Towards Whole: A New Kind of Education

By Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare. Odu-Onikosi lives in Ile-Ife, Osun in Nigeria. He is a social innovator, project management specialist and graduate student from the African Institute for Science, Policy and Innovation, at Obafemi Awolowo University. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

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;








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.

Conclusive Thought

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”.

34 comments on “Towards Whole: A New Kind of Education

  1. Shittu Eesmaheal Bintinlaiye on

    This is a very good read, the lessons are fantastic.. I’ve always believed in most of d Doctrines but didn’t have d technical names for them until I came across your article.. I’m particularly intrigued by your style of writing and how you blend ideologies from different schools of thought into one whole piece.. Starting from our very own King of Afrobeat : Late Fela Anikulapo Kuti to John Dewey and Louis Farrakhan.. Please keep up this crusader as it can help in breeding a new set of African leaders of thought that we eventually drive the desired change to make Our beloved continent more advanced in civilization..

    • Oluwadamilare Odu-Onikosi on

      Thank you very much Shittu for your kind comments. I do believe that the crusade you mentioned is what we do need to drive and create the future we desire. We need to stand up and tell the truth to power

  2. Kingsley Peter Akpan on

    Apt, brilliant, timely, well- researched piece.
    It is pertinent for us as to first develop an
    educational curriculum that is woven with the
    fabric of our cultural ethos. This should resonate
    with our collective aspirations as a people for
    our socio -economic, cultural, moral, emotional
    and intellectual development
    It is on record that the erudite Professor Babs
    Fafunwa (Obafemi Awolowo University Ile Ife)
    once employed a completely innovative cultural
    approach to teaching a group of college
    students, who previously had poor grades. These
    students, under Fafunwa’s tutelage transformed
    into “A” grade scholars by the end of Semester
    because a culture -centred approach was
    utilized. This same strategy’s worked for the
    Chinese and continues to work for them.
    The “Industrial -age-inclined “school curriculum
    used in Nigerian schools is in urgent need of a
    reform. It was laid down by the Colonialists ,
    sustained by neoColonialist policies, and
    intended to perpetually hold the Black race in the
    gruesome grasp of under development and
    It stiffles genius, discourages creativity, fetters
    innovation, kills dreams, perpetuate mediocrity,
    shames our heritage before the world
    From the nursery schools to the University let
    the education policy makers invent a new,
    reformed , solution-driven curriculum in the arts,
    commerce and sciences ;that promotes our
    culture, encourages and celebrates our
    achievements, elucidates brilliance, propels
    socio-economic development, inspires cutting
    edge technological advances, focuses on our
    idiosyncrasies and rewards original thinking.

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thank you Kingsley for your great ams wonderful comments. I do agree completely with you that the first port of call is to develop an educational curriculum tailored to our needs and aspirations as a nation

  3. Prince Ade'Folabi II on

    There’s no doubt to your excellent capabilities in
    terms of speaking and writing. keep the flag
    flying so high. kudos to you sir. # MyMentor
    # GreaterHeights

  4. Eturu Samuel Chinwendu on

    You’ve always strike me as an intelligent young
    man with unquenchable appetite for success, but
    keep on keeping on my man, just see the sky as
    your takeoff boards…

  5. Akinbami Akinkunl on

    whaooo.this article is enriched with quality structure sentence facts I can invest my money on it are a good writer sir.keep it up

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thank you very much Akinbami for your comments. This New Kind of Education deserves all the investment it can get. Time, Thinking and Treasures, so that we can all prepare our students for the challenges that faces our world.

  6. Wilson Payne on

    Precise and incisive write up. You went deep down into the root of the matter and you didn’t just stop there. You went further to what can be done and how to get it done. Excellent Article.

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thank you Daniella. Yes I do agree that this is not a Nigerian thing only, it equally applies to all other developing nations of the world

  7. Ayegbede Timothy on

    It excites me when stringent issue like this is being discussed as in a well chiseled article of yours. A wonderfully articulated piece i must commend. Nigeria educational curriculum is always reviewed in a lopsided manner maybe to grace the interest of some people. Appropriate balance and aim with necessary tool should be incorporated. The sector need to be treated like the health and security sector of a state. I hope this piece draws necessary redress which it is meant to.

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thank you Tim.
      I am happy you liked it. As a teacher and expert in educational administration yourself, I really do value your priceless opinion. It means so much to me. I do hope too, that the piece will provoke our leaders to do the needful

  8. Jonnes Salami on

    Great Article. Powerful and straight to the top. It answers all our educational problems. I will recommend it to all Nigerian leader I know. Thank you for articulating a one size fits all solution to our problem- for if we get our education right, I trust we’d get our country right.

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thank you Jonnes. You are too kind. Like you, I do believe once we get our education right, all other aspects of our national life will follow suit

  9. Odu Shedrach on

    Thanks Man for sharing this great write up of yours. The analysis was excellent. You went down into the root of the problem and you were damn right. If we must get our education right, we must go towards a wholistic kinda education

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thanks Brother for your wonderful comments. Means a lot to me. Very true, Wholistic education is the way going forward

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Yes Bro. The New Kind of Education which prepares student for life fosters the 3H and our economy will be better for it. As graduate becomes creators, rather than seekers of job

  10. Odu-Onikosi Adebimpe Adeyinka on

    This is a great article. Makes a great read and solves our educational problems at the same time. I love how you were able to weave so many great ideas into one piece. This is a winning article anytime anyday

  11. Shagun Tripathi on

    “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”.. very well put! The challenges you have mentioned in the Nigerian education system are not very different from the Indian system. In fact, I believe the hurdles are global and massive transformation will be needed to ensure a future ready system.

    • Odu-Onikosi Oluwadamilare on

      Thank you Shagun for your kind comments. I do agree that these problems are border-less and thus requires global attention.

  12. Micheal on

    Brilliant Piece. You masterly brought together many fields into one piece. Excellent Introduction and and Intelligent Conclusion with yet a personal touch. I do believe like the Abami Eda that whatever one does he must have been taught by someone. I do hope our leaders will heed this call.

  13. Demola Balogun on

    So thought provoking and yet so true. This piece charts a course for education in any developing world. God bless you for such an insightful article.

  14. Demola Balogun on

    So thought provoking and yet so true. This piece
    charts a course for education in any developing world. God bless you for such an insightful article.


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