I’ve just hit a pivotal benchmark – my birthday. The jubilance and festivity from previous years has been replaced with a deeply personal gratitude for life and a reverence for the perspective and gifts it’s brought. Not brightly packaged designer gifts, but something of far greater value – an understanding that it took just six months for habits, patterns and dreams to be utterly shattered, and that it took perseverance and fortitude to adjust and reshape to an uncertain future. I’m acutely conscious of not wasting this privilege but to make every moment count towards something greater than me.
Talking about Trauma and Loss
It would be facile and irreverent to dismiss the gravity of the coronavirus 2019 pandemic as something necessary to help us evolve as a species. It is important to grieve what has been lost and to find meaning and hope in how life has changed. There is no one-size-fits-all formula to dealing with the traumatic implications of this virus. Healing occurs in phases where one is moving in and out of different emotions. Corona fatigue is real. There is a collective exhaustion and even I have days where trying to find the upside brings me down. What I can say is that time is not the solution to resolving prolonged grief. Digesting and reframing how we perceive grief can provide the solution.
A birthday, or re-birth, is a time to re-new ourselves and take stock and while there has been severe economic hemorrhaging and families have been devastated by loss, there have also been overwhelming positives with collective benefit:
- We’ve united in the fight against a common enemy
- We’ve retained what works for us and discarded what’s no longer needed
- We’ve questioning traditional patterns of work flow
- We’ve reignited our curiosity for the world around us and focused our energy on learning new things
- We’ve fast-tracked our goals and maybe realised others were superficial and inconsequential
- We’ve strengthened our relationships, with each other, with our communities, with ourselves
From an economic and business perspective:
- There is an evolution of retail growth in logistics and warehousing
- We are slowly embracing working from home and the capacity to be digital nomads
- We are developing online education and learning platforms
- We are realising that there’s a direct link between business and the environment
- We’re re-imagining future scenarios which are inclusive and collaborative.
A new vision for Africa
As a continent deeply divided in some regions with warring factions, displacement and resource monopoly, Africa demonstrated solidarity, wisdom and discipline in the application of health regulations at the height of the crisis, according to The Africa Report.
- African countries stood together. As early as February 2020, when the first coronavirus case in Africa was reported, African Union States met to devise a continent-wide strategy, including financial support and stimulus measures. Strong decisions were made, including debt relief and galvanising the financial sector. The African Task Force for Coronavirus, made up of the World Health Organisation, Africa CDS and The African Union Development Agency, came up with a strategic plan.
- Regional integration was fast-tracked through the African Continental Free Trade Area to prevent shortages of rationalising local production. Through this agreement alone studies show AfCFTA could boost regional income by 7%, $450 billion and lift 30 million people out of extreme poverty by 2035.
- Tariff and border controls were removed, highlighting the need to expand road networks as sea and air links closed
A new vision for education
According to UNESCO several countries introduced remote learning. But with 90% of students without computers and 82% without internet access the dire need for technological connection. To support these programmes, the AfDB and the AU are releasing an African Education Fund of nearly $300m. It aims to stimulate investment in Africa’s human capital, mainly in technical and vocational education and training.
A new report by the American School Superintendents Association, entitled ‘An American Imperative: A new Vision for public Schools’ has taken this forced change and proposed a long-overdue restructure of the education system. It’s “future-focused, rigorous, energetic and culturally vibrant learning that empowers learners, families and communities”. It focuses on a three-pronged approach:
This proposed systemic redesign will rely on a relationships-based culture that is:
- Whole-learner focused: The entire system must attend to the social, emotional, cognitive, mental health, and trauma-based needs of all learners.
- No learner marginalized: All children, families, and staff must be embraced, valued equally and served with equity—regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, socio economic circumstance, or disability.
- Future-driven: Schools must anticipate changes in the career, social, economic and technological landscapes to inform ongoing decisions
2. Social, emotional and cognitive growth
Learning must entirely reorient around the students. To meet learners’ social, emotional and cognitive needs, instruction must follow a growth model continuum, where data analytics, planning and evidence of progress operate in a feedback loop that allows educators to personalize learning.
Teams of school, state and federal leaders must determine how to provide resources to meet every student’s ‘whole learner’ like technologies to accelerate learning, aligned community resources, high quality early learning and culturally responsive.
The New Vision for Wellness
The Global Wellness Institute, has called COVID-19 a wake-up call to focus on wellness. Never before in history has health undergone such seismic shifts. Wellbeing is the active pursuit of activities, choices and lifestyles that lead to a state of holistic health. It is multi-faceted, encompassing physical, mental, emotional, social, environmental, and spiritual dimensions. We are not whole or truly well when any of these foundations of life are missing or deficient; each dimension strengthens or weakens another.
Relying on Resilience
A year after the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to grieve what has been lost, and it is also important to find meaning and hope in how life has changed. No words can suffice to assuage the grief that humanity is facing at the moment because grief reactions are often all-consuming, excruciatingly painful, and highly impairing. So as I transition into the next year of my life I carry with me not only accelerated change, but also insight into the new vision that we must embrace and adopt to make it out of this, mentally, physically and psychologically. If anything, we should have a clearer vision of what we as a human race needs now, than before the pandemic hit.