On 19 December 2020, the Association of Commonwealth Scholars and Fellows (ACSF) in India, with support from the British Council in India, organised a virtual panel discussion to mark the association’s 5th anniversary. The theme of the panel was ‘Resilience, sustainability and leadership: hope and possibilities’ and the discussion explored various dimensions of resilience, sustainability, and leadership in relation to the current difficulties brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. The virtual event was well attended and connected 127 Commonwealth Alumni from across India.

The opening remarks were delivered by Rittika Chanda Parruck, Assistant Director of Programmes at British Council, North India, while ACSF President, Dr Dhruva Chaudhry (2009 Academic Fellow, University Hospital Aintree), inspired attendees with his encouraging words on the future of the alumni association before the panel discussion commenced.

Moderated by Sayed Khurram Nisar (2011 Shared Scholar, PG Diploma Sports Management, University of Worcester), the panel brought together academics from higher education institutions in India, who reported on the different ways in which COVID-19 had impacted society and highlighted the importance of resilience, sustainability, and leadership in overcoming the challenges posed by the pandemic. The panellists and topics of discussion were:

Dr Rajesh Sagar, Professor in the Department of Psychiatry, AIIMS

Dr Sager discussed various aspects of mental health, including how it is impacted  during challenging times, and its importance in building resilient communities. His talk focused on well-being and having the will power to sustain oneself when faced with uncertainty and difficult ordeals.

Professor Disha Nawani, Dean of the School of Education, Tata Institute of Social Sciences

Professor Nawani’s talk considered the evolving facets of education amidst COVID-19 and how online learning had changed the education environment. Professor Nawani observed the many challenges faced by students and faculty staff alike during the pandemic and noted that the ongoing development of resources and infrastructure was essential to support a sustainable shift to online learning and education provision. In her address, Professor Nawani emphasised that the difficulties  students encountered in accessing educational materials and teaching online was leading to alienation amongst the student community.

Dr Sanjay K Rai, Professor at Centre for Community Medicine, AIIMS

Dr Rai spoke about the current health situation in India, with particular focus on the Coronavirus pandemic and the future delivery of the vaccination programme. In his address, Dr Rai also highlighted safety issues around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dr Sumati Varma, Associate Professor of Commerce, Delhi University

Dr Varma talked about the economic concerns and the sustainability of business in India in the present moment. Dr Varma’s discussion touched on leadership within the business community and changing economic models which support sustainability and a growth in entrepreneurship.

After each of the panellist presentations, there was an opportunity for discussion amongst the speakers and for attendees to raise questions and comments. Following the panel presentations and wider discussion, ACSF Secretary, Manu Mahajan (2005 Shared Scholar, MSc Urban Economic Development, University College London; 2018 Split-site Scholar), gave the closing remarks and delivered a thank you note to panellists and attendees.

You can watch a recording of the panel discussion on the British Council International Education Services’ YouTube channel. The CSC is not responsible for the content of external sites.