The recent pandemic (Covid-19) has impacted education systems in universities around the world. The impact has been dramatic for institutions, academics, and students looking for workable short term solutions for online teaching and learning.
The unique challenge facing higher education encouraged DEN to look for opportunities to stay in contact with students using online facilities. Through the academic initiative, we invited students to meet and organise feasible and appropriate projects at this time. Using Inside Westminster we have agreed that students will write an article and or provide a 5 minutes video of their reflection and experience of Covid-19. We have encouraged students from all over the world to express their stories and share them with each other, hoping that this would provide a channel not only to learn but also to engage with each other. Hence, the following articles in this section are students’ reflections/experiences of Covid-19
Since autumn 2019 I have been living in a small city called Haugesund on the west coast of Norway, working as a Project Manager for a local youth programme. In this short article, I will be talking about my experience of Covid-19 as a resident of Norway and as a youth worker in a small city where over one thousand children and young people live in families struggling to pay the rent. Yes, that happens in Norway too.
Starting with the broader picture – the Norwegian government was quick to realise the dangers of Covid-19 and made significant restrictions already on the 12th of March 2020. House parties were banned, schools, offices and cafés closed their doors and everything was moved online. Just like everyone else, I found myself in a situation completely out of my control and I understood that a lot of what I had been working on over the past months wouldn’t come to happen. My shoulders dropped and there was nothing to strive for. I spent the next three weeks working in the garden, helping my nieces with their schoolwork and maybe most importantly – praying.
Today I am thankful for our government’s ability to see the dangers of Covid-19 and for their quick response. The spread of Covid-19 was quickly halted and zero new cases have been confirmed in my local area during the past two months. As a result of the restrictions enforced by the Norwegian government, it is not so much the actual virus that has impacted us the most, but the physical separation and lack of normal routines. We have been forced to withdraw, to stop producing in the way we are used to and to be present where we are. I believe that the forced silence has been good for us. Maybe not comfortable but good – forcing us to reflect on our lives: what and who are we relying on? What is important to us? I am sure that many wouldn’t agree with me on this point or even think I am insensitive to say so but I remain confident that it was about time someone pushed the button that says STOP (and I believe nature agrees). People have been drawn out into the forest and to the lakes rather than into the city centre, that surely is a positive thing for us – breathing fresh air and working with our hands in the soil.
However, not everyone has a safe home to do their schoolwork or parents who bring them to the lake or to the forest. I was able to start working already at the beginning of April but instead of gathering up to 70 teenagers on a weekly basis, we started to meet the youth in smaller groups – creating more space to listen and talk to each person. Besides the positive things we witnessed and experienced (for example, one teenager expressed that his anxiety had eased) we could also see that young teenagers from less safe/poorer homes were made even more vulnerable due to the constraints. The financial worries of their parents were impacting the youth and many of them started spending more time in the city centre where it seems like drugs were made even more accessible than before. As a result, we have seen several young teenagers embarking on a negative trajectory. It will require a lot of resources and hard work to bring society back to where it was before this crisis began. Locally, I believe it is important to put resources into the youth and those who have been harshly ramified by the governmental restrictions. I also hope we will bring something important with us into the next season – for example, that silence and solitude weren’t that bad after all, even though it felt uncomfortable to start with. Maybe it is something we should try to incorporate into our routine even when it is not forced upon us.
By Victoria Vall, University of Westminster Alumni