NIZWA, Jan 3
‘The word’ is out! It is in the newspapers, on television, heard on the radio, and a part of every conversation being held across the Sultanate. “The vaccine is here. Corona is finished.” Along with the now inevitable knowing looks, nudges, winks, and conspiratorial lowering of voices as mumbled allusions to its being mythical, political, and meaningless.
Apparently, we can all rest easy now because it was all just a gigantic ruse. Such opinions are commonplace among those who ‘know,’ so why have we all suffered the economic, social, and deprivations of the last twelve months? There are many who would like to know the how and why of the greatest global occurrence in a century. Talk is cheap, loose talk is cheaper, and rubbish talk is just noise for no reason.
As to who has suffered most? That is a difficult question, however, governments on every continent have suffered, as have the tourism and hospitality sectors, currently operating on 5-10 per cent capacity. Business cash reserves are gone as they have lost intellectual property, trade, and impetus. Clearly though, the biggest losers are families, as redundancies, reduced hours, layoffs, and school closures have turned homes upside down.
Homes have either flourished under strong parenting or suffered under the weak. Not everyone has the capacity to manage the time and space needs of such a diverse micro-society for such an extended time. Weekends are one thing, school holidays another, but the pandemic has never had an end date!
No: The biggest losers are the pupils and students of the world! From kindergarten, to school, to secondary, to university, every one of them has had their learning experience deeply affected, either simply by the lack of an alternative equal provision of learning, or lesser quality of learning. Paul Levinson is an American Professor of Communications, and he states that “Online learning can be a lifeline,” however a lifeline is just temporary, and as Bill Gates said recently, “In terms of getting the kids working, motivating them, the teacher is the most important.” And there is no doubt… teachers are already the forgotten heroes of the pandemic!
Microsoft ‘Teams’, Google ‘Meet’, and ‘Zoom’ were all thrust upon teachers with diverse prior experiences in technology. Hastily created online syllabi were institutional Pavlovian responses. Endless revisions followed as the realities of societal negligence and aversion to disaster preparation became real-time ‘perfect storms.’ Institutions, and indeed societies, must hold themselves up to be scrutinised for their complacency, as action plans for fire, earthquake, or storm may have been in place, but not this! Societal laxity, its absence of preparedness, plans, resources, and training, all point to an untested complacency, and the students have been left to pick up the pieces. They will because they are young, sturdy, and have the resilience of that youth.
But do not make the mistake of thinking the pandemic was a ‘one-time-wonder.’ It was not, is not, and will not be. COVID-19 was surely Mother Nature flexing her muscles in the wake of generations and decades of natural, environmental, and complacency (there is that word again), by us all.
The reality is to get vaccinated, for other’s sake if not for your own. Buy flowers for mums and wives, as the least they deserve. Reward healthcare professionals and teachers appropriately, and be tolerant of children as they navigate their way back into the classroom, and beyond… sooner rather than later.