It was a cold and unusual Wednesday morning, some robbers had just been caught, several witnesses gathered round to watch the law enforcement agency ruthlessly drag five able bodied men whose hands have been held together by handcuffs into the police vehicle. I could not but look at the sober faces of these young men who I had been seeing for over ten years of my life.
We all lived in the same vicinity and I steadily observed how they started their criminal journey from first dropping out of school, to becoming good friends with hard drugs, and finally going full time into armed robbery. As I continued my walk home from the scene I thought to myself perhaps they had not bid the school system farewell and had stayed back to complete their education, their lives would not have been much better off. Putting my personal experience together and the words of Victor Hugo, I was not surprised but more than convinced than I have ever been, that scholars do not end up behind bars. Let me show you why.
They say life begins at 40 but I say life begins at 3 in this part of the world, most especially in Nigeria. Why 3? you ask, Well, a child is born, a name is given and what next? it is time for school. Using the Nigerian education system to buttress my point, at age three a child is either enrolled in crèche or kindergarten after which he proceeds to a nursery school and then finishes it up the elementary stage at the primary section. During these years a child is busy. The Nigerian school system has successfully been able to keep a child busy from as early as 8am to at least 2pm, after which the child is occupied with the responsibilities of doing assignments and studying for evaluations. The next stage of the school cycle is the secondary stage and keeps the child engaged for another six years of his life. Moving up to the third stage which is more flexible, busy life still continues, demands get higher, evaluations gets tougher and the academic responsibilities elevates. So it is very safe to say that a child is busy for at least 15years of his/her life. When a child is busy at school studying and learning, when is the time to think and perform criminal acts? where is the time to go against the law? the answer is simple, no time for that. No time to think mischievous, no time to do mischievous, no possibilities of getting caught equals no prison.
What does school teach? what do scholars learn? I can correctly answer that because I am a partaker of the system. Again using the Nigerian education system to further explain, the content of what is taught helps in discouraging criminal behaviors right from the elementary stage. Take moral instructions for instance, as the name implies, it is concerned with the principles of right and wrong behaviors. The implications of doing something right or wrong is brought to the notice of the child and the thoughts of engaging in criminal behaviors starts getting slimmer from that point.
I also remember my first years in secondary school where my teacher taught us against the use of hard drugs and the damage it does to the human body. My health teacher had also sung it as a song in our ears that smokers die young. Civic educations also frown at criminal activities and has taught me civility and proper behavior. The Nigerian education structure taught me right that I can say for sure, using myself and my education experiences as an example I have learnt how to differentiate between good and bad things. It is a definite possibility that a child that goes through this tutoring would understand what the implications of criminal activities and the thought of getting into it is a zero percent possibility.
There are three basic needs of man which are food, shelter and clothing. Once these three basic needs are met, more than half or even the whole problem is solved, but it is important to know that if these three basic needs are not met, man is unsettled and starts to look for ways to have these needs met. The school does not only give knowledge but also a means of livelihood and survival. An unlettered individual would not be able to access these means of livelihood and it is not abnormal to think of deviant ways to obtain their wants and needs since of course they have no other way. Why do I need to engage myself in criminal activities when I can go to school, study right and earn a decent living? It is completely unnecessary. The predominant problem facing the illiterate man is that they know no other means of getting what they want. They engage in criminal activities and the chances of them not getting caught is a dream that is often never realized and so they end up behind bars.
Just like my fellow Christian believers would say, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, so also I will say that school is the path, the prime and the future. Truth be told there is very little or no hope at all for the unlettered man and the reasons cannot be overemphasized. I cannot but just give great accolades to Victor Hugo for perfectly describing the benefits of being a part of the school system and the effects of shunning it in just ten words.