“This too shall pass and we will persevere but every decision and action the government and people take during this epoch will most probably change the course of our life and our culture.” ~ 22-year old Kuzote Lohe from Nagaland shares his view on Life After COVID-19, from a Nagaland Perspective.
This article is coming a little delayed, but right on time. In April, we received an email from Kuzote Lohe from Nagaland – a 22-year old student, currently pursuing his Bachelors in Engineering from Bangalore. He wanted to give a glimpse of the current state of affairs in his home state in context of the ongoing COVID pandemic, focussing on how the world order has affected professionals, students, local businesses, and the general public.
He also adds his commentary on what lies ahead, current challenges, and what can be possibly done – and should be done. Our spirits are lifted a little today just knowing that we have young, smart and passionate people like Kuzote who are deeply committed to coming out of this pandemic stronger – as individuals, and as a community. Over to Kuzote Lohe . . .
All events have been called off, schools and colleges are shut, vehicles are off the road, shops are shut and the towns are deserted. What took many decades to change is now taking less than 24 hours. Ironically, Bill Gates on his 2015 TED talk warned the world by saying that we are not ready for the next outbreak. He also mentioned, “If anything kills over more than 10 million people in the next few decades, it is most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war, not missile but microbes.
“The world is facing the worst catastrophe of our generation and as just has been the case with similar events in the past, it is entirely of our own making. We were preparing for nuclear war, building the best military weapons, writing algorithms to decrypt other countries’ information, but all of a sudden, the COVID-19 pandemic came outside of the syllabus. And not surprisingly, we were not ready for it.”
This too shall pass and we will persevere but every decision and action the government and people take during this epoch will most probably change the course of our life and our culture. We cannot predict what will happen after the pandemic is over but we can surely say that the world and our lifestyle will change.
Yuval Noah Harari, the author of “21 Lessons for 21st Century” in his recent article on “The World after Coronavirus” published in the Financial Times says, “In this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity”. So what do we do now?
Challenges Being Faced by Migrant Workers and Local Businesses
Thousands of migrant workers from Nagaland, and millions across the country have lost their jobs owing to the pandemic lockdown, and they fear hunger will kill them before the virus does. First-time entrepreneurs and small business owners are not only losing their business but their livelihood. Hotels, restaurants, parks, and airlines have temporarily suspended their operation. Within a week of lockdown, the prices of essential commodities have doubled or even more, leaving the middle and lower class the most vulnerable. As businesses across the country and the world face the repercussions of this pandemic lockdown, we are reminded by Anthropologist Jason Hickel that “COVID-19 has forced capitalists to confront an inconvenient truth: that capital accumulation cannot happen without labor.”
Help and assistance for local businesses and returning Migrants
In order to aid small business owners and farmers, zero or low-interest loans should be made easily accessible. Financial assistance and rations should be distributed to local migrants, the poor and needy. Migrant laborers and daily wage earners being the most affected, perhaps this is a good time to relook at our Public Distribution System (PDS) and also think about the Universal Basic Income propounded by Esther Dulfo and Abhijit Banerjee (Nobel Prize Economics 2019).
Hospital Facilities and Health Care Professionals
According to the National Health Profile, In India, there is one hospital for more than 55,000 people, and just one doctor available for every 11,082 people across the country, a figure which is less than 1/10th of recommended ratio of 1:1000 by WHO.
Zooming in to the state, apart from the infrastructure and manpower challenges in the medical space, Nagaland (had zero COVID-19 testing centers when this article was written in April) got its testing centers much later in May. The state doesn’t even have basic health check-up facilities in most hospitals. We are surely lacking not only medical professionals but also quality medical infrastructure. In other words, our health care as with other sister concerns is in the doldrums.
The new reality for school and college students
According to UNESCO, more than 1.5 Billion students are out of schools worldwide i.e. 89.5% in over 188 countries (as of 3/04/2020) roughly 9 out of 10 students. The internet revolution has been pushing the industry to move to online education and since the last decade many start-ups and well-established firms have jumped on the bandwagon of online education but it is yet to make a noticeable difference.
“The push for online education has been coming strong for some time now..but not yet significant enough to make a noticeable difference. With this pandemic, what could not be changed in a decade, is changing in a matter of days and weeks as we are left with little choice but to move our classroom online.”
But how effective is online learning? How are students in Nagaland making the transition to online classrooms from their physical schools and rooms?
Achin Hangsing, a skill-based teacher in a government school in Kohima, Nagaland says that only a few students in her class have access to a laptop at home or a smartphone. Access to technology with internet facilities is still a far reach for most students in this part of the world. On another account, Dr. Kaholi Zhimomi says, “There aren’t even proper physical libraries in schools and colleges in Nagaland, so it is hard to think of a digital library.”
In Nagaland, lessons are mostly imparted through a teacher to student medium. Students don’t read extra books apart from their subjects or there are hardly any libraries that provide them additional reference books. Menule Chirhah from Nagaland University says that her University has not started any online courses nor is there any initiative on the same. In another view, Kili Sumi, a law student in Bengaluru says she isn’t that enthused about learning online as she is more comfortable with learning in a physical classroom. So what is the best way forward for the future of education? According to UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay, “While temporary school closures as a result of health and other crises are not new, unfortunately, the global scale and speed of the current educational disruption is unparalleled and, if prolonged, could threaten the right to education.”
What does the future of education look like with billions of students at stake – and also being cognizant of the current challenges of moving classrooms online?
“After analyzing the current education system, one of the possible solutions could be to cut down on lengthy and unnecessary syllabus and subjects and teach courses that are relevant or may be important in our future world; start introducing online education early, and reduce/eliminate classroom sessions for courses and subjects that can be taught online.”
Expectations from the Government
At times like this, every action of the government matters. The Singaporean government began screening passengers coming from China starting the 2nd of January before even knowing that this would become a pandemic. They didn’t take any chances. Yet, even as late as February, Modi had not acknowledged that this was a health emergency.
Indian Government held the first conference regarding COVID-19 only in the first week of March 2020. And instead of holding a conference with medical experts to seek their opinions and views on how to tackle the pandemic our PM got together sports personalities to talk about COVID-19. Perhaps once we have managed to ride over this pandemic, he will host a conference with medical professionals to discuss how to improve football in our country! Like a ringmaster, he has been busy conjuring one trick after the other for the clowns. The other disturbing trend has been the intrusion of personal privacy in the name of tracking the virus and the legitimization of autocrats as has been evident with Orban in Hungary.
Coming back to Nagaland, the lockdown managed to create a fair amount of chaos owing to lack of coordination and cooperation. The citizens seem to doubt the government’s ability to protect them and look after their welfare, and often they have to help themselves.
When the news was brought to Nagaland and panic started, people rushed to buy hand sanitizers and face masks, and in a matter of days, they were out of stock. Some enterprising students and teachers from a technical institute prepared hand sanitizers in their labs showing positive initiative and spirit, in addition to distributing the sanitizers to meet urgent needs.
To comply with social distancing, companies worldwide asked their employees to work from home, which came with its own share of problems and challenges – and the most common being for people in Nagaland was internet inaccessibility. Vituonuo Valerie, a Software Engineer from Kohima said “WFH is impossible and just a dream with the kind of internet network we get in our state.”
Expectations from the People/Citizens
Everything is not okay anymore and we are not in normal times. The pandemic has made us realize that we humans need to differentiate between wants and needs and that we just need basic necessities to survive. People with 10 cars in the family cannot drive them now; people with 10 houses cannot live in all those houses now because they are stranded in only one house. Should this be the time when those that are wealthier consider being a little more generous and a little fairer to make sure those who are in need are looked after?
At times like this, we need the strongest level of cooperation and unity. The government needs to regain the trust of its citizens. As much as we need to have faith in our God, we also need to trust the progress made by science and technology. We need to ensure that the lockdown goes hand in hand with maximum testing, maximum isolation like South Korea, and citizen trust like Singapore where self-employed quarantine residents are given 70USD a day along with free medical treatment.
It is not the time to play the blame game which we often indulge in (in Nagaland). Our neighbors or the world are not going to come to rescue us because they are also in the war, it’s not us versus them, it’s Humanity versus the Virus. illionaire philanthropist Jack Ma recently launched the global online platform to exchange ideas and lessons to help combat the global outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
Time to Reform and Plan for a Better future
So is this window for us to reform, reorganize, and re-establish ourselves and our society into a new Nagaland? Should our government start forming a Special Medical Force rather than a Special Military Force?
It’s a time for every citizen to take responsibility. We need writers to write more, orators to address more, our youths and millennials to be more responsible using every available social platform in YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, etc to be more vocal and send a message to the government – not to condemn, but to cooperate; not to criticize, but to strenghten our fight against this virus and all associated problems (some of which I have highlited above). Working together is the only way forward to come out of this stronger as a state.
Citizen Initiatives: Green Team Kohima – a team of young people working hard to provide free ration and help to local people affected by the lockdowns.
Citizen Initiatives: Young artists from Nagaland coming together to collect funds to donate to teams who are distributing essentials to people in need [MORE]
Supporting the actions, encouraging the talents, and appreciating the moves of the government, frontline personnel, and regular citizens will be a great motivating factor for all of us. Along this path through the future, let us trust our ingenuity, give a little more hope and share a little more love. Our earth is healing itself as we can see from clearer skies, the sound of the birds and the movement of animals. Humanity must come together to win and conquer this pandemic and we shall live a better life. Kuknalim!
About the Author: Kuzote Lohe (Akuzo) is a 22 years old Computer Science student in Bengaluru, a student leader, humanitarian, an aspiring writer, and an entrepreneur.
From the author:
At this time of crisis, I take deep concern for humanity, challenging myself on what I can do for mankind. In my conversation with my fellow friends, industry experts, and through reading and analyzing the writings of different people across the globe, I pen down my thoughts and bring this out. Here are some of the people who helped me in the process:
- Rozelle Mero, Interior Designer, and Social Worker, Dimapur
- Sunep Imsong: Banker, HSBC, Bengaluru.
- Tutu K Jamir: Counsellor and Writer, Dimapur.
- Achin Hangsing: Teacher and Youth Advocate, Kohima.
- Kili Sumi: Law student, Bengaluru.
- X Chophika Sumi: Political worker, Dimapur.
- Bendangkala Kichu: Community leader, Bengaluru.
- Wetso-u Kapfo: Customer Consultant, Delhi.
- Dr. Kaholi Zhimomi: Christian Historian, Bengaluru.
- Menule Chirhah: Student and Creator, Kohima.
- Khyothunglo Kikon: Student and Youth Ambassador, Shillong.
- Vituonuo Valerie: Software Engineer, Kohima.