[OPINION] The big teacher in COVID-19

Photo by Brian McGowan on Unsplash


Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan

A 125NM PARTICLE is shaking up the world, thousands of lives are lost, world economy is crashing down and the world has come to an almost standstill. In the midst of this chaos, what are the valuable lessons that we can draw from this pandemic?

What does COVID-19 teach us? A lot of things apparently, and yet time will tell if we wake up to a new wisdom.

1. We have been taking many things for granted. We assumed that the planet only belonged to us and encroached into the habitat of every other living thing. Today we realise that when we withdrew from their spaces, they are coming back to enjoy what they were deprived. Blue skies and clear rivers were probably what Mother Earth was begging us for long. If we could reduce the luxuries in our life and our greed, the planet will start healing.

2. How we can adapt flexi hours and work-from-home models? This should be the work culture for this century. It is great for women empowerment and a sustainable planet, with less driving, clothes and shoes, and parking space. More time for the family will reduce the rise of psychological issues and social ills. The action plan should be to cultivate integrity and work ethics.

3. The importance of science literacy. The fake news, myths and pseudoscience that are prevailing shows the science literacy level of Malaysians. This is a neglected area for long. I have always been saying how science literacy helps us to make informed decisions on all aspects of our lives.

4. The importance of science communication. This is another neglected area. Both the government and scientists are underestimating the importance of communicating science. Whose role is that? What are the incentives and support in place? Why is this very important?

5. Hope anti-vaxxers are also learning a lesson. Lives are being lost just because we do not have a vaccine for this novel virus. On the other hand, where vaccines are available, anti-vaxxers are not just risking their children’s health but also others’.

6. Will this pandemic change the mind of the critics of genetic modification, GMOs, synthetic biology, gene editing? These are the essential tools for drug developments. Will they still wage a war against these tools in the pretext that they are all risky and interfere with nature? Will they still want to pull the brake on these technologies? Do they have anything to offer as a solution?

7. Many launch propaganda to restrict the use of genetic resources and Digital Sequence Information in the name of Access Benefit Sharing (ABS). Would they want the genetic resources to be untouched and allow lives to be lost? The pandemic is teaching us to be more pragmatic and not idealistic about biodiversity.

8. Pedagogy is evolving faster in universities where we are pushed forcibly to adopt 21st century teaching methods – online and digital classes. This will evolve to be the norm.

9. The pandemic has put scientists in the limelight, who are racing against time to develop drugs. It is time they get their rightful place in the society. Science does not offer well paid careers, and this has to change.

10. Covid-19 pandemic should be an eye opener for students who decline to pursue STEM education. They should gear up to be the heroes of humanity.

11. The preparedness, readiness and response actions of healthcare systems and governments have been put to tests. In many cases these are alarming.
Let us learn from this crisis. In many cases countries in the East has shown more extraordinary strategies and spirit in combating the pandemic.

12. Will this be the end of White supremacy with China waking up again as a lion while the USA’s economy is collapsing? European countries are doing no better. 

13. The lockdown is also forcing digital marketing to change their strategies. Will farmers and fishermen continue using digital platforms to sell their produce?   

A trained science communicator, Dr Mahaletchumy Arujanan is the co-founder of SMC Malaysia. She has a strong penchant for filling the void in the field of science communication in the developing world. Her aim is to shape public opinion, enable the development of science-based policies and regulations through capacity building programmes, and promote STEM education and career.

**All previous posts about COVID-19 here: https://sciencemediacentremalaysia.com/tag/covid-19/

Leave a Reply