School develops and nurtures character

By Abdullateef Abdul. Abdullateef is a writer, a lawyer and an enterpriser from Lagos, Nigeria. Please read his essay and leave your comments below.

“He who opens a school door, closes a prison.” – Victor Hugo

For any society to record progress, the need to harness the human resources within its fold becomes inevitable. To achieve the end of prosperity, society must uphold the means of education and empowerment of its members. In this wise, Victor Hugo’s maxim is apt. I see “school” as representing knowledge, enlightenment and education and “prison” as representing ignorance, prejudice and incivility. Hugo was therefore saying that whoever opens a channel for knowledge and enlightenment closes the path to ignorance and incivility; and that any society that prioritizes the education of its citizens should have no need to later incarcerate them for belligerence or other strong vices. This is because knowledge and enlightenment increases self-awareness, empowers the individual, and cultivates the individual as a responsible member of the society.

As a young person fortunate to have passed through formal primary, secondary and tertiary education, Hugo’s quote resonates with me. I had perceived education as merely the route to grab some qualifications needed to get a job or practice a profession. After high school, I therefore sought admission into college with a view to obtaining the degree necessary for my qualification as a lawyer. On entering college however, my horizon took a leap and my prior assumptions received monumental intellectual assaults.

My exchanges with colleagues and professors and more significantly, my romance with books – those amazing creations of incisive human intelligence – caused me to challenge my consciousness. I began wondering what the value of a degree was if one has not the knowledge to complement or animate it. Isn’t knowledge after all power? The essential thing then should be the quality and content of my mind. A degree should not be just a mere norm but a crown of knowledge and industry. It should not be all there is to life and learning.

Reoriented, I started applying myself to the acquisition of legal knowledge and lawyering skills that really matter to my goal of becoming an outstanding lawyer. Beyond reading lecture notes and attending classes, I studied statute books and legal treatises, and also participated in mooting, debating, writing and client counseling programs, all of which equipped me with the knowledge and skills relevant to succeed as a legal practitioner. I thus learned to gradually carve my own purpose in life beyond merely obtaining a degree or securing the one, two, ten or seventy marks of lecturers.

Beyond acquiring technical knowledge of the law, I also learned about knowledge and the art of learning itself. My university education made me realize that the scope of knowledge is enormous, so enormous that acquiring the entirety of it is beyond any single human. Even a minute specialty within a broad field often involves overwhelmingly vast information, details and literature. Confronted by my glaring human limitations vis-à-vis the colossal fountain of knowledge, my ignorance (measured by the many things I do not and will not know, no matter how hard I try) stared me visibly in the eye. My daily acquisition of knowledge thus became a concealed endeavor to roll back the frontiers of ignorance for prosperity and posterity. So even though prospects and members of the legal profession are often regarded as ‘learned’, I continue to see myself as a learner, consciously pushing back the barriers of ignorance, consciously opening the doors of my enlightenment, so as to bridge the width of the prison of my ignorance and incivility.

It was also through my education that I first had access to an unprecedented variety of people. For instance, in the university, one barely knows all the students in one’s faculty, not to talk of the entire school. This unlimited access to a wide variety of people provided me with a rare opportunity to learn about diverse people, cultures, religions, perspectives and personalities than I had been exposed to in my home environ. All these marked a huge turning point in my intellectual and general development as the barricades to my horizon were shattered and a broader worldview steadily replaced a parochial outlook. This peoples’ education increased my appreciation of the inherent beauty of our diverse world.

At the university, I also cultivated myself as a responsible and productive member of the society. The university provided me with numerous volunteer opportunities which remain potent means of giving back to the society. Through these volunteer works, I learnt empathy, humanity and true understanding. Like Martin Luther King Jr., I became “…cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states” on realizing that we (humans) are “…caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.”

And no single person or nation is an island on its own. The group tasks often assigned to us in the university further accentuated our learning. Each member of a group was usually assessed on the presentation of a randomly chosen member of the group. Through this, we were made to deeply understand that as a team, we were as strong as our weakest link. Groups therefore came together on assigned tasks to ensure that together everyone achieves more.

Staying in school hostels with different roommates also enabled me to imbibe positive attitudes such as love, tolerance, cooperation, as well as communication skills like listening and understanding other people’s perspectives. These are all aspects of peace education necessary to achieve a stable and better world.

My own experience has thus demonstrated to me the validity of Hugo’s maxim: schooling is not just about acquiring degrees to practice a profession, it is also about the critical knowledge necessary to succeed in the society but more importantly, it is about developing character and nurturing individuals as responsible members of the society to lead a better life and leave a better world.

136 comments on “School develops and nurtures character

  1. Mariam Wuraola Abdul on

    This is awesome, it explains the different perspective an individual develops as he becomes educated and exposed.
    More power to your elbow.

  2. Dora on

    Excellent, and I agree with the points you make. “…schooling is not just about acquiring degrees to practice a profession..” Especially this. Tertiary education is not just a conveyor belt to transport people to the job market.

  3. Cynthea Onyango on

    Great piece. Education and learning is an everyday assignment. Each passing moment is an opportunity to learn something.

  4. Harvey A. on

    Victor Hugo’s quote is most correct.

    Schooling is exposure both in knowledge and actions. The behavioural exposure schooling provides shapens the determinants of our actions and inactions. It is the absence of these determinants that widen prison gates.

    I am always delighted to read your write ups, Abdul.

  5. Legalbreed on

    Well articulated.

    “Let us open more school doors and shut the prisons” perhaps like the Netherlands.

    I suggest this essay to be circulated by readers, to get to school administrators at all levels.

  6. Ramadhan Abubakar on

    I like how you use the big words with so much ease, and still convey the message!!! I guess that’s what education does to you.

    A good read. Good job my learned friend.

  7. Hamzat on

    Great write up. But I somewhat disagree with the concept that prisons may not be necessary. They are relevant to the society today in order to serve as a place of reformation for those who have a brush with the laws of the society. While being a reformation center, it is also an isolation center for those offenders who are not open to the ideas of reformation because criminality to them is a way of life.

    • Abdullateef Olasubomi Abdul on

      Thank you Hamzat for your perspective. I agree with it. Prisons are necessary for punishment, reformation and isolation of offenders. But the quantum of offenders and the volume of prisons may be significantly diminished by quality education and learning experience through schools. That’s my point.

      Thank you for sharing your view and for the comment

  8. Hanif on

    Interesting read. I agree that our educational system should not be only about acquiring knowledge but also, and importantly, about building respectable and well mannered individuals.
    Thank you for this exposè, Abdullateef.

  9. Omeh Susan on

    This was beautifully written. It’s rare to write so intelligently about schooling and still have it inspire others to go beyond just acquiring the papers. This inspires. Well done Abdullateef.

  10. Pelumi femi on

    Insightful! The art of freedom from shackles is not necessarily from liberalization of the hands rather from that of the mind even from the greatest shackles of ignorance.

  11. Muhammadulfathi Adepeju on

    What a true exegesis of Hugo’s maxim! However, education can be developmental, as well catastrophal. Much as education remains a potent tool of taming bellicosity, it is also a tool of mind-fogging..
    Well done

  12. Levi Chekwube Chiefuna on

    Abdullateef’s free flowing prose and mellifluous writing style is on point again. The article is very characteristic of the man and what he stands for- excellence!

  13. Dimétrio Raul Manjate on

    Dear Abdullateef
    Thanks for sharing your experience on the matter. The way you wrote it, you made it sound better than what one would eventually do speaking. I had a pleasent moment reading your text and I am afraid my comment is taking long.
    This question: Isn’t knowledge after all power?” will certainly reverberates on me. I wouldn’t like to take my comment to a religious path but I can’t avoid remembering what is written in Ecclesiastes 7:12: “Wisdom is a shelter as money is a shelter, but the advantage of knowledge is this:Wisdom preserves those who have it”.
    Your reflection is as exciting as getting kwowledge. Looking to your description on your experience I am conscious that it is very important to focus on the best and efficient practices to search and get knowledge. In other words It is important to learn how to learn. I understand that fortunately you had the chance to learn methodology and thus you could narrow you choices and focus on the best for your professional career and intelectual growth.

    Thanks again for sharing your thoughts and talent.

  14. Quadri Olukayode AJIBADE on

    Victor Hugo made a resounding cliché there. Many believing elites live by the philosophy of this cliché. Apparently, schools are avenues for knowledge, light and power. The opposite of ignorance is knowledge. Schools and prisons are like oppositions. One gives way to get away from the other. Thank you for your elucidating write. Best regards.

  15. Aderayo on

    Wow…a great read that worths more than my 3 minutes…more power to your elbow…let’s loud this.
    I’ve visited several schools in the FCT for charitable works but I see how much our society has no value for education even at the lowest level…let’s shut more prison doors.

  16. Beulah Lekwauwa on

    The Importance of Education can never be overemphasized. This text brilliantly Captures such importance to a very detailed and Fine extent! You Inspire!

  17. Funke Bolodeoku on

    Great piece. I am on four with you on this Abdul Lateef.
    The importance of education cannot be overflogged.
    We however need to be careful not to let the real essence of education get lost because of heavy reliance on degrees and paper certificates.

  18. Odunola on

    This is an insightful piece.

    It is indeed a confirmation that the best investment is that which is directed towards continuous learning and development.

  19. Precious Okedele on

    Education is indeed the best legacy, everly presenting an invaluable platform for the cultivation and discovery of the boundless capacities of the human mind. Quite enlightening and astute read!


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