The Bridge – February 2021

The Bridge is a platform created and administered by our student party to connect with the students of UM and form a spirit of community and contribution. Each month, contributors write a text to tell you about their opinion, an event they have found interesting, … It is pretty free! If you too would like to share your texts, contact us 😉
All views expressed in these articles are the writers’ own and do not represent NovUM’s official or unofficial position.

Covid-19 is more international than us

The Covid-19 crisis is international in nature. In our globalized world, it was not hard for the virus to spread across the world. But the Covid-19 crisis is not only international, but also indiscriminate. The coronavirus does not care for social divisions, only infecting as many people as possible, regardless of their national, financial, or societal status.

Early last year, Europe began to speak of the most serious catastrophe since the Second World War. The whole world began gearing up to fight against the lethal threat of Covid-19. Although politicians emphasised international cooperation in the struggle against the pandemic, most states initially prioritised their national wellbeing. The majority of citizens perceive this as reasonable.

Ironically, a pandemic cannot be beaten with a national-level approach. Therefore, the World Health Organization started the international vaccine initiative COVAX, among other things, to facilitate fair distribution of vaccine doses and maximise access to vaccines in national economies of all shapes and sizes. However, governments of wealthier states still seek bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers, which pushes up prices and impacts the supply of vaccine doses in poorer countries. This scenario is called ‘vaccine nationalism’ and creates an international race to accumulate vaccine doses.

Governments behave this way partly due to pressure from citizens. European citizens expect their governments to spare no expense to secure as many vaccine doses as necessary to immunise the country so that the miserable restrictions can safely be lifted. In June 2020, all 27 EU countries agreed to join an EU vaccine scheme to decrease prices and avoid vaccine nationalism. However, they can still make their own bilateral deals with vaccine manufacturers.

With COVAX, countries will receive doses for at least 20% of their population. But what of the remaining 80%? Especially in less economically developed countries, they are the losers in this situation. Without a doubt, people in wealthier European countries will be vaccinated first. However, it is worth considering that this does not give them protections from all mutations, which could prolong the pandemic.

One thing we can learn from Covid-19 is to go beyond national and European-level responses. Instead of worrying only about ourselves and our compatriots, we should rather seek to take care of all of our fellow human beings. A global pandemic will not be mastered by egocentric nationals but by social internationals. Either we win together or we lose together- the choice is ours.

Paula Nörr

Riots in the Netherlands

The strengthening of Covid-19 measures in the Netherlands has been a topic of constant debate since their implementation in October 2020. Prior to their implementation, the Netherlands attracted international criticism for its relatively lenient rules, which were deemed incompatible with the urgency of rising infection rates.

After the introduction of a curfew from 21.00 until 4.30 am, lasting until the 3rd of March, riots erupted across the country. Rotterdam, Eindhoven and Den Bosch attracted particular media attention for the brutality of the rioters, including numerous incidents of looting. On January 26th, similar rioting was allegedly going to take place in Maastricht. Screenshots of the exchanges between rioters circulated on social media, prompting the police to mobilise. However, on the night of January 26th, the shining stars of the evening were the football supporters, who marched through the center of Maastricht promising to protect the city from rioters. No riots took place that night, nor in the following days. The university has not been affected by this situation, as it remains closed and will not likely reopen their doors until the end of the academic year due to the ongoing pandemic.

Nevertheless, NovUM has distinguished itself in the student community by continuing the search for solutions to the financial issues faced by many international students. In this regard, the NovUM wants to introduce more scholarships for international students, both during the pandemic and afterwards. Mental health support continues to be provided by the Student Services Center in the form of ‘Wellbeing Wednesdays’ or ‘Wellbeing Weekends’, as well as by peer support teams (it must be clarified that these methods of support are not by any means a replacement for medical treatment or psychological therapy).

Ioana Petrescu

The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell: thoughts on our school system

I am lucky enough to have been born into a world where full-time schooling until the age of at least 16 was not only a norm, but a right so well-established that we were able to take it for granted. And take it for granted we did- I remember sitting at the back of Physics labs with my friends, bitterly bemoaning our cruel fate of having to learn about atomic structure at the ungodly hour of 9 a.m. when we ‘were never even going to use this in real life’.

Whilst I now remember my pre-university education with more nostalgic warmth than I entertained at the time, I have to argue that, in a way, my spoilt, self-aggrandising young self had a point. There often seems to be a divergence between the things which my secondary school teachers stressed the importance of knowing inside out and the things I have ended up wishing I knew, or even wished other people my age knew, since leaving school. I do not wish to generalise- pre-university, I only ever went to school in the UK, and there may be other education systems in the world in which this is not the case in the slightest. But my is sufficiently ubiquitous as to have become a meme- Tweets along the lines of ‘I still don’t know how taxes work but at least school taught me that mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell’ are acquiesced with thousands of likes and retweets.

To me this begs the question: what is the point of putting everyone through education? At a basic level, the existence of publicly funded schools where attendance is state-mandated and the curriculum is standardised represents an acceptance of the fact that there are some things that it is sufficiently important for all adults to know that the state is prepared to take it upon themselves to make sure you are taught them. This is why we are legally mandated to learn to read, write, and do basic mathematics- if you reach adulthood without knowing these things you are greatly impaired.

Once we move past the basics, we enter a grey area- it is important that some adults have an in depth understanding of nuclear fusion, but I can confidently predict that I will never use this information, and neither will the relative majority of my classmates. What we will all be faced with, however, is taxes; voting; loans; investment; the housing ladder; the job market; mental health- to name a few. Yet these things- if mentioned at school at all, are usually covered fleetingly and treated as optional extras of lesser importance. My intention is not to dismiss the value of Maths and Physics, or to deny the benefits of curricular breadth irrespective of whether or not each and every subject is salient to our daily lives after leaving school. This is just some food for thought. If the aim of education is to prepare us for life, then are there more things we need to find space for in the curriculum?


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