“What are books but folly, and what is an education but an arrant hypocrisy, and what is art but a curse, when they touch not the heart and impel it not to action” – Louis Sullivan
The day was Saturday, August 2, 1997, the Nigerian nation wore a gloomy mood. People talked in hushed tones, crowds were beginning to gather and a debate is underway elsewhere. Some said it was true, others said it could never happen. The object of discussion is none other than the death of the King of Afrobeat music, the Abami Eda himself, Olufela Olusegun Oludotun Ransome-Kuti, popularly known as ‘Fela’. To confirm his death, radio stations had begun to air some of his music, the radio blares continuously one of his best songs;
“TEACHER, TEACHER-O NA THE LECTURER BE YOUR NAME
TEACHER, TEACHER-O NA THE LECTURE BE THE SAME
MAKE-EE NO TEACH-EE ME AGAIN OH
» AS SOON TEACHING FINISH YES, DA THING-EE IT GON DIE IT DEY-O
AS SOON TEACHING FINISH YES, DA THING-EE IT GON DIE IT DEY-O
ME AND YOU NO DEY FOR THE SAME-U CATEGORY”
NA THE SAME CATEGORY-O”
Although at that time, the lyrics made no meaning to me, I couldn’t help but sway right and left to the melodious tones. Those who are old enough would agree that Fela, who died 20 years ago, was not just a philosopher but a social crusader and a revolutionist. In this 1980 song, Fela insists that everything one does must have been taught by someone. At birth, the teachers are the parents, and by school age, the teacher is the school teacher, while at the university level, the teacher becomes the lecturer. When one gets done with school, Fela argues that the teacher becomes the government which can also be called the society, what is taught according to Fela, is a function of Culture and Tradition.
All developed countries of the world have got its teaching right based on their culture and tradition, Nigeria of course been an exemption. Like Fela, I do believe this is the reason we have problems with governance in Nigeria because our governments ignore our culture and tradition in educating our minds. This is the reason I believe we adopted colonial education, Fela called this “dem all crazy” and demonstration of craze”
This essay, will look at teaching or better still, education and how seriously we have addressed that subject in Nigeria. I will also situate education within the context of the myriad of problems we grapple with and how a new kind of education – Wholistic Education can help liberate us all.
I completely agree with Fela that whatever we do, we must have learnt. A case study is my 1 year old daughter. She starts by learning how to eat from liquids through semi-solids and to solids. She learns to sit, crawl and walk. I was amazed the other day (she was barely 8 months old), when she would crawl and position her head on the pillow or at times pick up a phone and puts it to her ear. How did she know that people sleep on pillows or have to put a phone to her ears to make proper use of it – She was taught by us, albeit unconsciously.
A Means or an End
But what is education or what does it mean to be educated? Does it mean going to the four walls of the school, or the ability/proficiency one acquires in numeracy, literacy, arithmetic or computing skills to perform certain tasks? What should the role of education be? Is it to prepare student for working life, or to broaden their mind? According to Subha Sarkar, this is a great question that stands posed before humanity at large. What should education mean. She argued further that “the mistaken view that most parents and most of the young ones have about education is that it is just a means of livelihood- a means to equip one for a career or a profession.”
Go to school, get good grades, get a good job and get married! How my mother used to drum it into my ears every morning before I left for school. Many of us are beguiled to think that education is a means to a better job. The Nigerian education that was bequeated to us by the colonial masters was tailored towards raising men and women who can help perform their clerical and administrative duties and later transformed into the civil service. No wonder our national life is a mess, as this kind of education has proved and is proving to be grossly inadequate. Or how do we explain the fact that 4 out of every 5 graduates in Nigeria would never be able to find a job and they aren’t able to do a thing about it. It is because they are trained to be seekers, not creators of job. We should accept the reality that education should be such as to equip our young men and women with the qualifications and competencies to earn a respectable living, but a respectable living does not only mean a fat and a lavish lifestyle- it means something more.
It was John Dewey, who said “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”
The term ‘education’, a prefix for educo or educare, is used to mean “to lead, or to be lead out from”. Hon. Minister Louis Farrakhan in his 2012 address to the students of Alabama A&M University goes on to argue that ‘True education’ is an education that develops and cultivates the human minds and bring out their giftedness. In closing that historic address he called education ‘Sa Vidya Ya Vimuktaye’ – that is education which liberates. The mind should be freed from the shackles, from mere ritualism, and from fake preachers of religiosity.
Getting to Whole: A New Paradigm
How do you get to whole you might want to ask? Wholistic education isn’t just centered around preparing students for work, or making them score high in standardized test, it goes much farther than that. It helps to prepare students for life, as teachers becomes advisors, not just givers of knowledge but adults who inspire students to find their passion and their own ways of learning and providing support every inch of the way. This kind of education involves exhibitions allowing students to connect with what is been taught. Wholistic education is all encompassing as the community and the family is included in every possible ways.
Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are fast replacing humans in performing routine jobs, the organizational needs of the future will focus on human intrinsic values like inventiveness, creativity, emphathy, lateral thinking and intuition, which the education model based on work clearly doesn’t prepare one for. Stories abound from veterans of the Nigeria civil war as to how the war displaces and disrupts peoples’ lives. It takes only a wholistic kind of education, not one built around jobs to combat such life challenges headlong as they come.
The debate as to whether education should prepare students for work life or to broaden their minds has been on going for long. While it is true that education must help one earn a respectable living, the goal of education should be farther than that. This essay lays that debate to rest by proposing a paradigm shift to a new kind of education.
As a teacher, when I watch new students walk into the school building on their first day of school, I used to wonder and to think about what I want these students to be like when they walk out on their last day, I want my students to score high not in aptitude or standardized tests but in the “test of emotional IQ” that life will inevitably throw at them.
Our world is changing, and in order to prepare our students for this new world we need to change the way we educate them. The teachers, educators, parents, government and policy makers must help create learning experiences and environments that help students connect with the world and understand the issues that our world faces – only a wholistic kind of education can achieve this.
Wholistic education unleashes and unbinds the students creativity and potential; helps students apply knowledge to their situations and peculiarities; equips students to be shapers of the future, not prepare them for it; helps students understand and master the conditions for peace and ultimately help them lead healthy and happy lives. I would take a bet that, it is this kind of education that the late Nelson Mandela meant in his address at the Planetarium in Johannesburg, South Africa on the 16th of June, 2003 when he declared that “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world”.