Reflections from the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s learning, inequities and speaking up against injustice

It is hard to believe that it has been almost one and a half years since the initial shutdown in Ontario due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I am thinking of children and families who have been experiencing the stress of the pandemic, including challenges with virtual schooling and isolation. During this time, many have lost loved ones due to the pandemic or other reasons, and have had to find new ways of coping with loss due to the circumstances. What we have also seen as a society is how the pandemic is exacerbating existing inequities in profound ways.

During this time, Canada was also confronted with its devastating history and continued systemic discrimination. 

I am thinking of and mourning the horrific discovery of the remains of children at residential schools across Canada. As a child of newcomers who was educated in Canada, I feel we need to do better at teaching about the truths of our horrific Canadian history and impacts of colonialism, and we need to continue to learn from Indigenous communities as we work towards dismantling Anti-Indigenous racism, and move towards Truth and Reconciliation. 

I am thinking of the horrific acts of anti-Black racism and victims of police violence here and abroad. I am committed to learning from members of the Black community and stand in solidarity against anti-Black racism. 

I am thinking of the hate crime in London, Ontario against a family of five that was the horrific result of Islamophobia. I am thinking of horrific acts of anti-Asian racism during the pandemic. I am thinking of rising incidents of anti-semitism and religion or belief discrimination. I am deeply and personally committed to dismantling racism, along with discrimination of all forms. I am also thinking of diverse LGBTQ2S+ communities, standing in solidarity against violence and in a spirit of acceptance.

As we think of ways forward, I think of a young 3-year-old child whom I witnessed walking alone towards a major busy intersection, and an elderly neighbour who helped walk her back to her home where her parents were busy working from home with their two young children. I think of a community in mourning at the loss of two special young children and the way that family and friends are trying to come together. I think of families finding new ways to juggle, cope and thrive. I think of students who have persevered in their studies.  I think of educators, teachers and professors committed to equity, diversity and inclusion trying to take steps towards curriculum change.

While there is much work to be done and a long road ahead in making systemic and structural changes, I believe that we can make great strides if we come together. It does take “a village” and we all need to support one another, working together to continue forward in a good way. 

— Sejal Patel, Ph.D.