Three years ago, The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 24 January as International Day of Education, in celebration of the role of education for peace and development. This year's theme, Recover and Revitalize Education for the COVID-19 Generation is a stark reminder that education is a human right, a public good and a public responsibility. This week, GOFAD explores the context of this theme and plans a subsequent focus on actual examples toward achieving its aspirations.
An Evolving COVID-19 Generation
Functioning during the current pandemic has taught us that Education for the COVID 19 generation is not only linked to formal institutions and general sources like books but also that in times of crises, education must not be paused. Hence, through online engagements and devices like mobiles and computers, there was little risk of getting contaminated with the virus. It demonstrated that through innovative applications, education provides hope of what works to stimulate the mind. Children suffered from the lack of 'community' stimulation in the formal school system but online education provided alternative ways to meet their demands. Education was sustained in the form of new modes of working and new avenues for exploring historical, artistic and cultural geo-spaces that brought people out of depression and anxiety.
Yet the experience of adopting to educational requirements during a pandemic has illustrated that without inclusive and equitable opportunities for all, countries will not succeed in achieving gender equality and breaking the cycle of poverty that are leaving millions of children, youth and adults behind. UNESCO's Global Education Monitoring Report 2020 shows that 258 million children and youth still do not attend school; 617 million children and adolescents cannot read and do basic math; less than 40% of girls in sub-Saharan Africa complete lower secondary school and some four million children and youth refugees are out of school. Their right to education is being violated and it is unacceptable.
Value of Schools and links between Health and Education
The purpose of the 2021 theme is to strengthen and welcome the revival of education whose normal modes were frozen with the wave of coronavirus starting from china and encapsulating the whole world. The pandemic gave new meaning to globalization. Now, a ray of hope has appeared with the discovery of vaccines inspired by global efforts of the scientific community . The looming impediment to a hopeful reality is whether or not the global governance of vaccines would permit equitable access and equal opportunities for the Covid-19 generation in the North and South to start going to school, college and universities.
A recent article in the Lancet Journal, "Supporting every school to become a foundation for healthy lives" (January 21, 2020) warns of the consequences of these inequities and shows in particular, the intrinsic link between education and health. Schools are identified as a setting where children and adolescents live and learn, linked to the family and embedded within the wider community. They have an important influence on every student's health. Many health interventions have used schools as a platform, often for standalone programmatic initiatives to reduce health risks, and sometimes for more comprehensive approaches. The authors provide evidence to show that the interventions, uptake, and sustainability of these approaches are generally disappointing. They argue that to improve health and to reduce inequality, all students must attend school from a young age and for as long as possible, and their educational success therein must be maximized. Thus, beyond educational benefits, schools are also important for health. Coherence between each school's policies, structures and systems, human resources, and practices is required to advance both academic and health outcomes. "Beyond simply implementing ready-made programmes into schools, health professionals can position themselves as catalysts for structural change as they have many opportunities to advocate for, and participate in, the intersectoral implementation of reforms and innovations in school systems to promote the health of all students".
In support of this view, UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres aptly proclaims that education is a basic need of every person. Its importance is described in the SDG #4 ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all. Through this aspirational goal the UN General Assembly promotes a message of global vigilance to every corner of the world. It sounds the clarion call for the betterment and welfare that education keeps inside itself: " an educated individual, a civilized individual and hence a civilized society, blessed with opportunities and optimism"
COVID-19 and the Moral Imagination
Once again it is the Lancet January 22, 2021, and reference to the moral imagination that has placed the issue squarely on the agenda, It refers to a "cosmopolitan moment", when the existing order is destabilized to open up a new arena of moral and political responsibility.
In this cosmopolitan moment, the global community could come together
to create new institutions or mechanisms to address the structural causes
of global inequity and promote the wellbeing of people and the planet.
The argument is that the COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the dysfunctional system of global governance that exacerbate barriers and bottlenecks to achieving global reforms such as SDGs and the Paris Agreement. Why?: because they conflict with powerful global actors pursuing their own economic goals, national security, and sovereignty. Yet there is a possible recovery path through international cooperation and multilateralism which GOFAD previously addressed pointing to need for innovative approaches to debt relief , expanding funding for development assistance, and investments in technological solutions and emergency preparedness and response.
How to drive our moral imagination for the COVID -19 generation must preoccupy educators, health practitioners and policy makers. It must also draw on the perspectives of what Lancet refers to as 'Influential idea-generators', multilateral agencies, advocacy coalitions, and philanthropists. The aim is to achieve viable pathways to recovery for a healthier and more equal future for people and the planet while revitalizing education for the COVID 19 generation.
Prof Didier Jourdan, PhD Nicola J Gray, PhD Prof Margaret M Barry, PhD Sonja Caffe, PhD Christophe Cornu, MA Fatou Diagne, "Supporting every school to become a foundation for healthy lives" The Lancet: January 21, 2021
Mahomed Said Patel, Christine Beatrice Phillips "COVID 19 and the Moral Imagination" The Lancet, January 22, 2021
Garfield Barnwell, " As the UN Celebrates its 75th Anniversary Multilateralism at the Cross Roads" GOFAD Blog September 7, 2020
What an extraordinary day! This week's blog is being written minutes after the official transition of the American Administration with the swearing in of 46th President, Joseph Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris. No doubt, newspapers and columnists commentaries around the world will abound with celebratory messages of hope that the dark days are about to be vanquished and illumined by an era of civility and a revival of America’s international image. That Unity was the prevailing message of President Biden's inaugural address was predictable. He was emphatic that uniting people is the prerequisite to fighting the cascading challenges of extremism and violent forces that divide the nation. His cautious optimism resonated in the pronouncement that this was indeed America’s day to celebrate "the triumph of the cause of democracy". Yet no words, no matter how inspiring as was President Biden’s could disguise the looming shadows of a fractured society with the underlying gloom of over 400,000 deaths from COVID-19 for which the gathering at the ceremony appropriately honored with a moment of silence.
MLK Celebrations: Casting light on Caribbean Leadership and a Stunning Rebuke of White Supremacy
This Inauguration follows the celebrations on January 18 , commemorating the birthday of the slain civil rights leader, Martin Luther King, Jr. Washington Post columnist Colbert King aptly recognizes the significant overlap with the ascension of Kamala Harris as America’s first Black woman and Asian Vice President with Caribbean ancestry. Of significance too, is that the 2021 MLK Global award was bestowed on Sir Hilary Beckles, Vice Chancellor of UWI for his international contribution to social and reparatory justice.
It is worth noting that the annual Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative service at the Washington National Cathedral, where Dr. King gave his last sermon on March 31, 1968, four days before he was assassinated in Memphis. This year, the sermon given from the same Canterbury Pulpit on Sunday January 17, 2021 by Rev. Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, was a riveting denunciation of ‘white Evangelical bigotry’, ‘American exceptionalism as white supremacy’ and “those who honour the 2nd Amendment and dishonor 2nd Commandment on the road to perdition”. Under the theme, St Paul’s letter to America, mirroring St Paul's letter to the Romans, Dr. Dyson's message is the Roman Road from insurrection to salvation provides options for the reemergence of the American dream that foreshadowed Biden's Inaugural address with bylines:
Rev. Dr. Dyson’s sermon listed under the Resources link on GOFAD's website is one for the ages which we highly commend to your attention. Also for your convenience the link is attached below:
Rekindling the American Dream
President Biden, recognizing the impediments to which Rev. Dr. Dyson referred, urged the nation to move beyond the aberration of the insurrection in the arc of American history. But the President’s optimism cannot as with a wand erase the fact that the American Dream may have long lost its sheen, except, perhaps to immigrants. The rebuilding process will have to deal with the cynicism of competing ideologies. First, to the people on the left, the American Dream is now mentioned only as a lost Golden Age of relative social mobility that was destroyed by neoliberal, anti-worker policies. To those on the far right, the American Dream is one that liberals have taken from whites through all sorts of affirmative action programs and given to racial and ethnic minorities. The subtext of the Trumpian counterrevolution has been, in fact, restoring the American dream, the bright prospects of social ascent, to its rightful owners — that is, to white Americans, and to them only.
The prevailing narrative of white supremacy is itself fodder to dislodging American exceptionalism. This is a major challenge, despite the President's best efforts to revise the stature of United States democracy around the world that had become a convention. Much has changed from the era of American politics in the 1950s, when it was more or less assumed that democracy, that is, electoral democracy combined with private ownership and civil liberties, was what the United States had to offer the Third World. Then, democracy provided not only the basis for opposition to Communism but the practical method to make sure that opposition worked.
Increasingly and mostly over the past four years, the fragility of both the American Dream and American exceptionalism has been exposed. The Fragile States Index by the nonprofit organization, Fund for Peace, shows that the United States is among 20 countries where pressures have grown significantly in the past decade in ways that potentially undermine stability. The U.S. has suffered a stark drop in what the index labels as cohesion, an indicator that reflects growing internal divisions. David Frum argues for Trump’s impeachment for fueling the insurrection at the Capitol, even though this state of affairs predates the last four years in American politics. It rather harks back to a pervasive tendency of stoking mob violence against people of color as typically how rich whites channel poor whites’ grievances away from themselves. What was unusual this time is that the white mob at the Capitol turned on the white politicians, rather than the people of color who are usually the victims. The United States has a long history of mob violence stoked by white politicians in the service of rich white Americans.
Conclusion: From Eloquent Prose to Soulful Poetry
Amanda Gorman the 22 year old Afro American poet, following Maya Angelou's tradition at President Obama's inauguration in 2009, brought a fitting climax to the ceremony by reformulating Biden's hopefulness from eloquent prose to soulful poetry:
Somehow we have weathered and witnessed
A nation that isn't broken
but simply unfinished
There is always light
if we are brave enough to see it
If we are brave enough to be it
Listen to the entire poem here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jp9pyMqnBzk
Rev. Dr. Dyson’s sermon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pYMzTGmY5tQ
Discovering Emerging Transformative Leaders from the CaribbeanThe Cowardice of Conviction: Self Image as Friend or Foe - Kwamé RyanRead Now
This week we crave the indulgence of our readers and provide a diversion from our normal blog which would have followed the path of analysing the outcome of the impeachment of Donald Trump, yesterday by the US Congress.
In 2019, GOFAD introduced a track on Caribbean Heroes in which it has so far highlighted Sir George Alleyne, the late Sir Alister McIntyre, the late Leo Edwards, the late Honourable Owen Arthur, and most recently, The Most Honourable P.J Patterson.
This week we introduce a new track to our blog, Discovering Emerging Transformative New World Leaders from the Caribbean. It features a podcast by Kwamé Ryan in a different genre, a haunting audio rendition of what he refers to as “an eight-minute idea”. It is also intended to introduce you to Season 1 of his weekly podcast, launched on December 28, 2020 and released every Wednesday.
Kwamé explains the catalyst for his new venture:
“When the first lockdown happened, I was determined not to let any notion of lost opportunities take hold of me, and since the world was moving online even more than it had been prior, I resolved to boost my own presence there. What is far more important, however, was a feeling that I wanted to show some sides of myself I had previously hidden - my writing and my enthusiasm as a communicator in particular. I don’t know what I was waiting for, but everything has it’s time! All the more energising to get support from close family friends as I step out.”
The topic to which this blog refers, The Cowardice of Conviction: Self Image as Friend or Foe was carried on Wednesday, January 6, 2021, the same day as the amplified crisis of democracy in the USA through the ‘attempted coup’ at the US Capitol. It resulted in the unprecedented second impeachment of an America President yesterday (Wednesday, January 13, 2021) by the US Congress. That podcast recorded before the insurrection by Trump’s mob and the desecration of the US Capitol is indeed the triumph of an idea and the prescience of Kwamé. Please listen to the (January 6th) podcast via the link which also provides access to all currently released episodes: https://anchor.fm/eightminuteidea
For those of you who do not know who Kwamé Ryan is: He is the son of Professor Selwyn Ryan and Joya Gomez of Trinidad and Tobago; an internationally renowned conductor who has held symphonic and operatic Artistic Directorships in Germany and France and is regularly invited to lead many of the world’s finest professional ensembles as a guest. Among his professional attachments, Kwamé is Professor and Director of the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s Academy for the Performing Arts and Founding Chairman of the Youth Art NGO Searchlight International, which has, since 2015, provided opportunities for young Caribbean musicians to network and perform with their peers worldwide via the organisation’s Youth Music Exchange (YMX) platform.
A passionate educator, he has been Music Director of the National Youth Orchestra of France, for which work he was made an Officer in the Order of Arts and Letters by the French Ministry of Culture and is currently an Associate Conductor of the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain. He is also a laureate of the prestigious Sabga Award for Caribbean Excellence (2017) and conducted the 2019 BBC Children’s Prom at the Royal Albert Hall. You will find an extensive interview with Kwamé entitled Perfect Circle in the Brunswick Review (September 17, 2020), and further information on his website, links for which are provided below. It is suggested that you first listen to the podcast.
I am sure Kwame would appreciate your feedback via the contact form on his website.
Perfect Circle - Interview with Carlton Wilkinson for Brunswick Review:
I had intended to start this New Year writing a message of hope. This is following the festive greetings on December 20, 2020 with the aspirations of #Hallelujah. I had planned to highlight the prevailing transition of GOFAD perspectives by using references to ten (10) most popular of our fifty 50 blogs in 2020 listed below. After witnessing an attempted coup against the USA Constitution by a delusional president and insurrectionist attempts by a pro Trump mob on Capitol Hill, it transformed my normal optimistic zeal into reflective sadness. It brought back the imagery of the emblematic problem posed in my blog (10/29/2020) The 2020 US Elections and a Post American World in the Balance. It is an image of the diminished global presence and stature of America under Donald Trump. It cast gloom on what the prospect of another Trump term could mean for the erosion of America’s democratic governance structure and even the American civilization envisaged by the Founding Fathers. https://www.globalonefrontier.org/blog/the-2020-elections-and-a-post-american-world-in-the-balance
While we celebrate the certification of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as President and Vice President at the Joint congressional session this morning, and while the Democrats now control the White House, Senate and House, the reality is that the scars of divisiveness and the existential crisis of identity will prevail. The unfolding of events over the last 4 years demonstrates that politics is no longer about finding compromises that can address common problems but about winning a war for one’s own side.
In his book, Why We’re Polarized, Ezra Klein is of the view that America is polarized by identity. This is due to the fact that over the past fifty years, partisan identities have merged with racial, religious, geographic, ideological, and cultural identities. The tragedy as he puts it: “An identity, once adopted, is harder to change than an opinion. An identity that binds you into a community you care about is costly and painful to abandon, and the mind will go to great lengths to avoid abandoning it.”
Trumpism has evolved into a new form of identity in "tribalism" based on conspiracy theories, and abundance of lies. It is consequently irrational and emotionally driven. Moreover, it establishes a politics that is now close to a religion—or is intertwined with religion. According to a Washington Post News Poll (February 14, 2020) an astonishing half of Republicans believe that God chose Trump to save the country from liberalism. And Trump was caught on tape for over an hour angrily spouting QAnon conspiracy theories about voter fraud in an attempt to pressure Georgia state officials to overturn the election result.
These merged identities have nurtured Trumpism as a brand that has hijacked the Republican Party. One TV commentator sadistically referred to Trump's ardent sycophants in the House and Senate as having sealed themselves in a tomb that Donald Trump built. Nowhere is this better illustrated than the 6 and 7 Senators and 100-131 Congresspersons who supported the efforts to overturn the results of the electoral College in the Arizona and Pennsylvania respectively, even after witnessing the dastardly acts of the Pro Trump mob a few hours before. Lawmakers were expected to count and recognize Biden’s victory—as a final “loyalty test”: You’re either with Trump, or you’re against him, no matter the cost. Now that the Presidency has been finally settled, does this mean that there is a foreboding 'civil war' within the Republican Party?. Or is there a more enduring outcome of the political culture which has attained a weight that is breaking much of the politics of the US and tearing the bonds that hold the country together.?
Maybe the answer to these questions is simple. Nancy Pelosi has just signified her intention to invoke the 25th Amendment for immediately removing President Trump from Office. Columnist Bret Stephens 'Impeach and Convict Right Now" New York Times (December 6, 2020) goes further, calling for the president to be removed from office and barred from ever holding office again. “To allow Trump to serve out his term, however brief it may be, puts the nation’s safety at risk, leaves our reputation as a democracy in tatters and evades the inescapable truth that the assault on Congress was an act of violent sedition aided and abetted by a lawless, immoral and terrifying president”
The Props of Social Media, Security and Prayer
There are emerging grey areas. First the digital marketplace of ideas where most people and in particular Trump's base now get their news, is pervasive. Trump fully understands that falsehoods seeded from the White House tweets circulate through the public’s own posts and tweets. But now this prop is being dismantled. Twitter and Facebook have placed a temporary ban on Trumps access to their services. In addition, those who have been cocooned in Facebook groups and fed a steady diet of lies from election-denial outlets like Newsmax and One America News are coming to a realization that especially with the confirmation of Biden as President, there is no grand plan for Mr. Trump to magically retain office.
Second, the lax security for the Pro Trump mob that attacked and desecrated the hallowed halls at the Capitol did not escape attention. Their treatment as patriots is in stark contrast to the massive police-military presence of Black Lives Matter protestors in summer 2020 in Washington DC. Does this have anything to do with institutionalized perceptions of "Black" and "White" ?
Third, as we look to the future, we turn to prayer to stem the tide of chaos displayed on Capitol Hill and of a deeply divided and fractured nation that is the legacy of Trumpism. Bishop Budde of the Washington National Cathedral provides that straw of hope: "we must see the brokenness of our body politic and as President-elect Biden just called each of us to do, we must step up and do what we can to repair the breaches in our life together"
Ten (10) Most Popular of GOFAD's 50 Blogs in 2020
Caribbean Leadership at the UN: Grasping Opportunities to enhance Profile and Influence
Fighting The Contagion of COVID 19: A Different Kind of War
The Contagion of COVID 19: What's Next ?
Caribbean COVID 19: Virtual Reality among Sovereign States
Celebrating Paloma Mohamed Martin: 11th Vice Chancellor of University of Guyana
Remembering Owen Arthur while Highlighting Health Economics in these COVID 19 times.
Electoral Drama Unfolding in the US while Tribalism Persists
The 2020 Elections and a Post American World in the Balance
Can Trump Be Prosecuted?
Dumbfounded! How did Trump get so many Votes?
Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.