If there was one thing I could change to improve education in my country…

By Odimegwu Onwumere. Odimegwu is a poet, writer and media expert. He lives in the Port Harcourt Province of Rivers State, Nigeria. *Shortlisted for the NUHA Adult Blogging Prize 2013*

Reading culture is dying in Nigeria. A tiny number out of about 160 million people have healthy reading habits institutionalised. Majority just enlist into various schools. Many have graduated. They are all for the obtainment of certificates. This habit is causing our country harm. Half-baked educated people dot the streets. Reading of books isn’t taken seriously. Against this backdrop, Nigeria needs a reading transformational initiative campaign for individual’s personal knowledge. It is my desire that our countrymen and women should engage, communicate and learn. Personal knowledge, not schooling, is the only thing that can make our today count and have a firm grip of the future.

Sidney Davis, a scholar from Kittery Point, Maine, saw reading as the utmost, saying that true education teaches HOW to critically think, not WHAT to think, it consists mainly of what we need to unlearn and not so much what we learn, it is not to worship at the altar of what is known, but to question it. Napoleon Hill added in his book – Think And Grow Rich – that an educated man is not, necessarily, one who has an abundance of general or specialized knowledge. An educated man is one who has so developed the faculties of his mind…

Hill had said so before Nelson Mandela, who was the first African to be the president of his native country of South-Africa, in the aftermath of a racial apartheid in which some Europeans imposed on South Africa that started from 1948 and ended in 1991, said, “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

Many see Mandela’s statement to mean schooling, but this is wrong. Twenty seven years in an apartheid jail did not limit his education. Hill was right. What people go to school to do is to acquire “specialized knowledge”, which invariably is called ‘indoctrination’, without actually being educated. Unlike in schooling, education has no daily curriculum to follow. Education improved as the communities developed, which later became the stand for schooling to spring up. Sidney Davis was right.

It is this ‘indoctrination’ that makes a professor of a faculty in a university to be grounded in a course, yet, is financially poor. This is not the same with an educated person. He or she has every tendency of going beyond limitation to do the unlimited. So, an educated person has a very strong intuition and imagination, which know no bounds. A schooled person only knows the intimation he or she has gotten through schooling.

Education is an awakener. School only teaches. The power of education can make one do what a schooled person cannot. Robert Frost, a renowned poet, who was born in 1874 and lived until 1963, said: “Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.” Education does not indoctrinate, but what many people erroneously refer to as education is schooling.

What we have in schooling that we call education are combinations of cultures, which have brought the world much narrow-mindedness. Education does not harm. Schooling is a formation of methodological ideas transferred from one generation to another. One who went through schooling yet, might not have educated him or herself, thoughts, judgments and so on. This is why a medical doctor is not even schooled where an engineer is. Whereas there are people who were not opportune to go through what is known today as formal-schooling, yet, they are grounded in their native wisdoms, arts and sciences. This is natural and unpolluted. They live in peace and are not detrimental to nature, which our school acquisitions loathe and treat like viruses.

Henry Ford was regarded as one of America’s foremost industrialists, who revolutionized assembly-line modes of production for the automobile. He lived between July 30, 1863 to April 07, 1947. According to Napoleon Hill, Ford never believed in a “general” or “specialized” knowledge to make history in engineering, having barely gone through formal-schooling. But he exhibited the power of an educated person.

Hill tells us that Ford brought a suit against a Chicago newspaper which called Ford “an ignorant pacifist” in its editorials during the World War. Upon knowing that he was not (well) formally-schooled, Ford objected the statement. The lawyers who were handling the matter thought that Ford was an uneducated fellow by using logical questions thinking they could intimidate him, but they failed. The questions are: “Who was Benedict Arnold?” and “How many soldiers did the British send over to America to put down the Rebellion of 1776?” Ford replied in answer to the last question, “I do not know the exact number of soldiers the British sent over, but I have heard that it was a considerably larger number than ever went back.”

However, becoming bored of this line of questioning, Ford used the “education” (not schooling) he had deposited in himself and asked the lawyer who was troubling him with the questions. Reportedly, Ford said: “If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?”

Hill says that the answer floored the lawyer. Every person in the courtroom realized it was the answer, not of an ignorant man, but of a man of EDUCATION, hence the maxim: “Any man is educated who knows where to get knowledge when he needs it, and how to organize that knowledge into definite plans of action. Through the assistance of his “Master Mind” group, Henry Ford had at his command all the specialized knowledge he needed to enable him to become one of the wealthiest men in America. It was not essential that he had this knowledge in his own mind. Surely no person who has sufficient inclination and intelligence…”

Hill hinges his point concerning Ford’s knack, saying: “The faculties of the great universities possess, in the aggregate, practically every form of general knowledge known to civilization. Most of the professors have but little or no money. They specialize on teaching knowledge, but they do not specialize on the organization, or the use of knowledge.”

Ford was one man who put “personal knowledge” into action. He put the real meaning of the word “educate”, which was derived from the Latin word “educo,” meaning to educe, to draw out, to ‘develop within’, into action. Like Ford, according to Forbes periodicals of August 23 2011, there are over 400 self-made billionaires on the “Forbes 400 Richest Americans List”, who did not go to college. This has pushed people into asking if formal-schooling is necessary.

It is indispensable to make it clear that being educated should not be misconstrued as having fulfilled an obligation in a formal informative regulation like colleges and universities for a detailed period. This could be called enlightenment, but, yet, the person who had undergone through this enlightenment only got a precise ground of study, which does not espouse education in generality. In clarity, while education is developing self through both specified and unspecified means, the Webster’s dictionary has this to say about schooling: It is the process of being taught, such as in a school…

Having said that, it is vital we see those who did not go to school but embraced other forms of enlightenment as educated persons. They also grow as those who went to school grow in invention and expand in their knowledge as the knowledge of those who went to school expands. Education should not be limited only to the acquiring of basic skills of history, geography, religion, social studies, music, sciences, philosophies, and arts or mathematics, reading, writing, and arithmetic, and many other disciplines. No. Education is more to these.

We must not forget that our forbears did not have formal-schooling, but lived and operated their environment systematically to soothe them. It was from their system that the modelling of formal-schooling began, without a definite date. Writing may be termed the origin of formal schooling; but languages, learning processes were in existence. The later were found in oral traditions of peoples. It’s important we begin to seek for knowledge, as if we want to die today. The more we desire this, the more places and things we know. We must change the misleading mentality of schooling, which is constraining us from gaining education. Through education, we know better and do better.

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