though these technologies have been instrumental in keeping the system going on in an era ushered in by social isolation, distancing etc. The important thing to note is that it is an inaccessible feat for the poor, who cannot afford a smart phone or laptop or do not have internet or money to buy data for internet. People in the rural areas where penetration of internet is not as robust as in the cities are affected. Children from poor background or in rural areas who used to attend school have had to discontinue in order to render a helping hand to the family, or have lost all family members are left alone to fend for themselves and their younger ones. These kinds of stories are very common. The economic divide has increased. Here comes the role of the affluent or people who are better off as a personal social responsibility. We can engage in an individual capacity and help out people continue education, or provide them a platform to study and become capable, even though that means supporting one person.

2.  Create an environment that supports mental health; Mental health promotion involves actions that improve psychological well-being.  An environment that respects and protects basic civil, political, socio-economic and cultural rights is fundamental to mental health. Without the security and freedom provided by these rights, it is difficult to maintain a high level of mental health. So, on an individual basis, we can make small efforts to support mental wellbeing of people with whom we interact. Be compassionate with people and lend a helping hand, maybe just by listening a distress person, talking out to him is good enough.

3.  Contribute towards academic education and literacy: It is important to realize that as a PSR initiative we can easily contribute to Primary and Secondary Education, College and Higher Education, and even Professional training. Be mentor to the people who are willing, or even people who are struggling to work. Education is one of the most important fields where we – the educated class of people can easily contribute. As a PSR initiative we can contribute at different levels beginning from literacy to education at school- primary and secondary, college-level and higher education. We need to be nurturing in whatever way possible.

4.  Bestow your knowledge, experience and skills: People who have retired are an asset in terms of knowledge. Sharing their experience and guiding others hone talent is another aspect, where elite class can contribute in a hassle-free manner.

5.   Physical contributions: Rural and Urban divide has increased in this pandemic due to the compelling need of digitization. Elite can yet again help the society by providing physical contributions, be it old and used mobile, laptop, TV, internet to the underprivileged. This will equip the disadvantaged section of the society. Guiding them to do quality work. Help them be precise and professional in their work.  Such rural outreach can prove instrumental in providing opportunity to the destitute.

6.  Gender equality: Lastly, but not the least, providing a helping hand in educating people, young or old, male or female without any bias will see us through this tough time. Without an equal opportunity to all, our society cannot survive. So let us be a support to all deprived people in whichever way possible.

Pandemic is a grim reminder of the fact that we who are at the comforts of our home, and are healthy and have resource to look after ourselves, should contribute a bit in the upliftment of people who have been badly affected. COVID-19 has brought in the harsh realization to value the humble environment, which gives us the oxygen to breathe. The social fabric wherein we live, be it our country or any other. We need to have skills in order to overcome the challenging circumstance. We urgently need to reset our goals as human beings and educate ourselves in such a way that the human race can survive. Lend a helping hand and protect them from slipping into misery. This would see us far off as a society. Afterall no one survives in isolation; everyone needs to be a part of cluster, thrive as a Global Citizen.


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