JulieB By: JulieB
Lecturer in Global Health
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05 Oct 2020 : Toy soldiers...

Step by step, heart to heart, left right left, we all fall down... like toy soldiers... 

One of my fave songs growing up (not the Eminem version, but the original). I only recently learnt that it was actually about drug addictions. In my 8 year old mind, it was actually about toy soldiers falling over because they could no longer stand up! 

Something about today reminded me of that song and I just re-listened to it, as well as several other 80s classics that we listened to in Eastern Europe at the time. 

For a while now I've wondered how on earth the NHS will survive this pandemic. It seems like the "perfect" recipe for privatisation - like some sort of "perfect" toxic cocktail that gets you too drunk to be able to look after yourself on a night out. In other words, by perfect, I don't mean anything of the sort! While I am no expert on privatisation, it seems that the path is being cleared for this to be "the obvious" answer to all its woes - when far more obvious earlier answers would have done a much better job. Today though, I've thought about Universities. How will "we" survive this? Reputational damage must be huge right now among those universities where students are quarantined in halls of residence, while the coronavirus spreads around them like wildfire. I've even read about two student deaths in the last 48 hours, one I think a homicide and one I'm not sure - how tragic. University should be a safe place where you go to learn and grow and yes have some fun too. Not somewhere where you go to get stuck indoors with a new virus, increasing mental health issues and surrounded by a whole bunch of frustrated teenagers! Nightmare! 

I feel so relieved that all my teaching is online because of my large class sizes which makes it impossible to socially distance. I don't know what I would have done if I'd been asked to teach in person - hopefully I would have resisted, even to the point of it costing a lot to my career and sanity. Decades of fieldwork in global health have taught me that safety MUST come first and all else follows. And while some Universities (perhaps most even) have gone to great lengths to be/appear to be "COVID-secure" (whatever that means), I just don't think this virus is taken seriously enough by politicians and by many members of society for it to actually be safe to return to class and to halls of residence this year. Many - it seems most - students actually did choose to return this year, braving the unknown. But if we don't have a vaccine universally distributed by Sept 2021 (or some serious therapies and improved risk management processes), who do we expect will come to study in any of these universities then? 

We should already be thinking about longer term adaptation and innovations to encourage students to study - safely - next year and beyond. If we don't, I fear that Universities will go along a similar route that the NHS seems to be going along... ...falling down, step by step, like toy soldiers... 

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