The children of Covid-19

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by Jesmond Saliba

The post-millennial generation is only starting to make its way into the world, but it now finds everything in complete upheaval. Children and young people will have seen the self-assurance of politicians, celebrity CEOs, their teachers and their own parents disappear like the battery draining out on a game of Fortnite.

It is an unhappy coincidence that the first Covid-19 patient registered in Malta was a 12-year-old girl. But, if we read into it excessively, the case gives a clue as to who the ultimate casualty of the pandemic is likely to be.

The young may have less experience of the state of affairs that adults fondly describe as ‘normal’, but normalcy is as much about the future as it is about the present. Until a few weeks ago, children and youth were growing up with their faces to an exciting future, promising almost limitless possibilities. New opportunities in non-traditional career areas such as the creative industry, the arts or influencer brands were flourishing.

That all seems like a distant past now and, if we filter out the memes and hilarious videos, all we are left to see are contracting economies and jittery markets.

Not all is bleak, though, and like the troubled years of adolescence there have been encouraging signs in a world that values inventiveness, own-resource, agility.

Children and young people have understood that it is everyone’s time to make a difference and this uneasy patch has empowered them to do their share. The thousands of rainbows colouring our streets right now are testament to the optimism that youth carries.

But their efforts have been more than merely symbolic. To mention just two initiatives, the Malta Girl Guides wasted no time in launching an engaging ‘Quarantine Challenge’ for children at home; and the Malta chapter of Junior Chamber International rolled out a slick ‘Buy a Meal’ scheme that raised €10,000 within just a week.

These actions and others like them will define this emerging and hopeful generation.

While many grown-ups understandably reminisce a world lost, the young are embracing a future with both its difficulties and opportunities, as well they should. May we all find the strength to go back to that 12-year-old moment and re-imagine life beyond this mayhem.

Jesmond Saliba

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