EDUPEACE | COVID-19: Calamity as Opportunity
By Dr. Mahfouz A. Adedimeji, Ex-Director, Centre for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin, Ilorin, Nigeria. Fellow, World Institute for Peace
For billions of people across the world, the Coronavirus pandemic is the worst humanitarian calamity of our life-time. Globally, it has resulted in many deaths, infected us in millions, collapsed our healthcare facilities, disrupted our ways of life, worsened our economies, shut down our education systems totally or partially and left in its trail tales of woe and sorrow.
At the end of August 31, 2020, the COVID-19 cases had surged beyond 25 million infections (25,547,819) all over the world, according the Johns Hopkins University tally. At least 853,006 have died while fortunately, some 17,827,544 people have recovered since the first case of the strain was reported in December 2019. At the time of preparing this article at the end of last month, some 6,867,638 cases were still active across the world and more cases would have still been recorded.
Though the world is no longer at the panic mode it was in February and March with the gradual relaxation of systemic lockdowns, the reality of today is that the pandemic has brought out a new normal in virtually all sectors. Generally new and renewed vocabularies have regarding ‘handwashing’, ‘hand sanitizing’, ‘social and physical distancing’, ‘safe shopping’, ‘face masking’, ‘staying-at-home’, going on ‘isolation’ and ‘quarantine’, ‘lockdown’ and observing ‘protocols’ have become part of our daily existence.
In spite of the uncertainties of the time, it is always desirable to maintain one’s mental balance through proper understanding and positivity. This understanding is impelled by education and peacefulness in turbulence is created by open and hoping minds that are positive about life, despite its imperfections, while believing that everything ultimately has a reason.
Disappointments and disasters, as undesirable as they are, serve to direct, inspect, correct, perfect and even protect us as human beings. They also make us reflect. It is from this perspective that it is desirable that rather than despair or see spots on the window as a pessimist is wont to, we should see the sunshine that appears to the optimist and appreciate every calamity provides inherent opportunities.
Perhaps, the coronavirus pandemic is meant to direct our attention to some of the things we have taken for granted and then value the blessings we enjoy(ed). We have often taken freedom for granted and we are being directed to appreciate the family around us and realize that those who are confined to a spot or imprisoned innocently are not worse than us in any sense.
In many ways, the climate of COVID-19 is a moment to pause and inspect the inner recesses of our souls especially and global society at large with a view to working more purposefully in prioritizing what matters: education, health, peace, security and ultimately development. Incidentally, education drives all as it is the foundation of all development.
COVID-19 also serves to correct the impression that we have all the solutions. The more we know, the more we realize oceans of knowledge still lie ahead yet to be explored which is why the world is still battling to produce a cure till the moment. When this correction takes place, arrogance and hubris should abate as we realize the powerlessness of man before the forces of nature. We thereby perfect our thinking that all power belongs to the Almighty God. Besides, this is a season that is meant to correct the way we run our lives while ruining the environment or thinking that we are invincible.
Meanwhile, COVID-19 makes us appreciate the need to protect ourselves through proper hygiene and taking preventive measures, rather than curative ones. It is much easier to prevent than to cure but the world is full of many unhealthy habits that often reduce our immunity and make us vulnerable to infections and diseases.
Suddenly, many developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America especially realize the importance of good hospitals when their leaders, who are used to travelling abroad to treat common ailments, realize that the borders are shut against them by their favorite destinations as part of those countries’ containment measures. Some of the top government functionaries died in these countries just because they were trapped within their own countries that had been denied good health facilities.
As many people did and still do, COVID-19 also provides an opportunity for a sober reflection on the limitation of human capability, despite the progress made in science and technology. A virus caught the world napping and everyone is in trouble! It is also provides a window to pause a bit from our robotic lifestyle and appreciate that little things make all the difference. For instance, drawing a full breath in a crowd without a mask, shaking hands with a stranger and having a warm embrace with an old acquaintance have all assumed new dimensions of super-sensitivity.
By and large, in spite of the calamity of COVID-19 pandemic, the window of opportunities it also provides is limitless as continuous reflections make us to realize that, as David C. Hill once said, “We can’t control the world. We can only (barely) control our reactions to it. Happiness is largely a choice, not a right or entitlement.”
For everyone who lives and survives this pandemic, the right attitude is that of what which René Descartes advanced in his “Discourse on Method” (1637): corgito, ergo sum or I think, therefore, I am.
Think and let the world think!