Home Youth Weekly discussion: The impact of COVID 19 on SDG 4

Weekly discussion: The impact of COVID 19 on SDG 4

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INITIATION: BY YOUTH AND FOR YOUTH

A group of motivated youths representing from Sustainability Week Kathmandu, Thought for Food (TFF), Child Development Society and symposium on SDGs have launched a weekly webinar. With the overall coordination and management by a core team composed of four youth leaders namely Mr. Ashish Lamichhane, Ms. Barsha Raut, Mr. Ghanshyam Bhattarai and Ms. Insha Pun, the platform is a best way to strike discussion on the impact of COVID 19 on SDGs.

The main aim of such weekly sessions is to inspire the youth to contribute in possible areas of SDGs as per their expertise and interest. Furthermore, this session is vital to bring together experts from various walks of life to share their learning and way forward. Additionally, it can sensitize different stakeholders towards their roles to achieve SDGs amidst the global crisis of COVID-19.

During these series of webinars, the subject experts and professionals from various backgrounds are brought to the same platform where they answer questions from the organizers. The questions are formulated based on the responses that are received through registration forms circulated beforehand.

The first episode was launched on 7th May 2020 titled “Impact of COVID 19 on goal number 3”. The second episode was conducted on 14 th May 2020 and this time the subject experts discussed the impact of COVID 19 on SDG 4”. The speakers were from diverse walks of life, all but related with their work in the contribution of sustainable development goal number 4. The 5 speakers were  Mr Rajan Koirala (Chief Business Officer at Edusanjal), Prof. Niranjan Khanal (President at Nepal Chemical Society), Mr. Janak Pant (Regional education advisor, Oxfam IBIS) Mr. Shailendra Jha (Director of Selection and Recruitment at Teach for Nepal) and Ms. Jayanti Satyal (Director of National Examination Board, Bagmati province).

The session was conducted through Skype and live via our two official Facebook pages viz Sustainability Week Kathmandu and Symposium on Sustainable Development Goals. The session was formally opened by Ashish Lamichhane (Program head, Sustainable Week Kathmandu). The co-host Mr. Ghanshyam Bhattarai then led the webinar with an introductory video and a testimonial video. The latter was filmed to show the plight of parents and teachers of 5 districts of Nepal viz Kailali, Myagdi, Banepa, Janakpur and Jhapa due to prolonged school closure. Following this the entire session was moderated by Insh Pun (Health and Nutrition In-charge at Child development society). Finally, the session was concluded with the summarization and conclusion of the session presented by Barsha Raut (Public Health scholar, Sustainable Week Kathmandu).  Throughout the session the team worked closely with the representatives of symposium on SDG (Mr. Sourav Chandra, Kshitiz Prasai, Prakriti Karmacharya and Sujan Nepal) to maintain the smooth facilitation by minimizing the technical errors.

The 50 participants who shared the live platform with the speakers were selected based on their responses at the registration form circulated beforehand. And most of them had their own level of expertise in the field of SDG. Other interested participants (100+ viewers) had joined us live on our Facebook pages. They were actively engaged in the webinar via chat and comments throughout the session.

The specific objective of episode-2 was to create a platform whereby youths (University level) from various backgrounds can have first-hand information regarding the SDG 4 and the impact of COVID 19 from the experts in the field (academicians and professionals). Most importantly, the session was useful in identifying areas where local youth could be mobilized to adopt contextual solutions regarding SDG 4 in rural and urban settings. Moreover, the session revealed the e-learning practices disparity which if not addressed swiftly can deepen the gulf between those “with” and “without” access to internet connectivity.

The entire session was divided into 3 different short sessions. The first session was titled “plights and perspectives from rural and urban settings”, which was addressed by the speakers Mr. Shailendra Jha and Mr. Rajan Koirala respectively. The following session was titled “ Plans and Policy by professionals”, which was attended by professionals from governmental and non-governmental organizations. The speakers for this session were Ms. Jayanti Satyal and Mr. Janak Pant respectively. The last session was addressed by the subject expert Prof Dr. Niranjan Koirala.

The ideas that the speakers presented on that day can guide and direct the youth who wish to engage meaningfully in the achievement of SDGs. Meanwhile, it can be equally informative for all the stakeholders who are relentlessly working to achieve SDGs despite the national crisis. The below-mentioned points are the consolidated ideas presented by the subject experts:

Mr. Shailendra Jha outlined that since Nepal is very diverse not only in terms of geography, also in terms of culture, language,income status,different schooling patterns,which results in different and unique contextual problems in accessing education. He added that while there are more than half of the population who find it difficult to even fulfill their basic needs, that adopting an e-learning practice for all is a far fetched dream. He stated that a solution deemed successful in province 1 cannot be replicated for other areas, so we should try context-wise planning in addressing diverse issues. He also highlighted that youth should be patient and work with a long term vision, he stressed that continuous workout is a must and that every household should integrate education with their day to day activities.

On a side note, he shared that TFN is working to come up with contextual solutions by also keeping mental and emotional issues in the background. He concluded that despite the constraints and challenges, the TFN fellows have been working to support the student and their community side by side.

 Mr. Rajan Koirala highlighted that technology is a huge platform, however, every citizen in Nepal does not have access to the internet nor do all schools and households have electricity access. He therefore concluded that we should focus on adopting a more holistic approach, and more research, experiments are required to explore more feasible platforms. He concluded by saying that the youth should focus on searching platforms whereby they can empower themselves, and their digital literacy should be focused on spreading positivity around them instead of the misinformation and incredible news.

Jayanti Satyal delineated about the government initiatives and way forward regarding examinations.   She reiterated that the three tiers of government empowers the local level to identify and address local issues related to examination. However, considering the current situation, the government shall plan systematically and a uniform message will be disseminated at the soonest time.

She added that the sudden closure of the educational institutes has not only prevented the student from receiving education, but also affected the mental and economic aspects of the family and community. She concluded that learning should not be limited to the school syllabus, that learning is a continuous process and one should try and learn from every stimulus present around oneself.

Mr. Janak Panta enlightened the participants about the short, medium and long term impact of the prolonged school closure. Among the immediate impacts were deteriorating health and safety of children, school dropouts (especially for girls), reduced investment in education, and deeper learning poverty. Few of the medium and long term impacts included reduced human capital and an increase in social unrest, intergenerational cycle of poverty.  The major highlights of his talk were focused on “age-appropriate self-learning activities”, “mobilization of passionate and motivated local youth”, “Ownership and accountability by the local level stakeholders”. As a concluding remark, he stressed that to bring systemic change, the local government should take the consistent lead and ensure that the learning gap is addressed on time.

 Mr. Nirajan Parajuli provided his views regarding the uncertainty and lack of uniform decision by the concerned stakeholder is putting the student into deeper mental stress and in dilemma. He concluded that one among the possible solutions to the issue at hand lies on the decision-makers’ hand, he stressed that the flow of a well planned and consistent decision and messages could mitigate the confusion and worry among the students, parents, and teachers as well.

Finally, to ensure inclusivity the webinar also included perspective from the principle of a school called “Shreejanshil Rehabilitation and a special school for the disabled children” located in Chandragiri that provides education to differently-abled students. Furthermore, while the floor was made available for questions and suggestions, one participant highlighted the need for catering to a systemic issue such as mental health and well being.

There were more than 45 participants in the webinar, which was conducted in the online platform Skype. The program was proudly supported by YPARD Nepal, YOUTH CAN, Hult Prize, CEEN, Smart Minds, Youth Opportunities Nepal, Land our Future and Athota Nepal.