Photo Credit: Gery Wibowo Unsplash
Reflecting on how the COVID-19 pandemic effected higher education
Moulik Seth, Associate Opinions Editor
Life before the pandemic was much, much simpler. Fresh out of high school, I was anxiously excited to start university, in a different country, in a different culture, amidst new, unseen faces. I was coming to one of the premier public universities around the world and thought that nothing could be better for my learning experience and introduction to higher education.
The COVID-19 pandemic entered our lives unexpectedly at the beginning of this year and for some it was a painful and traumatizing adjustment. Within a few months, my dreams of travelling to Toronto and learning from the best around the world were reduced to a desk and a laptop. As I write this, I don’t have adequate sleep and am constantly weighted by assignments and tests. I’m not complaining though, at least, not yet. Though, it is not just higher education which has been drastically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. As such I’d like to draw attention to the larger scheme of issues that humans face in these uncertain times and why it is important for every institution, organization, and administration to understand their relevance in these issues and work to come up with a solution.
Overall well-being seems to be a running issue across most people I know (relatives, friends, family) and particularly, how the pandemic has restricted our focus to a screen and taken out the richness of human experience that we would normally face. Reduced social interaction has seemingly lead to a subsequent form of loneliness. Just in April alone, it was reported that more than 1000 people contacted hotlines available for mental health when compared to last years numbers. Our lives are being dramatically affected and we don’t really seem to be speaking about it. We seem to push these important mental health issues to the sidelines and as such think that they won’t affect us.
The World Health Organization (WHO) approximates that individuals across the world are 43 percent more likely to face a mental illness during this time. This decrease in overall well-being will have an effect on our productivity, motivation, and more importantly, extract the way we speak and interact to people and learn from our surroundings. 90 percent of people have shifted to an online based forum of teaching and 30 percent of people still cannot access these resources. In other words, I am not learning the same I would have if I was in a physical environment. Online learning has taken away the importance of in-person inclusion and connection.
It is important we realize this and also important that we bring about change in our mentality and offer services to people affected by mental illness. The pandemic will pass, but we will be victims to a larger malaise and the sooner we understand this, the better off we are.