Tatjana Babrauskienė: "If this quarantine has done anything, it's given people time to recharge and think about how important our relationships are"

Tatjana Babrauskienė is a Lithuanian member of the EESC and of the Lithuanian Education and Science Trade Union. EESC Info has asked her to share her thoughts on COVID-19 as seen from her country.

How have you experienced the lockdown?

It has been a unique experience, involving a great deal of anxiety and waves of panic as headlines talked about a virus that was spreading globally like wildfire.

At the same time, it was like living in slow motion in a world where everything had changed overnight, leaving us with a new normal.

My organisation was flooded with emails from members and teachers who felt lost and needed support. We created a COVID-19 information webpage with recommendations, legal advice and other useful information, and a "Distance learning ideas" page with tips and tools for e-teaching and e-learning.

All this kept us energised because we knew that many people relied and depended on us.

What did you miss during this difficult time?

Meeting with friends and colleagues and most of all with loved ones.

Take Easter, for instance. Traditionally, we spend Easter with our extended family. This year we painted eggs and cooked special dishes as usual, but there was no festive mood in our celebrations.

Thankfully, we were allowed to leave home for a walk or exercise, alone or with family members, and I used this opportunity widely. 

What lessons can be learned from the lockdown?

During the quarantine we created new practices as we gravitated online. We will see whether they will become a regular way of working and communicating, and if the frequency and duration of our meetings with co-workers and friends will change.

The lockdown has also partly been an educational experiment, testing how students perform with online teaching versus face-to-face classes. Unfortunately, it has also increased inequality, and it remains to be seen whether schools can return to the status quo after this crisis.

The digital shift has been shown to involve a risk of age discrimination, the spread of conspiracy theories and the growth of fake news as people try to find answers to the important questions: what is going on here, who is responsible and what are the reasons for it? On the other hand, technology today makes it possible to monitor everyone all the time. How could this impact our personal life? We should not be put in a position of having to choose between privacy and health.

The good news of the lockdown is that the halt to human activity is making a difference to climate change and that cutting carbon emissions and changing people's attitudes could become more of a reality.

What hope is there for those whose jobs are threatened?

Workers have been unevenly affected by the lockdown. Those whose jobs were nonessential and/or couldn't be performed from home faced the largest income losses and lost the most jobs.

Job insecurity and pay are correlated with education levels, so we need to reinforce our education and training systems and provide the necessary up-skilling and re-skilling for everyone in need. We must ensure that we come out of this crisis stronger and better prepared for the future, whatever it might be.

Are there any people you would like to see but haven't been able to yet?

My foreign friends and colleagues. I can't wait to meet them and work with them without worrying about masks, social distancing and hand sanitisers.

Lithuania has done a terrific job in not just flattening the curve, but downright squashing it. Our social life is back to (almost) normal. But in some countries the situation does not look so stable. I do hope things will get better soon for them.

If this quarantine has done anything, it's given people time to recharge and think about how important our relationships are.