OUR PEOPLE AND EDUCATION: The missing link
The last decade saw many funny quotes ascribed to erstwhile Zimbabwean Leader, just like this one:
“How do you convince the upcoming generation that education is the key to success when we are surrounded by poor graduates and rich criminals?”
This quote forms the starting point for this edition of the CONCOURSE.
Have you noticed a growing campaign and alarming apathy against formal education especially among the youths of late?
Everywhere you tune in to within the public domain, cybèrspaces etc, a debate is ongoing trying to convince our people that education should be jettisoned since poor graduates litter our streets, while rich uneducated dudes run the city.
The bullet point expressed in questions are: what is the essence of education if one struggles to earn a living after graduation, while one’s mate in business apprenticeship ekes life with ease in flamboyant affluence?
Other opinions trying to sound sympathetic, would argue that government have messed up our education system, and there is no justifiable reason to ‘waste’ years ‘suffering’ in schools only to roam the street pauperized, after graduation.
Some taking the position of God of the universe, confirm that if they spend the years their student-counterparts spend in school, in business coaching or skill acquisition, they would be millionaires before their friends/relatives who went to school complete their NYSC.
These theories was being debated, when a video was released last year to support the claims. In the video, a 14-year old boy from Nnewi, Anambra cursed the idea of formal education, sighting example of his unemployed elder brother who is done with school but remained dependent on his parents.
After watching the video, I realized that something is fundamentally wrong with our mindset. And it’s creeping down to the level of the juveniles. The problem was neither with education nor our learning system. It is first and foremost with our orientation, our value system and our inability to draw definite scale of preferences between our wants and our needs.
So let’s begin first, with definition of terms: What is formal education?
“Formal education” is the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
Such training imply a discipline and development by means of study and learning. Education is the development of the abilities of the mind (learning to know): a liberal education. Training is practical education (learning to do) or practice, usually under supervision, in some art, trade, or profession: training in art, teacher training etc.
From Encyclopedia Britannica: “Formal Education” is a discipline that is concerned with methods of teaching and learning in schools or school-like environments as opposed to various nonformal and informal means of socialization (e.g., rural development projects and education through parent-child relationships).
It went further to say: “Education can be thought of as the transmission of the values and accumulated knowledge of a society.”
Education can take place in formal or informal settings and any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts may be considered educational. But for the sake of this essay, we are focusing on formal education.
And so, it follows that universally, the definition of education has nothing to do with making money as its primary or secondary purpose. It is always about gaining valuable knowledge. It is how one uses the knowledge obtained to earn a living or impact the society that makes the difference between educated wealthy and educated poor ones.
Formal School (different from nomadic setting) is a place of acquiring such knowledge. It is not Alaba market or Onitsha main market where trading and unskilled techniques are learnt with making financial gains in view. The Ogas in the trade coaches the apprentice on how to become their own bosses at the completion of the agreed coaching period.
Same applies to those who go into crafts, to learn some skills like bricklaying, technical workers (such as Mechanics) etc.
They choose the informal education career.
And so we have skilled labour obtained though formal education and unskilled labour obtained through informal education. This is totally a different career paths.
It depends on what one want in life.
Some believe that considering the unrestricted walls in the artisan world, they will prefer going into apprenticeship to make it big and faster in life.
Whereas, others choose to go through formal education, with its disciplined life and restricted walls. Those who take this path should know that endurance, proven dedication, integrity and innovation are the watchwords.
At graduation, they’re liberated into the world to use their knowledge to make the world better.
However, we must not overlook the fact that it was the massive production of ‘illiterate’ graduates (an enigma on the face of the earth) in Nigeria that led to having educated men who find it hard ro earn a living.
Examination malpractice which witnessed a boom in Nigeria from the late ’90s to the first decade of this millennium gave the world highest population of unemployable graduates from this part of the sub-saharan.
Within this period, we saw to our amazement, graduates who could not fill NYSC form etc. These crop of ‘elites’ by their unfortunate situations layed the premise for averagely minded people to start talking down on education.
According to Albert Einstein, “Education is what remains after one have forgotten what one learned in school.” This explains why ours then, were more of uneducated graduates. And antagonists of education feast on the unfortunate situation.
About 17 years ago, Government introduced “Entrepreneurship” into tertiary education curriculum. This was to bridge the gap between theoretical knowledge gained in classrooms and adoption of technocratic business life after school, which the larger society thrives on.
They thought that to ease the pressure on government as the single largest employer of labour, they had to train students, on how to be self-sufficient in the harsh environment of “life after school.”
NYSC had also imbibed this culture, for about seven years now.
But mental laxity on the part of some graduates would not allow them take advantage of those opportunities.
It disturbs the mind that the society is using the unfortunate situation of few unsuccessful graduates to paint a story of the whole. And the power of such demeaning story is affecting the confidence of many.
Another story was told in December last year of two brothers who made two separate career choices.
One got admission into the university and the other enlisted into apprenticeship in trading at Alaba. After five years, those who took stock of their life’s journey so far, said that the one that opted for trading easily became the bread winner of the family. He even helped his brother, to purchase a car and subscribe to Uber transport scheme for his upkeep.
Wow! such a wonderful story.
But it does not in any way, make education less fashionable approach to a good life.
It only implicates one of two things:
Either the graduate belonged to the class described above – the educated ‘lliterates’ or he was a good graduate in an undeserving society. A society obsessed with materialism and get-rich-quick syndrome. A society which government care less about her graduates.
The generation that will succeed ours may have a lot of hurdles in understanding and achieving life’s purpose, emulating our worldview if we don’t change it for good; teaching them how to think, not what to think.
God bless us.
Author: Eze Jude