COVID-19: Challenges and Opportunities for the Youth

Life in lockdown
The global lockdown has made us confined to our primeval cave-like shelter of home. The post-global earth is in suspended condition as if it needs some time for hibernation. Surely the world will change permanently after this and if we are fortunate enough to see the post-Corona world, we will reminisce about our pre-Corona days. These are unprecedented times, a never-before, and perhaps never-after world that we now live in. Groping in the dark, in this age of social distancing, we have got the time to reflect on our idiosyncrasies. How do we transform ourselves from the flashy Joneses and beard ourselves in our dens? Let us accept the newfound world as it is, and hope against hope. Youth is the most precious resource of a country. They are the future, current times are challenging for them the sudden change in the educational system has affected not just their lives but even their psyche.

Effect of COVID-19 on Education System
Indeed, a sudden jolt, the COVID-19 pandemic has affected educational systems worldwide, leading to the near-total closures of schools, universities, and colleges. According to the UNICEF monitoring, 106 countries are currently implementing nationwide closures and 55 are implementing local closures, impacting about 98.6 percent of the world’s student population. Approximately 1.6 billion children and youngsters are unable to attend physical schools due to temporary closures and lockdowns.

There is a severe impact of coronavirus on higher education. Universities and college campuses are the places where students live and study in close proximity to each other. They are also buzzing cultural hubs where students are brought together from nations around the world. Recently, the foundations of this unique ecosystem have been impacted significantly by the rapid spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, creating uncertainty regarding the implications for higher education. Over the past weeks, education officials have been forced to cancel classes and close the doors to campuses across the world in response to the growing coronavirus pandemic. But, knowledge cannot be confined within the boundaries even during the lockdown. This phase can be utilized by our youth to learn, enhance their knowledge, and upgrade their skills, so that one can become future ready, to take up the new challenges.

Invest your time in learning
In the “live with COVID” era, a lot of options will be forced to develop to replace the conventional style of functioning of man-machine and knowledge delivery. The year 1985 implemented the digitalizing of education in India by the central government. DIGITAL INDIA projects are playing a conspicuous role in imparting education.

Conferencing apps such as Zoom, Google Classroom, Google Meet, and Webex are the popular apps used for conducting interactive classes. All India Radio is broadcasting syllabus based educational contents daily in its VIDHYABHYASA RANGAM program. Television channels reach out to students in a better way since they can telecast video, multimedia content and audio simultaneously. For example, Doordarshan in collaboration with the government of Bihar started a programme named MERA DOORDARSHAN MERA VIDHYALAY. This programme is a big hit in states where education facilities in rural areas are less. ‘Diksha’ an educational programme by MHRD is conducting various courses for lessons, plans, etc. can be accessed from DIKSHA and teachers can easily upload educational resources created by them. NATIONAL REPOSITORY OF OPEN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES (NROER) established in 2013 by MHRD and developed by NCERT is also an open resource platform for digital resources for class 1 to 12.

Video audio documents and interactive contents are available online. SWAYAM is a programme initiated by the Government of India aimed at offering everyone, easy access to high-quality digital aides and resources. Premier government organizations host this programme. Subject-specific courses conducted by SWAYAM are available free of cost to the learners. Undergraduate education supported by NPTEL, AICTE, CEC, IIM Bangalore. Postgraduate education supported by NPTEL,AICTE, IIM Bangalore, and UGC. UGC has started promoting online courses by higher educational institutions. The distance education bureau of UGC is managing these programmes. Various universities and SCERTs are also supporting digital education in all possible ways. One can access a large volume of digital resources from YouTube and other social media platforms. YouTube is the largest source of digital learning material. Take the membership of free Digital libraries.

Challenge or Opportunity?
It is not doom and gloom phase completely. Every challenge comes with some hidden opportunities. This time can be utilized by the youth to develop their skills, learn from the rich resources available to them. No barriers can stop the youth from learning and attaining knowledge. With the hope that the educational institutions will reopen soon and then things will be back to normal. As the students are coming into terms with the new normal the educational institutes are also gearing up.

Universities and colleges are also implementing changes to campuses in response to the novel coronavirus. The steps are already being taken by the educators to understand what has worked, what hasn’t worked, and how to tackle the challenges they may face. With the spread of the disease expected to worsen before it gets better, administrators are taking quick action to safeguard their campuses and students.
The campuses are also ensuring safety and are preparing themselves for the new normal, measures like sanitization tunnels, temperature checks, monitoring safety by technology surveillance, rigorous campus cleansing, etc. are being implemented for the safety.

The higher education sector has withstood turbulent economic times in the past, and it withstands them again. In a digital age, universities and colleges are better placed today more than ever to provide students with easy access to continue their studies online. They are ready to prepare their students for post corona times and are thus coming up with courses on trending technologies such as IoT, AI, Data Science, Machine Learning, etc. which will be in high demand in the market and this demand is expected to grow exponentially in the coming decade.

Hoping against hope
The youth today is unable to hang out with their friends, peers, and classmates like they used to, and are not being able to expend their energy on sports, is not be easy on them. They have to cope up with the new mechanisms, build and strengthen their connections with supportive adults, including their teachers. Things will be back to normal one day.“Hope begins in the dark. The stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.” – Anne Lamott, Novelist