Repositioning Health into our Mainstream Education System: Lessons for post-COVID-19 From the Global South

Claudia Adler

The news coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 populated Western media with images of stockpiling. Images of empty shopping isles circulated on social media as frenzied shoppers disregarded their fellow citizens. In many ways, COVID-19 did mark a departure, shaking up a dormant Western society that had grown up accustomed to a high consumer lifestyle giving a false sense of security for far too long. The anthropologist Arthur Kleinman (2006), in his book, ‘What Really Matters: Living a Moral Life amidst Uncertainty and Danger’, explores the premise of an uncertain and dangerous life, and the very human struggles we face to hold onto the things that matter most to us; a reality that surged during the pandemic.

Despite endless entertainment at our fingertips, feelings of isolation gripped many people in many parts of the world, primarily driven by mandatory quarantine. The Office of National Statistics (ONS) reported that 5.0% of the people in Great Britain described feeling lonely before the lockdown due to Covid-19, and feeling lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’ between April and May 2020. Some people (30.9% – 7.4 million) reported their wellbeing had been affected by feelings of loneliness after seven days of lockdown. The relation among people, education and health has gone largely unnoticed before the pandemic. The rise of mental health issues amongst youth in the United Kingdom during the pandemic provides legitimacy in reassessing our current mainstream education and whether a curriculum facilitating empowerment that enables students to manage uncertainty is necessary. From this premise, this blog argues that there is a disconnection between health institutions and education. The mainstream education system in the UK has favoured an academic intensive curriculum that seems to benefit the marketplace irrespective of the stress and anxiety experienced by students (Illich, 1973). The global education institution suffered greatly during the pandemic as teachers grappled with online platforms, student engagement dropped, and educational inequities emerged as many students were left a drift due to school closures (Milam, 2021; Pandya, 2020).

Figure 1: Stockpiling - Source: BBC (2020)
Figure 1: Stockpiling – Source: BBC (2020)


Despite the comforts and technological advancements in Britain, statistics show that there is a struggle with internal processes of joy and empowerment. The question that emerges from the COVID-19 experience within a British context is why are people struggling to manage their external world with joy? Data from the UK Government observed an 81% rise in number of referrals to child and adolescent mental health services from April to September 2021 (Hall, 2022).

In order to address this question, one must examine the broken link between mainstream education and health. The individualistic and reductionist worldview normalised by a pedagogy of competition are pillars that govern the Education system in Britain (Giroux, 2001). Moving forward, what are the opportunities that can be explored with a transformative educational approach principled on child wellbeing?

Illich (1973, p.19) argued:

‘’The commodity called “education” and the institution called “school” make each other necessary. The circle can be broken only by a widely shared insight that the institution has come to define the purpose. Values abstractly stated are reduced to mechanical processes that enslave men. This serfdom can be broken only by the joyful self-recognition of the fool who assumes personal responsibility for his folly.’’

Being healthy and managing the external world are fundamental teachings found in ancient wisdom, like the African philosophy of Ubuntu – I am because we are (Ngomane, 2019); Hinduism, Buddhism, Ancient Mayanism, and Daoism are some examples. Thus, there is much scope for Western societies to adopt and introduce Southern epistemologies on concepts like, balance, oneness, internal processes of empowerment and joy. Many rural, marginalised, and indigenous people who remain uncolonised in their way of thinking and approaches practice such concepts and are part of their traditional knowledge systems.

If the void between education and health continues to be ignored generations of people will continue to struggle with life’s dangers. The lessons from the pandemic are opportunities to reassess how we define development, health, wealth, and happiness. The endless pursuit of knowledge will continue to erode the health and wellbeing of society members if left unaddressed. This blog invites you to reimagine an education system that promotes wellbeing of students through a pedagogy of empowerment.


Giroux, H. A. (2001). Theory and Resistance in Education : Towards a Pedagogy for the Opposition. Bergin & Garvey.

Hall, R. (2022). Pandemic still affecting UK students’ mental health, says helpline. The Guardian. Online. Available at:

Illich, I. (1973). Tools for conviviality. London: Boyars

Kariyawasam, T. (2014). The Buddha’s teaching methodology. [Online]. Available at:

Kleinman, A. (2006). What really matters : living a moral life amidst uncertainty and danger. Oxford ; New York: Oxford University Press.

Milam, G. (2021). COVID-19: Parents who lost teenagers to suicide in lockdown issue warning – ‘there’s going to be a lot of PTSD’. [Online]. Available at:

Ngomane, M. (2019). Everyday Ubuntu. London: Transworld Publishers.

Pandya, P. (2020). Effect on mental health issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. British journal of general practice, 70 (697), p.382. [Online]. Available at: doi:10.3399/bjgp20X711857.

Vivekananda, S. (1989). The complete works of Swami Vivekananda. Calcutta: Advaita Ashrama. [Online]. Available at:

Leave a Comment

This blog is edited by our respected senior editors Audrey Tolouian and Franca Daniele.
Please review these blog guidelines and suggestions before pitching content topics: 

Recent Posts