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.

20 comments on “If there was one thing I could change to improve education in my country…

  1. Ben Ofoma on

    Brilliant viewpoint. I agree completely. Education is more than going to school.
    Chinualumogu Achebe captured this in his book – The Education of an English Protected Child.


    Our failure to read started when the society failed not to value merit,We found need to celebrate wealth and not intellects this brought great decline to our reading habit.To revive it Government and families must take lead.Our children are more interested on electronic media than print.Influence of reality shows and wrong copying of western social life all crippled our mentality towards reading.

  3. unknown on

    Man can be said to have been liberated when education goes beyond the structured classroom work which is aimed at controlling how one thinks. Good work my brother.


    A new national policy on education is a panacea.Character formation is critical to our national development.Our perception of leadership and follower ship are subject to our reasoning and way of life.We must be people of virtue to build egalitarian country.

  5. Yourfaith Setyoufree on

    We must change the misleading mentality of schooling; We most reform everything We know ; We must look forward with an Open mind.

    We must find Learning interesting and make it part of who We are…

    The goal of education is the advancement of knowledge … and Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.

  6. Blue Hopkins on

    The concept of education goes beyond attending formal schooling as introduced by the colonialist, it encompasses acquiring knowledge through study for the purpose of applying same to improve our condition and the environment. It is the knowledge we acquire that will enable us adapt and exploit our environment optimally with balance and a clear sense of responsibility. Our parents that never went to school cannot be termed illiterates because they through study were able to understand, harness and exploit their environment even better on a sustainable basis that what is observed now

  7. Ikechukwu on

    …Education or Educuche (enlightenment of mind) is wisdom and more preferable than schooling or acquiring of specific knowledge. Mind is ever expanding through education while knowledge through schooling has limitations because of it’s methodical restrictions within a time.

  8. inno uzuh on

    There is a need for total overhaul of the education policy of the country. It starts with the politicians developing the political will to tackle the rot in that sector. A situation where education , which is a social service , is abandoned in private hands is a disservice to the citizens by d govt.
    Poor funding , barely literate teachers , poorly orientated graduates , lost societal values and general decline in the society are the issues associated with the poor education we have now.
    The mass of youths , and not so young, who are artisans and roaming the streets are not properly engaged via practical education. Little wonder they are found in criminal gangs and ethnic militias terrorizing the society. a holistic approach to educational policy is need to tackle this.
    Finally , it should concern the govt that education seminars , conferences , symposia and so on are waste of public funds if practical push is not given to the products of these seminars and so on. what is needed most is the political will. The brains and hands that will drive these changes in our educational sector are willing and present.

  9. Ike on

    How I wish so many Nigerians we run with this article. In Nigeria we need to start reading to make things happen, especially when we have a chronic problem the government of the day cannot solve or the so called professors and lecturers in School. Take for example our energy mix, I cannot see why we cannot read and bring about or make our own energy technology indigenous to us.

    We also need to leave certificate mentality, but be educated through intensive reading in order to understand and have mutual respect for different ethnics groups in the country. When you see Nigerians comment on facebook, you will surely agree with me that lots just know how to read and write some words, but have a pretty low mindset and broad horizon in seeing the greater light… We need to read to promote peace, to do away with ignorance, and have a conscientious people aware of their rights and limitations.

  10. obi emeka on

    education is beyond what you learn in classroom,as Albert Einstein put it education is that which remains after you have forgotten what you learnt in school, thus experience and observation are the best form of acquiring knowledge.well written

  11. hasmukh amathalal mehta on

    Education is called another birth to human being, he comes to know about the hidden treasure of mind and nature around. Not only he deep love for mother land but for own brethern too.

    Forget about reading habits, he may have third sense working in him that shall take him to worry for country’s wealth and health too besides upholding integrity and territorial sanctity..

    induce them to have practical training that can serve their mental hunger and discharge family needs .too

  12. jide aje on

    Well said.

    I would like to the notion that the reading culture is dying in Nigeria: there was never one in the first place.
    A mass reading culture is yet to exist and has to be built from scratch.

  13. Omenigbo on

    This piece exudes the intellectual aura of a truly educated mind. The Igbo people say that “uche bu akpa, onye obula nya nke ya” i.e. The mind is a bag; everyone is carrying their own. Accordingly, it is what one puts therein that shows them the light of truth, when darkness comes along which is naturally often. This much is true, as deduced from life itself. Therefore, Mmadu, malu onwe gi. Malu ife (man, know thyself. acquire true knowledge).

  14. Ambrose Ugoh on

    Education is not just about going to secondary school & higher institution to acquire knowledge. In the olden days people that were not opportuned to go to school still survived through some basic skills they inherited from their forefathers as at that time. I still remember in one of ur posts some months back where you told the story of a boy that was presumed dead but was revived by his father after administering liquid substance squeezed from leaves he plucked from a nearby bush on the boy. But these days we go to the universities in Nigeria & overseas to read medicine in order to become medical doctors whereas our herberlists of those days knew their onions, the difference between now & then is just packaging. Our roadside mechanics, computer engineers, tailors(fashion designers) welders, plumbers,.electricians, cooks etc, all these people are skilled but in most cases did not go to primary let alone secondary schools. Im not disputing the fact that the skills of these artisans when traced to there background were not passed unto them by those that went to universities & technical colleges, but they are also bosses in their own areas of specialisation, even passing their own knowledges these days to some of our graduates that couldnt secure jobs after spending years in the universities & serving our fathers land. For instance this social media facebook is another example, some of the people we read their posts on facebook did not go to secondary school but still, we understand them. What if they had the opportunity to further their education? They would have done better than some of us. Fingers are not equal.

  15. Ebereọnwụ F. Ikechi 'Odenigbo' on

    Splendid! To be illiterate is not to be uneducated – that’s why it’s neither a grammatical blunder nor a meaningless babble to say “educated illiterate”. I commend the writer’s sagacity.

  16. Dr. Lewis Akpogena on

    The piece did not only reveal d wealth of knowledge d author possessed but also d information conveyed revealed true assessment of our educational system and how it could be improved upon.

  17. Senator Ihenyen on

    “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.” These words aptly describes the level every individual need to attain. I personally live to learn, and learn to create. If otherwise, it’s useless.

  18. Kachy Ihem on

    It is one thing to know and another to realise that you know. It does not take education to know or attain knowledge. Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration, therefore you must realise that you know before you can know.

  19. Tamama Rachael on

    Very educative and enlightening. I for one always thought that an educated person is one who can read and write but I have now known that ‘education’ is not the same thing as ‘schooling’. This is a masterpiece, thanx 4 keeping us informed.

  20. Bernard Imarhiagbe on

    This piece is excellent. It is very important to understand the meaning of knowledge. Knowledge can be gleaned from various medium including electronic, print and others. These medium have their validity and relevance in our modern society.


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