Is Formal Education A Mistake?

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It seems a lot of people are questioning the effect of formal education on their lives. Virtually every book I read these days is focused on the need to restructure the educational system and promote self-education (in the West especially United States).

I agree that this is the Information Age hence  there is an abundance of information at our disposal however in a developing country like Nigeria, how do you access/critically analyse this information without formal education? How do you seek out answers from books at home, library or Internet without formal education?

Formal education is very important. It is a ticket to our future. Without it, we rely on easier and faster sources for information like television, printed materials, experts, or hearsay from immediate contacts, friends or relatives to save us the time to self-learn, think and analyse.

It must be said that formal education doesn’t guarantee anyone financial success but it removes the scales of ignorance from one’s eyes and makes your thinking mind to explore and seek several answers. As a consequence, it is a ticket out of miserable circumstances for many; a solution to our backwardness.

Nigerians (like the guy I watched on television recently) who claim formal education is nothing, I am curious to know why they think so. And what helped you to form this opinion? I need to know if they’d be opinionated or able to reason the way they do now if they had no formal education. Formal education gives you a certain level of exposure and thence the will to chase self-education and become an autodidact.

“Autodidacts are the self learners who quench their hungry and inquisitive minds by self learning and finding answers to their questions themselves” – Maaher Sayeed

The problem with our formal education is that we are/were all taught to be status- and result-oriented. Most people believe formal education is all about amassing certificates and titles whilst bragging about them to anyone who cares to listen.

The truth is that what really matters is the transferable and non-transferable skills you pick up. Don’t miscontrue my point, I am not saying having a good grade/result is bad. No! Nevertheless, due to the keeness to have titles attached to our name, cram-la-pour has become a ritual. This is beneficial in the interim but useless in the long run.

“Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting.” – Edmund Burke

Also, many go to school and focus solely on  academics or social life and when they are thrown out in the real world, they realise their inadequacies and deficiencies. There’s definitely a reason why the Igbo word for a University is “Mahadum” but I prefer to call it “Marahadum” which literally means know them all. The best advice you can give to a student going into school is to allow the school pass through him/her as s/he passes through the school. That way, s/he would be equipped with formal, non-formal and informal education.

I concur that there are certain things you can’t learn in a classroom because experiences shape up our lives. However, in this third world country, you need formal education to ditch crowd mentality, hearsays and blindly conforming to borrowed wisdom, and base your opinions on balanced and educated thinking. As a consequence, formal education paves the way for self-education.

Do You Have A Problem With Corruption or Nah?

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Nigeria, my Nigeria. First and foremost, let me start by wishing my dear nation Nigeria a happy belated 55th birthday. The labour of our heros’ past shall never be in vain.

Following the Independence day celebrations, news emanating from London suggest that former Petroleum minister Dizeani Allison-Madueke, along with four other people, has been arrested in the UK for money laundering after they were found in possession of a huge amount of money.

What surprised me was how the news brought joy to many Nigerians. All shouting, “crucify her, crucify her.” I found this surprising because when the Senate President, Bukola Saraki was summoned to appear before the Code of Conduct Tribunal on grounds of false declaration of wealth, many believed it is/was a ploy by President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) to make Saraki abdicate his responsibilities after he went against their wish to assume his position.

The opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) have also thrown their weight behind Saraki to help him survive this alleged witchhunt. Ohaneze Ndi Igbo followed suit and marched in protest to the National Assembly this week, baricading the entrance & describing the trial as the trial of an Igbo man (whatever that means).

Both events have made me question whether Nigerians really have a problem with corruption. In fact without mincing words, it seems Nigerians don’t. We seem to have a problem with people involved in corrupt acts. We take sides; everything is personal. Maybe that’s why Ohaneze Ndi Igbo youths who claim to speak for all Igbo youths have taken sides with Saraki.

In the popular classic movie, The Godfather, there is a scene where Michael Corleone told his father’s (The Don) unofficial adopted son and consigliere, Tom Hagen that everything is personal. “Don’t let anybody kid you. It’s all personal, every bit of business. Every piece of shit every man has to eat every day of his life is personal. They call it business. OK. But it’s personal as hell.”

Politics in Nigeria is a dirty game, which is all about power and personal (not regional/tribal/religious) interests. When politicians are marked by an obvious personal interest, pro or against lustration, the public approach is deeply influenced by emotions and subsequently, rationality is thrown out of the window.

It is clear to every Nigerian that the level of corruption in the country is high but we only complain about corruption if/when it does not favor us. And attribute benefits of corruption (see link: https://arturozinga.wordpress.com/2012/07/28/corrupt-state-of-nigeria-we-all-have-benefitted-from-it/) to God’s favour, grace and blessings when corruption finally favours us.

Have you ever seen a student who copied his/her friend or sorted a lecturer (whether in cash or kind) to pass complain when s/he comes through with flying colours? Mba nu! Maka why? S/he will babble about his/her academic prowess and advertise the newly attained status on social media, all to the glory of God. S/he only complains when the result isn’t favourable and tries to point accusing fingers at others. Misery loves company after all.

Our partisanship towards corruption stems from the general belief in Nigeria that once one occupies a political position, be it the smallest, s/he has found El dorado. So, people tend to lend support to anti-graft war when charges of corruption are levelled against those in their black book.

People claim they are ready for change but question if Nigeria is ready for change. People only act this way when they can’t say that they are not ready to change the status quo. Even the idea of being ready is ridiculous.

The mission to cleanse Nigeria of corruption and subversives will take time; patience is essential. In words of President Muhammadu Buhari, order is more vital than speed.

My Child Must Be A…

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Growing up as a Nigerian child can be mentally hard. Pardon me for generalising; Yes! I know Nigeria is enormous with over 250 ethnic groups and I cannot speak for everyone but I have found out that Nigerian children, no matter where they grow up, are raised in similar ways.

I was in South London sometime ago and a Nigerian woman complained bitterly about the academic capabilities of her 6-year old daughter (Yes! You read that right). She feels the daughter isn’t as smart as her peers and this makes her worry. She had already planned that the little girl would be a doctor in future and as a result, she hired a private tutor to teach the child after school hours which means the little girl arrives home at about 5pm every weekday.

Many Nigerian parents, just like the aforementioned lady, put pressure on their children, especially the oldest child, to do well in academics. Infact, they have unrealistic expectations that you must be the best at everything; it is not debatable. Even if you get an A and finish as the second best student, they will probably still ask, “The person that came first, does he/she have three heads?” Thereby making their children too result-oriented.

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It is absolutely of great importance that parents support their kids’ academic pursuit but there is growing concern that Nigerian parents put too much pressure on their kids beyond their capabilities and abilities. Whilst some parents want their kids to study 24 hours of the day (TDB) with minimal or no play time, in hope they will grow to become the next Albert Einstein, others favour and praise the academically sound ones over the poorly academic ones.

Putting children under intense pressure can be devastating to their psychological development. Consequently, they develop a certain type of mentality that makes them believe they are worthless without academic success thus cultivating sibling rivalry.

Some children may also develop perfectionistic traits as they put too much pressure on themselves to please their parents and other family members. In my little experience so far, many believe they are only studying for their parents, not for themselves, but are afraid to voice their opinions. Many struggle to establish autonomy and often succumb to depression, sickness, alcohol and drug abuse, psychosis, emotional trauma, low self-esteem and lack of self-confidence.

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Parenting is hard work; it must be said that parents who put too much pressure on their children never do it with the intention to harm them. Naturally, everyone expects a profitable return on the investments they make and parents are no different. They want to see a return on the investment of money/time that goes into raising their children (school fees are not easy to come by).

There is absolutely nothing wrong with setting high targets for your children however when these expectations seem to overhelm them, there is need for us to re-evaluate and soft pedal a little bit. Nigerian parents need to realise that every child is different; some are early developers whilst others are late developers. Also, not all children will be academically sound and the best you can do is to encourage them to be better whilst exploring other talents/skills your kids possess.

Some parents do this because they want their children to achieve more than they did. Recently, psychology experts revealed that parents who put extreme pressure on their children are only trying to live/achieve their failed dreams through their children. This gives them great fulfillment and pride, as some see it as a “straightforward validation of their parenting skills.” Professor Brad Bushman of Ohio State Univerisity, who coauthored the research said, “Parents then may bask in the reflected glory of their children, and lose some of the feelings of regret and disappointment that they couldn’t achieve these same goals.”

Furthermore, the emergence of social media (Facebook, BBM, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram etc) have unintentionally heaped pressure on many to achieve and some extend this pressure to their children. We are always notified about the events in everyone’s lives – especially their achievements so there’s increased pressure on kids to excel academically so parents can secretly boast that they have the best children ever.

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A child should be allowed to follow his/her own path in life, not the path of his or her parents. All he/she needs is parental guidance and support!

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