Do Nigerians Need More Education? :A perspective on what it means to be educated

what Socrates say about what it means to be educated? "...those who manage the circumstances which they encounter day by day; and those who can judge situations appropriately as they arise and rarely miss the suitable course of action...."

There was a debate a while ago on a social network forum in which an argument was made that Nigerians don’t need more education due to the large number of university graduates in the country.. We need to ask ourselves what is education? And from there we can move forward.

My stance is that education is subjective. A man who’s schooled in Arabic institution but not in western institution is seen as uneducated by the western educated folks and scholars. While the man who schooled in the west is equally uneducated when he come to a place where his kind of education is not comprehended.

I am engineer and educated in some aspects of engineering, but when I meet a chemical engineer or Space Engineer, I become uneducated in some aspects and can only but listen and let them educate me. If I try to use my mechanical engineering certificate to prove I am educated in the face of that glaring fact, I will be radiating my foolishness toward that person. It is the same with a zoologist who found himself in a position where accounting education is prerequisite for success; he will either need an accountant/economist or he may risk failure if he tries to run the show himself.

That said; it is wrong to say Africans or Nigerians don't need more education simply because we have millions of B. Sc, M. Sc, Ph. D holders who have not been applying their knowledge for the betterment of their communities. . We do! It is also absurd to equate Ph.D certificate possession to absolute education; we have many Ph. D holders in specialised knowledge who will be uneducated when they confront people in areas they are not familiar with.

My dad didn't go to western school and I remember while I was in secondary school, arguing with him about some local herbs. He was initially angry that I questioned his knowledge but later showed me through action that going to school does not make one absolutely educated. I remember being given what looked like a chewing stick and I rejected it because I felt it contains dusts, sands and unhealthy for the stomach. I had just read a book on Digestive system.  That same herb I mocked was a life saver when it was needed most. Now, I regret not having had the patience to learn about the herbs as I am now in love with nature.

My point is that when you talk about education the gravest mistake to make is to use Ph. D, MSc etc to rate anyone while using lack of the same to rate those without. Our problems actually started and entrenched in our glorification of these paper qualifications at the expense of applied knowledge. I don't know how many Masters Newton had or how many Ph. D Aristotle possessed. I don't know if Muhammad, Jesus and Moses (SAW) had special paper qualifications that made them stood out among mankind. I don't know if and how our forefathers, who designed our cultures and built our communities from the scratch, to become the society the societies we later know as tribes, got their degrees and qualifications to lead and created what we found on ground.

Looking at the context my friend viewed it; it is in area of leadership and followers; and how the “educated” ones translated their knowledge into building a just and stable society. Leadership is about leading and directing affairs of those below. The leaders apply wisdom and knowledge to govern; take decisions and make things happen. When you remove everything and leave only knowledge there, what you have is a man in confused state. You cannot lead effectively if you are not skilled or educated at handling people. Similarly, you cannot be a responsible follower if you are not educated on your rights and duties as a follower.

Our people need education. They need education that can impact their lives positively. They need knowledge on how they are being governed. They need education on how to tackle their personal problems of poverty, fight crimes, keep themselves away from avoidable illness, prevent intellectual fraudsters from hijacking their reasoning faculty and brainwash them. They need education on how to identify and elect good leaders. They need education on how to be responsible followers. They need education on how the international events affect them. They need education on how their spiritual clerics have been fleecing them and turning them to Mugu in the name of God. They need education on how to scrutinise their future leaders and make them accountable. They need education on how to cohabit peacefully among their fellow men and respect the rights of the diverse community members, regardless of the ethnics and religion affiliations. They need education on how their justice system works. They need education on how to resist the baits of political entrepreneurs and merchants of destructions who would arm the masses with cudgels, cutlasses and guns to kill one another while securing lives and future of their own progenies in foreign lands.

So yes, Nigerians and indeed Africans need more education. But this education is not limited to the ones acquired in the classroom for which paper qualifications are awarded. And the broad-based education we received does not necessarily confer upon a section of us the superiority over others who have not seen the four walls of the classrooms. Those who have acquired formal education and failed woefully in applying their knowledge to improve their communities should not be used to justify why additional investment in education is not necessary.

Indeed, there are flaws in our education system. Talented and dedicate youths have been found to jettison their latent talent in exchange for generalised knowledge while so many who have accomplished strong academic outing in schools could not practice their skills.   And these flaws are among the reasons why some misfits among us are leading us. The fact that some failed leaders are known to have accumulated degrees does not however, constitute an indictment on education itself. This flaw can best be illustrated by this parable I read years ago. It goes:

Some animals in a forest decided to start a school. The students are bird, squirrel, fish, dog, rabbit and a mentally retarded eel. A board was form to determine the curriculum and it was decided that flying, tree climbing, swimming and burrowing would be broad-based education. All animals were required to take all subjects.

The bird was excellent at flying and was getting “A” but when it came to burrowing, it keep breaking its beak and wings and started failing. Soon it starts getting “C” in flying. While he continue to get “F” in tree climbing and burrowing.

The squirrel was great at tree climbing but was failing in swimming. The fish was a great swimmer but couldn't get out of water and hence got “F” in every other thing. The dog didn't join the school and started fighting the administration to include barking in the curriculum. The rabbit got “A” in burrowing but failed tree climbing. It landed on its head and suffered brain damage. Soon he started getting “C” in burrowing. The mentally retarded eel which did everything half way became the valedictorian of the class. The board was happy because everyone was getting broad-based education.

The above illustrated the situation in Nigerian education today and probably why the “mentally retarded eels” among us are leading in every conceivable ways. The fact that our education system has been producing “Mentally retarded eels” does not mean we no more need education. What we need is to look at what kind of education every section of the society need and then fill that gap instead of burdening them with general knowledge that most may not even use.

Who is an educated person? He is that person who chooses wisely and courageously under any circumstances. If they choose wisdom over foolishness, good over bad, decision over indecision, virtue over vulgarity, regardless of their academic degrees, they are educated.

I submit therefore that we need more education more than ever; But not this self limiting school system that imprison students and adults alike and hinder their capacity to think independently. Accumulation of knowledge without applying them is an insult on the system that produced the people hoarding such knowledge.

Remember what Socrates say about what it means to be educated? "...those who manage the circumstances which they encounter day by day; and those who can judge situations appropriately as they arise and rarely miss the suitable course of action...."

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