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22 October 2020
Nora Forsbacka

Over these last few weeks, we have been faced with an unprecedented challenge, as COVID-19 has made its way across the world. It has brought with it a storm that might change the course of history, for better or worse.

News about the spread of the novel coronavirus has sent shockwaves through the world. We are dealing with a global pandemic, and we do not yet know the magnitude it will have. But we do know that the crisis has not yet reached its peak, and that there are growing concerns about the devastating impact it could have on low and middle-income countries and the most vulnerable communities around the world, including areas already suffering from humanitarian crises.

States have been affected and have responded in different ways. Protecting the health and wellbeing of all remains at centre of the responses to the pandemic. Yet, there are concerns about how some restrictions may affect human rights, basic freedoms, gender equality, democracy and education, among others. For example, in Hungary, there is a proposal on the table that would allow prime minister Viktor Orbán an unrestricted mandate to rule by decree, without a cut-off date.

Reports from all around the world however indicate, that there is another storm slowly growing. One of solidarity and compassion. There are a myriad of positive examples of the effects the crisis has had on climate change, remote work, neighbourly solidarity and solidarity across borders.

The pandemic undeniably brings with it hardships, suffering, and loss. But in each crisis, there is also a seed for change. Right now is the right time for us to take stock and rethink, as there are lessons to be drawn from what happens today. Lessons that concern not only social solidarity, but also systemic and transformative change.

Paul Engler calls this pandemic  “by far the biggest “trigger event” of our generation”, and predicts that it will change politics, economics and public opinion in drastic ways. On a similar note, activists and author Naomi Klein remarks that history teaches us that in moments in shock, we either lose a lot of ground and pay the price for decades, or we win victories that seemed impossible only a few weeks earlier.

As the coronavirus swipes over the world, the world as we know it is quickly coming to an end. Once the storm blows over, it will have left its marks upon us. The measures that each of us take during this storm will help shape our new world. That is why we should not succumb to the temptation of sleeping through the storm but rather stay awake throughout it and help facilitate the change that we want to see. We must choose to stay awake and take action to shape the world that comes after. In the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, “done right, we can steer the recovery toward a more sustainable and inclusive path.”

Because there are other forces that will stay awake throughout the storm, potentially using this time for more sinister purposes, such as restricting civic rights, spreading far-right propaganda and distrust, and backtracking on gender equality or climate change measures.

Many of the emergency measures taken now – decisions that could take years in a normal situation but are now passed in hours - can become a fixed part of our lives, warns Yuval Noah Harari. We must make a choice between travelling down the route of disunity, or the path of global solidarity, he adds.

An article by Charles Foster points out some good things that might emerge from the crisis, including an increased understanding that national boundaries are artificial, and that people are not islands. Similarly, Lorenzo Marsili remarks that the way we are responding to the virus is evidence that we can drastically transform our systems to fight a threat.  

While many of us are adapting to new realities, this is a time and space for us to learn. We should take that time to learn as individuals, but we should also do that collectively, as an individual alone cannot deal with a collective crisis. And this is where transformative education comes in.

As educators, as activists and proponents for a more just and sustainable world, perhaps our role right now is to build spaces for collective reflection, to help find ways to better navigate this storm. We could create spaces for co-creating the world that evolves out of this pandemic. In the midst of the crisis, Global Citizenship Education and transformative education can be our compass, helping us navigate the storm.

In Bridge 47, we are, as others, adapting our behaviour. We believe that right now, Global Citizenship Education and transformative education are more needed than ever. While our physical events are cancelled or postponed, we are increasingly moving our work to take place online. We are continuing to work for what we believe in from home, across 12 different countries. We believe this to be our moral imperative, to help bring about a more just and sustainable world through transformative education.

 

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