It was said by the greatest icon ever produced by the black continent (Nelson Mandela) that “education is the greatest tool by which we can change the world”. This was re-emphasized in my Alma Mata’s (University of Ibadan) anthem that “a mind that knows is a mind that is free”.
But it is so disturbing that in this part of the world, education has been relegated to the background with such insignificant allocations to the sector by governments in the sub-Saharan region. I sometimes ask God why he watches Africa going backward at the speed of light. No economic cooperation, no security harmonization, moral uprightness is dumped at the Golgotha, no voice among comity of nations, growth and development seem like a taboo to those in positions of authority. Just of recent when I became a full-grown man and had the opportunity to travel the world that I came to terms with myself that I have been asking God a wrong question. He created everyman and nations equal with greatness and growth opportunities, he hid these treasures of the earth behind knowledge and pages of the book and gave man the liberty to seek and find them for their terrestrial consumption. No wonder the Christian holy book says in Isaiah 4:26 that “the glory of God is to conceal a secret, and the glory of man is to find it out”. What God simply meant here is the relevance of education in the advancement of humanity. But leaders and policy makers in the black world have remained adamantly oblivious of this fact which informs their glorification of mediocrity and placing of emphasis on papers (certificates) even when it is obvious that such are forged.
When would the desolate villages of Africa turned apart wake up to the dawn of a new day? When shall Ricardian equivalence which emphasizes generational equity take preeminence in the heart of African gladiators? When will Africa’s ability be relevant to the realities of the contemporary world? The question is endless and the answer is not far fetch from the fact that we need to go back to where we failed to succeed which entails lifting the role of education high on the center stage of every endeavor of life.
As a boy soldier back in the Nigerian Military School, I was told that the greatest sin a man can commit is being a civilian, but educational maturity and my romance with the civil world has changed my notion of that school of thought and I have come to realize that illiteracy and reading apathy are sort of deadly and graven sins humanity can ever commit. It naturally sets man and nations backward among their equals, it retards national growth and development and reduces a state to a failed status.
Where did we get it wrong as a continent?
The British and other colonial masters left their respective African colonies with a structure built on educational pedestal which in the case of Nigeria, past leaders such as Obafemi Awolowo, Kwame Nkruma of Ghana, Julius Nyeyere of Tanzania tried to maintain in their days. These set of nationalists declared free education, donated educational materials and made education a public good in their dreams to make Africa stand tall among her equals in the international community. Then things began to fall apart when individual interests began to override common and national interests. At this point, a crop of leaders who first of all see what is in it for them before seeing what is in it for their nations began to spring up, brothers began to spill each other’s blood to ascend positions of authority in order to milk and drill national honey pot into their family reserves. This led to wide income gap and the enthronement of inequality which rise to the dichotomization of societies into the rich and the poor cadres with conspicuous absence of even a middle class. The bourgeois who were now the gladiators in every helms of national affairs with their Napoleonic style of leadership ensured that education became a private good with its characteristic excludability and rivalry, placing it above the affordability of the poor and downtrodden of our society. This is a calculated attempt to make quality education available for only their children and those of their oligarchic cabals such that national affairs can become inheritance by their offspring when they are no more. Their deeds have notoriously fed our national lives with mediocrity and the resultant effects are telling on our generation and the ones unborn.
The way forward
The solution now lies in us. This is our time and the dawn of a new era where the youth need to take the bull by the horn and possess the land. We are products of the digital age, let’s lunch a digital revolution that would eliminate the analog generation out of our system. Let us think sustainability that is rooted in education. The way forward is to support Education for Sustainable Development (ESD).
I recommend and call on governments of Africa nations, stakeholders and policy makers in the educational sector across Africa to change educational system in this part of the world by incorporating Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) into school curriculum. This will place us on the same pedestal with the advanced world which I believe would shine a light of hope on our outdated and archaic system.
Young people should also take little steps to change the narrative and achieve goals. Waiting for our leaders to take action may only bring disappointment. Form reading clubs in your localities, organize educational debates for young people, pick a child in your street and mentor him/her academically (build a man, build the community), carry out a campaign on Education for Sustainable Development which ensures brighter future for our generation and the ones after us.
Read, become a leader and let us change our world. Education is the key. Remember, “a mind that knows is a mind that is free”
Roland Aiwone is A UNESCO Youth Leader on Education Sustainable Development.