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Interrogating education

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By Francis Ewherido

For almost two weeks now, Professor Hope Eghagha of the Department of English, University of Lagos, has been talking to, and encouraging, youths on the importance of education, self-development and honing of innate skills… on our URS social platform.

The responses of the youths have been divergent. Some of the responses are from very bitter hearts, youngsters who felt let down by the system. They went to school with high expectations, but on graduation, there are no jobs. Some have been unemployed for years now.

Initially some of the negative responses really got me upset, but on a second thought, I sat back and felt, maybe I should interrogate education and that is what I am going to do today. A brief definition of education in an online dictionary says education is “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university.”  Wikipedia defines education as “the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.”

I will start my interrogation with the first definition. What kind of “systematic instruction” are our schools and universities giving? What schools currently teach is archaic and not in tune with current realities. Our “systematic instruction” is not up to date and very unhelpful to the students and the society. Big organisations currently send fresh graduate employees on six to one year training before they are absolved into the organisations. The school curricula need to be overhauled to meet up with current realities and our peculiar circumstances.

The definition also said “receiving and giving systematic instruction.” If the “giving” is defective, the “receiving” will naturally be defective. But there is a remedy. The doors to acquiring education and knowledge have never been more wide-open than we have now, since the creation of humankind. Knowledge is everywhere and available at the touch of a button on your phone, laptop, iPad, etc. the younger generation will not understand what it took to acquire university education in the 70s and 80s. In the university then, you would need a book in the library for reference purposes, but someone would “colonize”it, sometimes for weeks. Meanwhile, you need this book for an urgent assignment. It is the same information you now get at the touch of a button in the comfort of your home. In one sentence, students now have windows to acquire more knowledge to augment what they are taught in class.

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Now, let us interrogate Wikipedia’s definition, which talks about “the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs, and habits.” What knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits are schools giving to our children? The answer varies from one institution to the other; from private to government-owned schools, but the popular verdict is that the educational system is not good enough.

The question now is that since it is not good enough, what are you as a person doing to help yourself? The starting point is, who are you? I can tell you that many young people do not know who they are. And since they do not know who they are, they do not know what they want in life. Before you can make any meaning of life, you must find your purpose, which is already inherent. “What is purpose? Purpose is why you do something, or why something exists. Before you engage in any activity…there should be a good reason for doing it, which should form part of the larger picture of your purpose in life…All your actions are supposed to emanate from your vision. Your visions are dots, which connect to unravel your mission in life. Your mission is a product of your purpose. Purpose comes from the belief that the individual is uniquely designed to fulfill a special destiny. You have a destiny for which you were created and to which you are called. Purposeful living can, therefore, be summarized thus: you know what you want to do with your life by the way you live” (Life Lessons from Mudipapa).

Are you purpose-driven? What informed the choice of the course you studied in the university? Did it flow from your purpose in life, innate talents or special skills, which you have and wanted to hone? Or did you study psychology, sociology, chemistry, microbiology, etc., because that was the only route available for you to get admission. If you studied a course, not really knowing what to do with your life after graduation, how can you be complaining about unemployment? For now, you are simply unemployable, because you do not know what you want. How do you expect any employer to find you useful! I have asked a few graduates looking for work, “What kind of job do you have in mind?” Answer: “Any job that is available.” I just conclude in such cases that “this one does not know what he wants.

On the other hand, somebody studied agriculture in the university and he is looking for a bank or oil company work! This is at a time when there is a deliberate policy by government for Nigeria to be self-sufficient in food production. People are pouring into agriculture in droves and a graduate of agriculture is looking for bank job. My friend, put your head down, interrogate what is happening in the agriculture sector and find your niche.

The truth of the matter is that there aren’t enough jobs to go round. Two, the education sector does not prepare graduates adequately for life after graduation. Young people need to help themselves and it starts from finding their purpose in life. Three, young people must understand the essence of education. It is an avenue to acquire knowledge far beyond your course of study. A certificate is just an evidence that you have graduated from the school, not necessarily a proof that you acquired knowledge because some people acquire their certificates dubiously. Four, if what you studied in the university is not in tune with your natural gifts and talents, no problem. Now that you know, you must begin to develop your natural gifts and innate talents. The truth is, you will never find true happiness, satisfaction and success until you do those things you have an inclination for, which give you joy and satisfaction?

I encourage you today, commence your journey of self-discovery. When you have done that, put a plan in place. You also need a team to achieve your goals, have one in place. A team does not mean people you pay, it means people, who can help and guide you in your life journey. Remember that there is nothing you want to do now that someone has not done before. Get mentors; they will guide you and help you get to your destination quicker. They will also help to make your mistakes fewer. Above all have faith in God. He is our author and finisher. But you must do your part.


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