24 June 2020

COVID-19 and Higher Education: Interview with Talitha Dias

UNESCO estimates that over 1.5 billion students in 165 countries are out of school due to COVID-19. The pandemic has forced the global academic community to explore new ways of teaching and learning, including distance and online education. This has proven challenging for both students and educators, who have to deal with the emotional, physical and economic difficulties posed by the illness while doing their part to help curb the spread of the virus.  The future is uncertain for everyone, particularly for millions of students scheduled to graduate this year who will face a world crippled economically by the pandemic. 

In the COVID-19 and higher education series, United Nations Academic Impact (UNAI) talks to students, educators and researchers in different parts of the world to find out how COVID-19 has affected them and how they are coping with the changes. The series also highlights lessons learned and potential positive outcomes of the global lockdown for higher education.

In this interview we are talking to Talitha Dias, a Brazilian lawyer currently pursuing a master’s degree in International Contractual Relations at the Federal University of Pernambuco in the Northeast of Brazil.

Talitha's master’s program was scheduled to begin in March, but classes have been postponed due to COVID-19. With the unexpected changes in her 2020 calendar, Talitha had to quickly devise a plan B: she started teaching English online, began taking online courses for her professional development, and explored new skills such as cooking. This new routine has helped Talitha remain patient and positive despite all the uncertainties about her future.

Like many countries, the pandemic has had a devastating impact on Brazil and Talitha shared her concerns about the capacity of the country’s public health system to handle the number of coronavirus cases. It has also been difficult for many Brazilian schools and universities to pivot to distance learning and it is taking time for them to adapt to the new virtual learning landscape, while some Brazilian students have misgivings about the quality of online education.

Despite the challenges, Talitha believes this difficult time will pass and it will teach us some important lessons such as the value of time spent with loved ones and empathy for and solidarity with others. Listen to the full interview with Talitha here.

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