By whatever criteria or standard of measurement, I am one of the relatively newer-comers to the planet. As a result, I desire and demand clarification on a good number of issues. One of such is this idea of going back to school. In the first place, why go to school?
Come to think of it; we turn four and without any consultation whatsoever, we get enrolled in school. We contest the idea from that day, and intermittently thereafter. On the first morning, we weary Daddy, Mummy and Class Teacher as they attempt talking and cajoling us to accept this ‘strange’ proposition. In the name of ‘peace’, we make the compromise, going to school so long as our lunch packs remain attractive – the true incentive for leaving the house on a Monday morning and throughout the weekdays.
Time progresses and we find ourselves in a Junior or Senior High School. What was our incentive to continue after six or nine years? Quite often it is the thought of being out-of-place – every other person we shared lunch with is gone! So, if you’re in Ghana or Nigeria, or anywhere like these countries, and headed for the boarding school, you curse the first night in that concentration camp where bells and bullies are commoner than a B. Every opportunity to leave the gate, for say midterm breaks or holidays, is like Israel crossing the Red Sea. And when the exeat wouldn’t be granted, we make our escape plans like Kunta Kinte. A few times we experience his fate too.
Finally, after three to six years, we are finally out. Whoops! Freedom at last! We have served our term in the ‘gaol’.
But just when we thought to throw a ‘Redemption Party’, we are called into another ‘detention centre’. It is given a nicer name with different parole rules; they call it ‘Tertiary Institution’ – pseudonym for a ‘Penitentiary’. We volunteer at least another three years of internship as academic inmates.
What was the motivation or conviction warranting this latest sentence? We’re told that serving this time holds the promise of a better tomorrow. They say, the ‘experts’ that is, that we’d secure jobs that would compensate for all the years of ‘slavery’. Like Jacob leaving the house of Laban or like Jacob’s generation leaving the house of Pharaoh, we are encouraged to see the land of milk and honey. On my part of this aqua-terrestrial globe, it is usually more than 70 – 30 in favor of illusion. Why wouldn’t we be left alone? Why is someone determined to raise and dash our hopes?
It is September and summer, and indeed traditional time of the year when we are urged to go ‘back to school’. A new academic session begins. Parents and guardians are feverish as they shop and make ready to commit their wards to some school. So much is committed to books, provisions, school uniforms, accommodation fees, handouts, tuition fees etcetera. The furore and buzz provokes my asking, “What for”? They responded, “It is a time to go back to school”. So I ask, “For what”? Why do I have to truncate my well-deserved sleep only to stand before a dreary-eyed half awake class of students enduring my presence, and cursing the very inventor of Math?
Besides the human appendix, which I am told hasn’t got any business at the end of the large intestine; every other thing has a specific purpose. But even the appendix thing, I have my doubts. But that said; let me ask that nagging question on my mind, why exactly do we go to and through school?
I doubt much if school is a guarantee for wealth or influence. There are a number of very rich people who never had the luxury of school. As for influence, forget it. Looking at those who call the shots worldwide, we could literally count the number of World Leaders who have so become by virtue of how much schooling they had. If schooling guarantees none of these, then why are we so engrossed in it? Why make it a Millennium Development Goal (MDG)? Surely, if there is an answer to this, it must go past cash and command.
The difference between two opposites gives us a reasonably fair idea about the value of one or the other. For example, I know the importance of a blanket in a cold night, when I do the night without one. Good health is venerated when I am at the mercies of pills, tabs, tubes and needles. The definition of food as an “energy-giving” substance makes a lot of sense when fasting and much so when I see the effects of drought and famines across the nations of the world.
Seeing that the certificates – of discharge – acquired after school are of themselves nothing advantageous, we must understand the purpose and value of education beyond the acquisition of same. If school and certificates do not guarantee and ensure jobs, prestige, power, popularity and prosperity, what exactly is the purpose of school? It surely must go further than fame and fortune. Somebody help me out.
“… [Education’s] purpose is the liberation of Man from the restraints and limitations of ignorance and dependency. Education has to increase men’s physical and mental freedom – to increase their control over themselves, their own lives, and the environment in which they live. The ideas imparted by education, or released in the mind through education, should therefore be liberating ideas; the skills acquired by education should be liberating skills. Nothing else can properly be called education. Teaching which induces a slave mentality or a sense of impotence is not education at all; it is attack on the minds of men… It has to contribute to an enlargement of Man’s ability in every way. In particular it has to help men to decide for themselves – in cooperation – what development is. It must help men to think clearly; it must enable them to examine the possible alternative courses of action; to make a choice between those alternatives in keeping with their own propulsions; and it must equip them with the ability to translate their decisions into reality”. – Julius Kambarage Nyerere