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OTT Conference, ‘Cracks in the knowledge system: whose knowledge counts and whose knowledge do we need?’

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Date(s) - 11/11/2020
6:30 pm

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Panel Speakers were present from Sri Lanka, Cairo and Nairobi amongst others. The discussion centred on the issues related to chasms in the present knowledge systems, the decolonization of knowledge and inequitable knowledge systems, based on a paper written by Jon Harle, and relying on the OS Policy Brief authored by our UNESCO Co-Chairs Dr. Tandon, Dr. Hall in partnership with others.

Maha Bali spoke about how Covid-19 has reduced some inequalities while exacerbated others. While many have been able to access information through technology, many got left out who did not have access to the same. She questioned existing power hierarchies and agreed that present power dynamics would have to be disturbed to reduce inequalities in society. Government surveillance globally has increased, and so has the politics of knowledge. She linked digital literacy with economic growth and questions how ready countries were in terms of medical and technological infrastructure to deal with the current pandemic. The question is what values do we have; what tools can we use to re-energise and sustain our education systems. We need infrastructure to support learning modules. How equitable the educational system is  depends on the context, a very important component of which is teacher training. She urged the use of free educational tv, phone calls and finding new local solutions to pressing challenges.

Chalani Ranwala first delineated positive opportunities emerging from the Pandemic. For one, informational access increase multiple fold. Another positive outcome was that a lot of applications, educational courses and knowledge channels became free of cost. On the other hand, one of the biggest gaps which was exposed was the gap in equitable medical infrastructure to support different communities with different needs, for example, the differently abled. Multi-linguistic strategies need to be developed so that information can be packaged in ways that it can be consumed by different people from diverse contexts. Using local language can expedite the pace to find local solutions.

Joy Kiiru suggested inequalities that were taken for granted previously have become a matter of life and death for people. She also encouraged the need to restart local production and consumption of knowledge. In the context of Covid-19, it is no longer possible to rely solely on western countries to find solutions to challenges. It is important to co-create local knowledge. She urged policy makers of the global south to find ways of “controlling the agenda” for global policies and build local capacities, instead of imitating the west.

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