Outside the Classroom – Beyond the ABCs
Literacy, or education, and knowledge are quite different, one from the other.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, ‘Literacy’ is ‘the ability to read and write.’ Furthermore, it defines ‘Education’ as: ‘The process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university’.
A good number of young people can read and write, receive an education, but are not knowledgeable about basic life skills, and the world in which they live.In Nigeria, a great deal of emphasis is placed on getting an education. Parents and guardians go through the trouble of ensuring that their children or wards get a university degree, and afterward, a Masters’ degree.
In classrooms and lecture theatres country-wide, students cram a large amount of information – most of them without really understanding what it is they are studying – and during their examinations and assessments, give it back to their teachers and professors in much the same form as it was given to them. Original thought and creativity are not encouraged by the current system of education in Nigeria, and our education places more value on the ability to absorb and regurgitate information than on the acquisition of problem solving skills, or craftsmanship.
A lot of children and young adults do not study or inform themselves about anything outside their study schedules and classrooms. They do not work or study to become more knowledgeable about their chosen courses of study, or about interests other than what they study at school.
The result is that we have a generation of young Nigerians who, though literate, lack working knowledge of issues affecting their immediate environment, their country, the world at large, and skills which can help them survive in the world within which we currently live.
- How many young Nigerians understand the history of our country?
- How many of us read the Constitution, or the various laws enacted by the National Assembly?
- How many of us know what the issues surrounding World Wars I and II are?
- How many of us are knowledgeable about our own language and culture, and the languages and cultures of the different nation-tribes that make up Nigeria?
- How many of us have taken out time to acquire a life skill, to learn to work with our hands – sewing, shoe making, baking, carpentry, welding work?
- How many of us have studied a language that is not our native tongue, or the English Language?
- How many of us have voluntarily signed up to take a course in Entrepreneurship, or started a business of our own, no matter how small?
Nigeria’s university graduates today are mostly form, and no substance.
We have earned ourselves top degrees in Law, Medicine, Architecture, Economics and Engineering, but are unable to effectively manage a small business or do simple tasks like sewing buttons on to our clothes, build a shelf to hold books, and other valuables. We have Mechanical Engineering graduates, for example, who have never worked beneath the hood of a car, or have never worked to repair farming machinery.
There are students of Economics who cannot describe or discuss the mortgage crisis of 2007 that led to economic recession from which parts of the world is still recovering. This is the ‘Age of Information’, and near-limitless information can be found on the internet. So it is ironical and very unfortunate, that with all of the information to which we have access, we cannot do better. Information abounds, and access to it is easy. A lot of young Nigerians have access to the internet, and those who do not know how to use it, can learn to use it relatively quickly, but we do make the best use of it.
Our education just prepares us to be ‘yes men and women’, people who are quite eager to take instruction, and be good employees, but who do not question the current situation, challenge the status quo, or have the gumption to strike out on their own, and conquer horizons with practical skills and creative thought. Nowadays, a person is as valuable and as useful as the information they have. With the right kind of information, a person can develop and hone new skill sets, and diversify their interests and abilities. In doing so, they become more valuable to their families, communities, country, and the world as a whole.
We need to be that generation of young people who break free of a poor educational system, thrive in spite of it, and seek ways to develop ourselves, and become problem solvers. We need to evolve into that generation of people who are not only able to think for themselves, but are also able to act for themselves.
We are familiar with the saying ‘Knowledge is power’. Power, in turn, is influence.
Our ability to influence the world around us stems from our knowledge of that world, and our ability to influence it positively by solving the problems with which it is plagues.
We can only be influential, and conquer our world when we read, study, and apply learning beyond our ‘ABCs’.