SOYINKA'S LAMENTATION & OUR ALBATROSS ON EDUCATION
I love Bronson Alcott's laconic assertion. The 16th century American philosopher hardly minced words in his remarks on issues. Hear him: "To be ignorant of one's ignorance is the malady of the ignorant." Alcott's averment may be short. But the advice to the perspicacious mind is embedded in that Latin witticism ; "Verbum Satis Sapienti". This is because the prudent ones knows that "a word is enough for the Wise."
What wisdom should we learn from Alcott's averment? He seems to be telling us all about the danger of not realizing our errors with little prodding, with a view to making restitutions.
If a nation is too busy to give enough and undisguised attention to the educational needs of its youths, it should bear the brunt of backwardness and social vices that will expectedly thrive in the society. This is because, as Herbert Spencer, an English philosopher said, "Education has for its object the formation of character." A scholar posited that education makes a people easy to lead, but difficult to drive. He added a puncher: They are easy to govern, but impossible to enslave. Our deprecating standard of education now is a grand reflection of systemic failures. I admire listening to that Bob Nesta Marley's track, entitled "Trenchtown Rocks" because he hollered repeatedly to our hearing: "You reap what you sow." What a man damages when drunk, he is compelled to pay for it and suffer his folly when sober. If we didn't want youth's apathy towards education, why does the system demotivates its pursuit? Why do we have several billions allocated to educational development over the years, but we still have our public schools buildings and infrastructure in decrepit state? Just like the nation is grappling with the abysmal level of insecurity, partly due to kleptomaniac instinct and alleged misappropriation of security votes, it is safe to ask what has also befallen billions allocated to the educational sector since the past decades? Why are the private universities thriving and the public ones nosediving and sinking into the nadir? If our public schools are in shambles, and the private schools are not affordable to the teeming masses due to prohibitive fees, are the youths not made to face a cul-de-sac?
Motivation provides the urge to excel at achieving a goal. Motivation drives someone towars blaizing the trail. Are our present-day youths really motivated to pursue education before making a career choice?
Since we jettisoned our cultural values of "omoluabi", our national core values and identity have also consequently been eroded. Our unbriddled pursuit of affluence at the detriment of morality and decency has confused our youths on the sacrosanct of decency, moral scruples and public morality. Someone says, show me the quality of your youths' education, and I tell you the future of your nation. The
endless quest to get rich quick, and the pursuit of primordial interest have been surreptitiously superimposed on the pursuit of core values. What do the nation and the society celebrate more? Is it wealth or educational success? Who earns great honours and respect most in our society today? How do we have technological breakthroughs in medicine, space technology, engineering, medicine etc while our educational system nosedives on daily basis?
Is it hyperbolic that Professor Wole Soyinka said that the Nigerian education is horrifying? Why are the few remaining employers of labour lamenting that many of our universities and college graduates of these days are unemployable? Isn't their apathy towards reading and scholarly activities largely due to our misplaced priorities? Give a university student two paragraphs of a piece to read and digest, he looks askance, troubled; seems bored reading. He merely flips through! They take mere cursory glance at intellectual materials. Many only live to Google and lift materials down words for words as answers to class tests. They are apathetic to indept studies. They are excited only at facebook photographs! They pass commentary in obscure and vapid expressions! Many loathe intellectual and intelligible discuss. The days of wide reading in literature and history are gone! The subjects encourages comprehension. They promote intelligible reasoning, exposition and logical deduction from seemingly hidden facts. Cudgelling up the brain promotes intellectualism. Our youths holds reading in strict abhorrence. But its even better to be a stark illiterate, not being able to read or write at all, than being literate and develop apathy towards wide reading. From what source does knowledge come?
But if the system operates an inconsistent policies and refuses to pay high premiums on education, how can the youths, with their impressionable minds direct unflagging attention towards scholasticism?
We notice with utter chagrin and dismay that today's average youth wants all his achievements before the age of 25, regardless of whatever means. If the vainglorious hope is not met, he sees himself as a failure. He thus thinks of suicide. Hence the scourge of suicidal attempts now. And they measured these "achievements" in terms of fame and huge money acquired! Their role models are those who made big fame and money fast.
But who is a famous person in Nigeria parlance? Can he be an erudite professor who perhaps designs a voice-activated aircraft? Or can he be a scholar who spent all his life to discover and provide us with an efficacious drug to cure lassa fever? Permit me to think that if ever this country that has unbriddled knack for celebrating only pastimes and affluence look at their directions, celebrating their breakthroughs, (if at all) will be ephemeral, or for a fleeting moment.
On the contrary, this system for example, will lavishly honour a 15 year-old boy or girl who dances to stupor and somersault endlessly at a government party to the delight of the governor or the presidency. If a boy knows he would have a warm hand-shake and embrace of the president, plus a multimillion naira cash reward for dancing exuberantly and sensuously, or for scoring a needed goal in a football mundial, why will he opt for a pursuit of chains of university degrees or a Ph.D. for decades, only to end up looking for passengers around the city daily to bud the taxi he is driving; or run to South Africa washing cars for his peers, and perhaps later have his car-wash shop burnt by his fellow Africans with xenophobic and megalomaniac instinct.
On what should a nation place higher values? What is the distinction between core issues and the pastimes for recreation? If real education, research and development, technological and breakthroughs take the advanced world to the moon and enviable heights, should we not wake up from our slumber and do the needful towards total and undisguised revamping of the educational sector?
Perhaps when we wear our thinking caps, we shall appreciate where the honour lies of a Nation that prides herself in being the giant of Africa. Verbum Satis Sapienti.
*Tunji Ajayi, a writer, biographer and communication scholar writes from Lagos, Nigeria.