A picture of what education should be in the 21st century

By Nicholas Omoh. Nicholas studies at the University of Benin and lives in Lagos, Nigeria. Please read and leave your thoughts and comments below. *Winner of the NUHA Blogging Prize 2011*

Education is not knowledge due to possession, but knowledge due to motion. Education is not how much data a memory can save, but which data will be open for use. Education is not the heart, but the soul of civilized societies passed through generations.

Child education

In African societies and many societies across the world, much emphasis is placed on universal primary education, while little or nothing is done about the quality of the teaching process. Children can do well to read and write, for it is the major aim of most schools across the world. They find it hard to learn past what they can read or write because they are not provided with the opportunity to think and express their thoughts.

Recently, I went for an interview for a teaching job in one of the local primary schools in Benin City, Nigeria. In the course of the interview I was asked to teach a class. When I started teaching I found out that the children do not only want to hear me out, they wanted to be involved in the learning process. I decided to keep an open floor by allowing every pupil to express themselves about the subject to their excitement, and to my surprise I was able to learn what they knew about the subject, and add to it what they did not know they needed to know. Thereby filling open minds.

Children are the leaders of tomorrow but when teachers fail to make them good thinkers of today, by allowing them to express their thoughts so they can truly unlearn, learn, and relearn, they cannot become good leaders of tomorrow.

Youth education

In Nigeria, the obtaining of a college degree is seen as a golden ticket to a good life. Since it’s all about the degree many students are not bothered if they have to fill their minds with other men’s and women’s thoughts without having any room for their own. Even when the lecturers in the institutions recycle lecture notes of over a decade with no addition of current trends or happening in the field of study, students just want to come out with a good college degree.

Today, in Nigeria a college degree does not even give you a life let alone a good life. The reason being that there are many graduates coming out of college each year and there are fewer or no job opportunities to accommodate them. The average Nigerian student has learnt to become an employee and when there is no job what happens? Everything a graduate knows is inside his degree; without using it he cannot perform.

A society that cuts off its youth severs its lifeline. For there to be development in Nigeria and the African continent at large the youths must unlearn the notion that a paper certificate or being locked in a box for four years or five years does guarantee you a good life. In the developed world many captains of industries do not have a college degree, yet they turned out right.

Youths must learn how to think not inside or outside a box, but without a box. They must search inside and see what they can bring out that will not only profit them, but others in the society.

Youths need to relearn what the youths of the developed world did to make their respective countries emerge in the global scene. It is no more about what the government can do for you, but what you as a self-government can do for your nation and the African continent.

Government education

Africa is home to many financial aids for development, and the truth still remains that the continent is even more underdeveloped. We have governments across the continent who know what to do but deliberately refuse to do it. Governments that know very well that anywhere education goes there is development either from the Greek to the British to the U.S, or to Japan. But the African continent has failed to take up the challenge to develop and use its fundamental human resource, rather it values the natural resources more and African governments could kill each other for these resources.

I was privileged to attend the ABCDE 2011 World Bank conference on development economics with theme broadening opportunities for development, in Paris France. In one of the sessions I attended about African achievements in development, I found out two things: that the researchers and speakers where all foreigners with no researcher or speaker from Africa. The other is there were no real achievements on development for what I saw. This caused me to ask myself two questions: are there no African scholars or researchers in the continent? What have the governments of Africa been doing with all the financial aid that we cannot boast of a giant stride in development?

I feel now is the time to stop fighting civil wars and declare war on education for development. Where Africans in academia will be ready to learn how to drop their title and take up the mantle to spearhead research that will be done locally and applied globally. Where the government will look at what is obtainable in the developed world, unlearn all it knows because it’s not working, relearn what they know and learn to apply what they now know to create an enabling African continent were its people becomes its only tool for development. Thus, encouraging new ideas, new inventions and new methods.

Where Africa is today is only the beginning of were it can be. If only it can realize and utilize its human resources armed with definiteness of purposes, through instruction plus direction.

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