“This is a time in history to make history.”

Youth Perspectives on the COVID-19 Pandemic

On April 13, 2020, the project held a Global Think-In, a virtual conversation between 70 youth from nearly 10 countries, to share observations about the Coronavirus pandemic and its impact on how they think about their future and the post-pandemic world. Specifically, we asked them:

1. How has the Coronavirus affected your life? What is the most unexpected part of this impact?

2. What influence do you think this pandemic will have on your future, your country, and the world? What would you like to see change as a result of this pandemic?

The virtual conversation provided a safe space for young people to share their concerns and aspirations across national borders while we temporarily suspend in-person workshops at local universities and community organizations.

The transborder conversation among youth on the COVID-19 Pandemic revealed that:

  • As much as youth miss school and their former lives, they deeply hope that the world does not “return to normal.”  “This is a time in history to make history.” (Brazil).  Many expressed the desire to think about how this crisis offers the potential for personal and global change.  “Time for a ‘green new deal’” for example; “It takes big things for me to see what I couldn’t see before… this is the opportunity to reexamine what we’ve taken for granted.” (India)
  • The loss of anchors and mileposts such as critical “life-determining” entrance exams made one participant recognize the fragility of things that seemed so standard and certain in the past. How can our “fates be related to one exam held annually?” (Tunisia)
  • There is tension between a view that the pandemic has united us around a common cause; and that it has exposed fissures in societies that are deepening with the pandemic; that it has both created new communities of trust and reliance locally, while eroding faith in authority, more generally.

The young people who participated in the think in youth saw the COVID-19 pandemic as a “time in history to make history.” They expressed that this as a time for fundamental rethinking of global priorities: time to address climate change, address the deep socio-economic inequalities rendered visible in the crisis, reestablish trust between people and their governments, reestablish trust among countries.