The Government announced £1 billion funds to support the work schools would need to do to enable many children to “catch-up” after Covid: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/catch-up-premium-coronavirus-covid-19/catch-up-premium
It is clear that the Covid lockdowns have had a serious impact on many children- not only through “falling behind” in education, but also in mental health. The Maudsley Hospital has seen a 45 percent increase in eating disorders. Isolation and separation from your friends affects people in very different ways. Society will have a major task when it is finally safe to lift the restrictions.
Covid has revealed more clearly the gross inequalities and disparities that already existed in our society. In his book “The Tyranny of Merit: what’s become of the Common Good?” (published by Penguin, Random House, in 2020), Michael Sandel argues that our society has become far more “meritocratic”- with the sense that everyone has the opportunity make something of their lives, and that “success” is dependent on your own hard work and initiative. He quotes Michael Young, who in 1958 wrote “The winners would consider their success a ‘just reward for their own capacity, for their own efforts, for their own undeniable achievements2, and would therefore look down on those less successful than themselves. Those who failed to rise would feel that they had no one to blame but themselves.” (in “The Rise of Meritocracy”, published by Thames and Hudson, London).
Sandel points out that the impact of this sense of failure is particularly seen in the use of drugs and alcohol among middle-aged people whose pride in their jobs has been taken away by redundancy, as companies have sought to increase profits and shareholder returns by cutting wage bills- a kind of “Death of Despair”. It is also seen among many younger people who have been unable to gain access to the jobs market (particularly in the case of minority communities), and the months of Covid lockdown could increase the risk of that.
Our reading was from Ecclesiastes 3:16 to 4:4, where the Preacher complains that “in the place of justice, wickedness was there”. At first he reassures himself that “God will judge the righteous and the wicked”, so all will be well. But then he sees “all the oppressions that are practised under the sun”, where the oppressed have “no one to comfort them” because “on the side of their oppressors there was power” and “all toil and skill in work come from one person’s envy of another”.
A dismal view of life. So do we have to conclude that all we can do is to “Leave God to order all thy ways, and…. find Him in the evil days, thy all-sufficient strength and guide” (Number 504 in the 1933 Methodist Hymn Book), abandoning the world to its own devices? But Ecclesiastes is not the whole Bible, and the Gospel we find in Christ sends us back to the world with renewed confidence that injustice need not to have the final word.