This year, the theme for International Women’s Day (8 March, 2021) is, “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It celebrates the tremendous efforts by women and girls around the world in shaping a more equal future. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has compounded challenges to gender equality. The UN Secretary-General’s recent report reveals that in several countries where women have been in leadership positions, the response to the pandemic has been particularly effective. For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand and Slovakia [and I add Barbados] have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information. Yet the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, highlights the gender gaps that remain. The UN SG's Report recognizes that while women’s full and effective participation and leadership in all areas of life drive progress for everyone, they are still underrepresented in public life and decision-making. Women for example are Heads of State or Government in 22 countries, and only 24.9 per cent of the membership of national parliamentarians are women.
The Caribbean has an opportunity to make its collective voice resonate at the 65th Session of Commission on the Status of Women, March 15-26, 2021. The Session is aligned to the theme of the 2021 World Women’s Day with a focus on SDG #5, “Women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls”. It also relates to the flagship Generation Equality campaign, which calls for women’s right to decision-making in all areas of life, equal pay, equal sharing of unpaid care and domestic work, and ending all forms of violence against women and girls, and health-care services that respond to their needs.
Pioneers of Caribbean Women Leadership
In its Blog, celebrating World Women's Day 2020, GOFAD highlighted as essential reading the seminal study, The UWI Gender Journey: Recollections and Reflections coedited by three of the Caribbean's foremost scholar-advocates, Professors Jocelyn Massiah, Elsa Leo Rhynie and Barbara Bailey. https://www.globalonefrontier.org/blog/2020-world-womens-day-prompts-reflections-and-recollections-on-women-and-development-in-the-caribbean. The study emphasized the role of Caribbean pioneers under the banner, Woman and Development (WAND). They included Peggy Antrobus, Dame Neita Barrow, Lucille Mair, Kathleen Drayton, Nesta Patrick, Magna Pollard and the succeeding generation of Caribbean women leaders. Among them, Rhoda Reddock, Eudine Barriteau, Patricia Mohamed, Verene Sheppard, Lieth Dunn and Rosina Wiltshire. It is important to note the prominent roles of the pioneers and their successors in fashioning the landmark Beijing Platform for Action in 1995 and how they contributed to its consolidation 1996-2010. These women leaders initiated the roll out of undergraduate and graduate women studies programmes, accelerated capacity building in research, the establishment of a robust data base to sustain analysis and policy making, piloted the emergence of new programme areas such as gender and sexuality, construction of masculinities, the making of feminisms, and the blossoming of outreach activities within and beyond the academy. Such outreaches include national-level initiatives on gender policies, gender awareness and training women in leadership. Their active participation in the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination (CEDAW) and in the creation of Development Alternatives with Women in the New Era (DAWN] also coincided with increasing numbers of movements at country level advocating for women's rights and gender equality.
COVID-19 and its Challenges to Gender Equality
The challenges confronting women leaders are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic. The IMF 2020 Report shows that in the COVID-19 era economic conditions are worsening, and women are hit hardest. With a predicted 3-4% increase in unemployment, the crisis could push an additional 25% more people into poverty.
Therese Turner Jones, IDB Caribbean Regional Representative in an article, "The hard facts about Gender Equality in the Caribbean" in Caribbean Development Trends (March 13, 2020), shows that in many countries of the Anglophone Caribbean, the life of a woman holds a singular paradox. Women have years of secondary school education and enroll in tertiary education institutes more than men. "Yet once outside the gilded doors of academia women are confronted by challenges such as lower pay, lack of parental support, insufficient protection from violence and harassment, and other obstacles to career progression". In addition, female students at UWI make up more than 65% of the 2016-2019 graduating classes, but Caribbean women make 60 to 70 cents for every dollar made by men. Only in Barbados, Belize and Guyana does government pay 100% of maternal leave. The lack of this essential benefit in most Caribbean countries is disadvantageous to women since it negatively effects their career path, decrease their income, and may lower their pensions upon retiring.
These inequities are further compounded by the digital transformation ushered in by the COVID-19 era that drives unequal outcomes in education, access to healthcare and financial services. Empirical studies by UNECLAC, the IMF and the World Bank all illustrate how the social and economic inequalities that affected women prior to COVID 19 are further amplified.
According to the World Bank Women, Business and the Law 2020 report, the Caribbean rankings on the gender equality index are variable. Guyana is the exception, with a score of 100, with a legal framework that establishes equal pay for women and men and no constraints on a woman’s decision to work where jobs are available. The report shows that the average labor force participation rate amongst women aged 15-64 is 73.5%. This compares favorably to the global average of 52.3%. However the workplace indicator based on levels of integration of women in the workplace and pay indicator in relation to men, result in a range of comparative rankings for Caribbean Countries as follows:
Meeting the Challenges with the March to Equal Participation
In a fascinating virtual discussion coordinated by the Caribbean Women in Leadership (CIWiL) and chaired by Dylis McDonald (March 1, 2021), the panelist reinforced the major reasons why women leadership matters and the rationale for the march to equal participation. Among their proposals include:
CIWiL has launched a project for a children's book aimed at celebrating the contribution of Caribbean women leaders to the development of the region. https://qrco.de/bbv7q8. Herein lies the opportunity for increasing awareness and building partnerships that will ensure the legacy of pioneer women leaders and their successors, expand beyond recognition given in the CARICOM Triannual Awards for Women (See the 12 recipients since the inauguration of the awards in 1990 https://caricom.org/awards__recognition/triennial-awards/ ). It will also help to escalate the endeavor toward building a bridge of hope for the sustainability of gender equity which includes partnerships with men and boys.
Conclusion: Opportunity to Build a Bridge of Hope for Women Leadership
The foundation exists for Caribbean Women in leadership to surge. Challenges for gender equality are well defined. Success rests on backward and forward linkages, ensuring that strong institutions and leadership potential exist to catalyze the surge.
For example, the Spouses of CARICOM Leaders Action Network (SCLAN), since its inauguration in 2016 was led by First Lady Simplis Barrow of Belize as Chair and First Lady Sandra Granger of Guyana as Vice-Chair. SCLAN commands international platforms, collaborates with the Organization of African First Ladies for Development (OAFLAD) and attracts resources for programmes to reduce gender equality, violence against women and girls, and improve the health of women and girls including access to sexual and reproductive health and rights. In a recent handover of leadership, First Lady Patricia Minnis of The Bahamas has assumed the Chair of SCLAN supported by First Lady Sharon Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, and First Lady Eloise Gonsalves, St Vincent and the Grenadines. SCLAN's advocacy especially in these COVID times, will be vital in asserting the role of the Caribbean in global arenas such as the UN General Assembly and the upcoming Commission on the Status of Women.
But for advocacy to be most effective, it needs to be anchored in a series of prerequisites that apply to SCLAN and other organizations that promote Women Leadership matters. These include:
These are the pillars on which the Caribbean can revive the vibrancy of wome1n and development toward a robust gender agenda, the drive toward women in leadership and achieving gender equality. In the words of First Lady Sharon Rowley, "this is the time to Build that Bridge of Hope".
Guyana’s tenure as Chair of the Group of 77 (G-77), the largest intergovernmental organization of developing countries in the United Nations system ended in mid-January 2021. When it assumed the chair in January 2020, over a week after St Vincent and the Grenadines became the smallest country ever to be appointed to the UN Security Council, the GOFAD blog (January 9, 2020) heralded ‘Caribbean Leadership at the UN as grasping opportunities to enhance the region’s profile and influence’. Apart from some official statements and reports in the media very little is known to truly assess Guyana’s performance and impact. A report will no doubt be disseminated nationally and regionally. It will hopefully be the basis of national and regional discussions that would provide useful observations and lessons learned. Herein lies an opportunity for fostering civic engagement and fulfilling one of the goals of functional cooperation by contributing to foreign policy coordination in the CARICOM Community.
Some Areas of Interest
At the start of the new Decade of 2020, the international arena is consumed by mandates to achieve the comprehensive targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Within this framework for action, the most prominent for both the Security Council and the G-77 are peace and security, climate change, equality and inclusiveness and financing for development. Within the G-77, Guyana as Chair would have had greater leverage than St Vincent and the Grenadines as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. This has more to do with the structure of the G-77 and the more flexible scope of its programmes than with the competence of the diplomats involved. On 13 March 2020, UN Headquarters entered into a complete lockdown due to the rapid spread of the Novel Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in New York City and around the world.
COVID-19 : A Constraint or Opportunity
Like most organizations, COVID19 accelerated the UN's adaptation of telecommunication and online platforms. The issues of concern are: How much did the change in method of work effect of the UN and G-77; the nature of consultations among G-77 members; the Chairpersons in the G-77 Chapters; and the channels of communication among the Guyana Coordinating Team in New York, other locations and the capital, Georgetown?. How did the Group stay engaged and active with its main mandates through the changing working methods? The Group reaffirmed that the imposition of unilateral coercive economic measures against developing countries are impediments to economic and social development and to dialogue and understanding among countries. But was there a call for more resources to be mobilized in a timely manner to accelerate implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development? .
There are reports of two meetings of the Chairpersons of the G-77 Chapters, held virtually on 15 September and 11 December 2020, with a keynote address by H.E. Mr. Hugh Todd, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Guyana, at the opening of the first meeting. He stressed the need for deepening South-South cooperation and coordination within the Group, especially due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and noted that the long-term impacts of the pandemic were yet to be fully assessed. But there has been no elaboration on the divisions in opinions that prevailed within the G-77, nor updates on the outcomes of the Chapters' engagements for 2020, except echoes of the need to harmonize their work. What therefore was done to keep the channels of communication open between the Chapters, exchange of substantive ideas, share documents and disseminate relevant statements and agreements that needed to be highlighted? There are many more questions.
Biodiversity and Climate Change
It is widely recognized that climate change and biodiversity are interrelated. The United Nations and Britain co-hosted a Global Climate Ambitious Summit, virtually, on December 12, 2020 to mark the fifth anniversary of the landmark Paris Agreement. It was viewed as a preparation for the UN Climate Change Conference (COP-26) in Glasgow, Scotland in November-December 2021. The stage was set for Guyana to play a prominent role in the run up to the Climate Ambitious Summit. In September, 2020, H.E. Dr. Mohammed Irfaan Ali, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, delivered two statements on behalf of the Group of 77 and China at the Biodiversity Summit and the Climate Change Forum in Commemoration of the 75th Observance of the United Nations. President Ali sent a strong and positive signal on G-77’s commitment to multilateralism and its resolve to strive for peace, justice and development. He also advocated the importance of strengthening solidarity to address the development challenges. It would however be important to learn what were the strategies developed within the G-77 process to deal with the seven (7) interrelated thematic programmes established by the Conference of the Parties (COP), all of which are at the centre the Caribbean’s priorities. They include agriculture, dry and sub human lands, forestry, inland waters, marine, costal and mountain diversities. That the University of Guyana has established a graduate programme in Biodiversity will peek the interests of that community in particular, for possible partnerships with institutions in the G-77 countries. Biodiversity and Climate action are also high on the agenda of the CARICOM Community and is also of interest to businesses, local authorities and NGOs. Taken in context it is part of the quest to strengthen South-South Cooperation. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is closely allied to Guyana's promotion of the priorities of the Alliance of Small Island States. To what extent was this high on the agenda of G-77?
Intersection of G-77 and UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)
ECOSOC is at the heart of the UN system to advance three dimensions of sustainable development -- economic, social and environmental. The intersection of G-77 and ECOSOC must focus on how, following the setback imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, developing countries can get back on track with the achievement of the 2030 Agenda. What was the nature of discussions on enhancing productive capacity, diversifying the productive base?
Conclusion: Toward Social, Distributive and Reparatory Justice
Barbados Prime Minister, Hon. Mia Mottley at the Virtual Pivot Event coordinated by the IDB, October 16, 2020 aptly frames the aspirational goal for Guyana’s role at the G-77, as “time to pivot the Caribbean as a global leader.” For grasping the opportunity to "pivot the Caribbean", we complement the Government of Guyana, the Guyana Permanent Representatives to the UN, H.E. Rudolph Tempow and his successor H.E Carolyn Rodriques-Birkett, and leader of the Guyana G-77 Coordinating Team, Ambassador Neil Pierre. We look forward to engagements in which the Coordinating Team will share the lessons learned from its experience in chairing the G-77 in these challenging times. Success is defined by how effective was the attempt to create a level playing field through the rules-based multilateral UN system, and promote the full participation by all peoples in the benefits of sustainable development. In this regard, the Coordinating Team stimulated global consciousness by leading G-77 to unanimously support the draft resolution on the World Summit for Social Development and the substantive amendments to Elimination of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and related Intolerance, a follow-up to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action. These are fundamental pillars to social, distributive and reparatory justice.
The United Nations' (UN) World Day of Social Justice is annually observed on February 20. It encourages efforts to tackle issues such as poverty eradication, exclusion, gender equality, unemployment, human rights and social protection. This year the theme is A Call for Social Justice in the Digital Economy. The blurb put out by the UN states that the proliferation of digital platforms in the past decade, has penetrated several sectors of the economy and societies, transforming the world of work. This is especially the case with the expansion in broadband connectivity and cloud computing.
Since early 2020, the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic have led to remote working arrangements. That many business activities could retain their operations was reinforced by the growth and impact of the digital economy. At the same time, this development has exacerbated the growing digital divide within, between and across developed and developing countries. Existing inequalities have deepened particularly in terms of the availability, affordability and use of information ICTs and access to the internet. The move to online learning has accelerated education inequality in an unprecedented fashion, especially where before the pandemic it was already high.
What therefore has surfaced from these circumstances, is that the digital divide affects distributive justice in the form of inequalities in access to knowledge, the distribution of income, assets, opportunities for work and enumerated employment, and for civic and political participation. These values, as well as being essential to social justice, are at the heart of human rights.
The International Labor Organization Report (2019) provides glaring examples of global inequities in decent living and poverty that preceded the COVID-19 pandemic. Global unemployment was estimated at 172 million and 25% of the world’s population in low income countries lived in poverty. More recent indications are that the situation has deteriorated further since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, with higher levels of underutilization of labour, quality of work, gender inequality and unemployment .
The core issues raised here are embraced in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #10 aimed at promoting greater equality. This goal implies that there is no explicit distinction between international justice or justice among nations, and social justice or justice among people. In other words, justice with respect to international law is linked to the sovereign equality of all Members and to the maintenance of peace and security. In this context, digital inequality is a part of the wider social justice agenda.
Social Justice and the COVID-19 Vaccine Inequalities
The unequal access to the vaccine described as “vaccine apartheid” (referred to the GOFAD Blog 05-02-2021) not only relates to the disparities in global distribution between developed and developing countries, but also to disparities among varying demographics within countries. When combined with the inequalities conditioned by the digital divide, it fully dramatizes the link between social justice and human rights.
In the USA for example, across the 34 states reporting data on vaccinations by race/ethnicity in the CDC Dash Board (February 18, 2021) there is a largely consistent pattern of Black and Hispanic people receiving smaller shares of vaccinations compared to their shares of cases and deaths and their shares of the total population.
<img src="https://www.kff.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/featuredfeb16-newstate-vaccine-race-ethnicity-1.png" alt="" data-id="0" />
A Report on “Financing rights and social justice for persons with disabilities in the era of COVID-19 and beyond” has recently been produced by The Stakeholder Group of Persons with Disabilities (February, 2021). It illustrates how persons with disabilities that comprise 15% of the global population have been hit particularly hard by the global pandemic. Yet proposals for financing the response rarely include this demographic. The Report provides very useful considerations for ensuring that “international economic policies that tackle the crisis always contribute to the enjoyment of human rights and social justice by persons with disabilities in their diversity, especially those in the Global South” You may read the Report here.
Social Justice and Public Health
Public health promotes and protects the health of people and the communities where they live, learn, work, and play. Hence beyond biological factors public health professionals are increasingly pivoting toward recognizing that Social justice is central to public health. This is because research has shown that health disparities are created by social inequities. These 'social determinants of health’ include insurance status, access to health care, reliable access to food, safe housing, transportation, education, safety, and equal protection before the law. There is no better illustration in recent times than the public health response to HIV/AIDS.
Conclusion: Viewing Social Justice with a wider Lenses
It is fitting that we identify the contribution of John Rawls to this UN celebration that focuses on Social Justice. An American scholar and military veteran, he gained his PhD from Princeton University and emerged as one of foremost moral and political philosophers. He was awarded the US National Humanitarian Medal for his ‘contribution to the academic and political space’ by President bill Clinton in 1999. Rawls developed the Theory of Justice based on a social contract rather than the principles of 'the greatest good for the greatest number' propounded by the English utilitarian philosophers Jeromy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. He saw their views as rooted in a "state of nature" that could lead to tyranny. He argued instead that Justice holds that "every individual has an equal right to basic liberties and that they should have the right to opportunities and an equal chance as individuals of similar ability. His notion of social justice is based on two principles:
John Rawls 'two principles' of Justice reminds me of Isaiah Berlin, the British/Lavatian philosopher whose brilliant lecture Two Concepts of Liberty, revolved around 'negative' and 'positive' freedom. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/liberty-positive-negative/. Like Isaiah Berlin, John Rawls provides fitting moral codes for guiding policies and practices of social justice in this COVID era and beyond.
Having joined the policy making arm of a tertiary institution just prior to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic has increased my awareness of the magnitude of efforts of Vice Chancellors, Faculty, Staff and Students to pivot to online provision to ensure continuity of teaching, learning, exams, administration and management. I have been attracted by the extensive range of information that provides fascinating higher educational models for the COVID-19 generation. My interest was piqued by how some of these models may yet be embedded as templates for the future of higher education. The 5 models presented are drawn from a limited number of references and therefore may not represent the very best examples of possibilities. But, at least, they ought to trigger further discussion.
Inside Higher Education (February 10) has advertised a webinar on 'Overcoming Faculty Pandemic Burnout' for February 26, 2020. It will no doubt amplify that:
A case study by the World Bank on how tertiary educational systems in Europe and Asia are responding to the COVID 19 pandemic is very instructive. It provides key recommendations of how higher educational institutions successfully pivoted to COVID 19 requirements. It noted that the transition was comparatively easy for those countries like Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany that had invested in pre-crisis digitalization in a strategic way. Those countries that had not developed such strategic approaches toward digitalization and had in addition, been decreasing investment in higher education faced significant difficulties. These difficulties apply to specific issues like student financing, quality assurance, and the status of academic staff.
Other reports and studies like those of the Carnegie Foundation for Advanced Education, identified more broad based holistic concerns for the entire education system. They imply that R&D techniques provided by higher educational institutions may provide useful ways to address public/private sector policies for the COVID19 generation and beyond with specific relevance to community, national, regional and international arenas. These include:
Some outstanding Models
Of the many models that I have come across, five were selected, of which four seem to engender approaches in what is commonly referred to as "thinking outside the box". The fifth one, however is completely "without the box ".
Model 1: An Iterative Approach: Embracing Six Principles of Scientific Improvement
Last week's Blog introduced this approach. It identified the strategies required to evaluate, course correct, document, and scale new approaches that can help power up schools over time. These involve real-time teams of practice-oriented researchers working to scale up and sustain transformative change in education systems. However, this approach draws on six principles in The Harvard Study (2015) Learning to Improve: How America’s Schools Can Get Better at Getting Better. Subsequently, the Harvard Education Review’s comprehensive summary of the study, draws the significant lesson learned i.e. we cannot improve at scale what we cannot measure. The six related principles include :
Model 2: Make Equity and Inclusion a priority during the crisis and beyond
The current coronavirus pandemic is having a profound impact not only on people's health but on how they learn, work and live. While we have dealt with this issue previously, a recent OECD study (November 2020) using data from 36 countries in Europe , North America, Latin America, The Caribbean and Africa developed a combined profile of strategies for education continuity to support at-risk students who are particularly affected by the crisis. Successful outcomes of the strategies below depend on partnerships, parental and family engagement, information on health and education and additional finances:
Model 3: Expand on multilateral approaches revolving around Global Stars
A study by Ellie Bothwell in the Times Higher Education Supplement shows the importance of International Cooperation in research focusing on artificial intelligence and how leading institutions are focusing on becoming more comprehensive than specialists. It highlights historical ways of working in computer science in Europe over the past 30 years across different cultures and languages. Also, by bringing together expertise across different areas of artificial intelligence (AI), university alliances demonstrate that notions of academic excellence are increasingly linked to interdisciplinary orientations for solving global challenges. Most prominent in interdisciplinary research projects with high societal impact are the engineering and STEM fields. In addition the technology-focused institutions, not only attract research funding more quickly than many other fields but they also tend to relate as part of the immediate needs or "low hanging fruit" to government development policies and the area where industry is mostly looking for cooperation. Hence this provides the rationale for higher educational institutions to tap sources of public/private financing for equity and inclusion priorities during the crisis and beyond.
Model 4: Peer Observation is valuable even online
Anna McKie provides interesting results from a study on a development model of peer observation of teaching (December 2019). https://www.timeshighereducation.com/career/teaching-intelligence-peer-observation-valuable-even-online. She is of the view that while standard ways of discussing and improving teaching practices that have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic, there are models of swift movement to online learning. The project, based on evaluation of medical staff and students consisted of four phases: a pre-observation meeting, the observation, the post-observation debrief, a report and group feedback process. According to feedback from participants who all had initial reservations about peer observations, the process contributed greatly to their development. Staff cited valuable changes in teaching methodology and the students referred to the steep and satisfactory curve of adapting to the new mode of engagement and assessment. However, they both agree that the importance of teaching skills has not lessened, and that peer observation – in essence, watching another teacher teach online, enforced by these socially distanced times will no doubt remain a useful tool beyond the COVID-19 era.
Model 5: Discover A New Education Model That Gives You Better Advantages Than A Harvard Degree For Under $500 A Year
This model is "without the box" which makes it exceptionally fascinating. It is the idea of Vishen Lakhiani, founder of Mindvalley, an award-winning education movement acclaimed to have millions of students worldwide and growing fast. Mr. Lakhiani has spent over 15 years "reimagining the human experience by exploring the science of helping humans reach their fullest potential". It offers the following:
Last week’s blog presented the context of revitalizing education to benefit the COVID-19 generation in keeping with the theme of World Education Day (January 24, 2021). This week we explore some examples of approaches to achieve the aspirations of education as a human right, a pubic good and a public responsibility. For convenience, we start with examining the approaches at the Primary and Secondary school levels and propose to follow up in a subsequent blog on how the revitalization loop may be consolidated with transformative approaches at the Tertiary levels. In so doing, we draw in particular on a series of webinars most recently from the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institute and UNICEF, and Reports from UNESCO and the Times Educational Supplement.
Vaccine Apartheid a setback to Education for All
Last week in placing the issues of revitalizing education in context, we referred to: (a) schools as a vital link between health and education, (b) the importance ascribed by the UN to the Sustainable Development Goal #4: ensuring inclusive and equitable education for all; and (c) the 'moral imagination' for reducing the structural barriers to inequality and promoting the wellbeing of people and the planet.
A blog by Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS Executive Director (see link below) places in stark relief the global ‘vaccine apartheid’ which is putting profits before lives with the most appalling life-costing consequences in many low and middle income countries. She alludes to be sickened by news that South Africa, a country whose HIV history should have conveyed the most appalling of results of allowing pharmaceutical corporations to protect their medicine monopolies is experiencing a similar cycle of discrimination. South Africa, "has had to pay more than double the price paid by the European Union for the [Oxford] AstraZeneca vaccine for far fewer doses than it actually needs". Like so many other low- and middle-income countries, South Africa is today facing a vaccine landscape of depleted supply. Ending the vaccine apartheid requires converting 'moral imagination' into a radical reversal of the course of global action. Failure to do so she pronounces will cost millions of lives and livelihood around the world. According to the estimates by UNAIDS, nine of 10 people in the poorest countries will miss out on vaccines this year with severe effects on the progress toward reducing poverty, achieving the SDG educational goals and tackling health and economic security. Her ominous warning is: “Make no mistake, the cost of vaccine inequality will not be confined to those living in the poorest countries” https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/jan/29/a-global-vaccine-apartheid-is-unfolding-peoples-lives-must-come-before-profit
Hope beyond the Threat of Inequality
A UNICEF report on the status in developing countries indicates that at least a third of the world’s schoolchildren – 463 million children globally – were unable to access remote learning when COVID-19 shuttered their schools. At the height of nationwide lockdowns, data with respect to pre-primary, primary, lower and upper secondary schools from a cross section of 100 countries show that 1.5B school children were affected by school closures. This is compounded by inequities where the estimated proportion of schoolchildren unable to access remote learning range from 48-49 % in East, Southern, West, and Central Africa; 40% in Middle East and North Africa; 38% in South Asia; 34% in Eastern Europe; 20% in East Asia and the Pacific; and 9% in Latin America and the Caribbean.
According to the Center for Universal Education, Brookings Institution, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in at least one positive thing: a much greater appreciation for the importance of public schools. The awareness of the essential caretaking role of schools skyrocketed as parents struggle to work with their children at home due to school closures. As young people struggle to learn from home, parents’ gratitude for teachers, their skills, and their invaluable role in student well-being, has risen. And as communities struggle to take care of their vulnerable children and youth, decisionmakers are having to devise new mechanisms for delivering essential services from food to education to health care.
Resolving four (4) Major Challenges
The question, how to tackle the challenges for revitalizing schools for the COVID 19 generation, is still the subject of much discussion and investigation. Responses to four of the major identifiable challenges are attempted here.
Accelerating Education Inequality: Education inequality is accelerating in an unprecedented fashion, especially where before the pandemic it was already high. There are some emerging lessons from COVID -19 that provide a vision for revitalizing education to emerge stronger from this global crisis . According to Emiliana Vegas, Co-Director - Center for Universal Education “It is hard to imagine there will be another moment in history when the central role of education in the economic, social, and political prosperity and stability of nations is so obvious and well understood by the general population”. Now therefore is the time to chart a vision for how reducing inequalities in education can emerge stronger from this global crisis than ever before and propose a path for capitalizing on education’s newfound support in virtually every community across the globe.
A Leapfrog Moment: Innovation has suddenly moved from the margins to the center of many education systems, and there is an opportunity to identify new strategies, that if sustained, can help young people get an education that prepares them for our changing times. This involves grounding actions on rigorous evidence of what works to improve student learning as well as how orienting school work toward critical thinking, ultimately should include a heavy emphasis on the heart of the teaching and learning process, what is often called the instructional or pedagogical core.
Rising Public Support: There is new found public recognition of how essential schools are in society and a window of opportunity to leverage this support for making their eco systems stronger. Illustrations from Chile and the United Kingdom show teachers coming together to rapidly lend their expertise to develop relevant remote-learning content for students. In Chile, the network of teachers dubbed La Radio Enseña, is supported by the civil society organization Enseña Chile, and the radio lessons developed by the network went from being distributed by a handful of radio stations to over 240 only one month after schools closed. Similarly in the U.K., a group of teachers concerned about learning continuity for their students when schools were about to close at the end of May, developed an online classroom and resource hub within two weeks by which educators and parents help their children learn. By the end of July, less than 2 months after, users accessed lessons 17 million times and this initiative called Oak National Academy, has been a significant feature of the UK government’s remote learning strategy.
New Education Allies: The pandemic has galvanized new actors in the community—from parents to social welfare organizations—to support children’s learning like never before. A large-scale surveys of parents by Learning Heroes Inc. focused on the ideas of their engagement in different and more active ways in the future. Perhaps the most important insight was the overwhelming support for a community powered-up school which challenged the mindset of those in the education sector that parents and families with the least opportunities are not capable or willing to help their children learn.
In a more recent OECD-Harvard survey of educators and education administrators across 59 countries on school reopening strategies, three-quarters of the respondents stated that the reopening plans were developed collaboratively with teachers, but only 25 percent said that collaboration included parents as well. That the latter resulted in more successful outcomes judging from overall students' performances and enhanced community participation and awareness is another major lesson learned.
Parents around the world are not interested in becoming their child’s teacher, but they are willing to help children to learn. Integrating parents into the revitalization process is important, not only because of their predominant roles in children’s lives but also the new ways in which they have been willing to support children’s learning amid the pandemic. The roll out of techniques and innovations will be followed up in the discussion of the role of tertiary educational sector in this process. In the meantime, the takeaways for revitalizing education with emphasis on ensuring inclusive and equitable education and lifelong learning for all include:
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.