I smile, with my choice of this title, as it actually reminds me of my brilliant 61/2 yr old nephew, Dipo in Newcastle (upon Tyne). He uses the word “ever” very frequently these days, to express the ‘mostest’ of whatever it is he is trying to describe. “Ever!” simply signifies the highest attainable degree to which that attribute can go. So you regularly hear him say how a meal is “the best breakfast, ever”, or you hear him talk about “the nicest holiday, ever” and so on and so forth. It is a joy to see the glee in his eyes as he describes these beautiful observations of his. Of course, he’s still my best nephew, ever!
This discourse is not about Dipo though, at least not directly.
I saw a poser in a Nigerian magazine today. An innocuous poser, you might say, and I’m certain you have come across it at one point or another, no matter your parenting status. It is the very commonly asked question:
“What is the Best Gift You can give to your Children?”
“Education, of course”, I hear you say, as the magazine article also went on to answer in the very first paragraph of the article. I don’t quite know what it is now that stopped me from moving on with that line of thinking, but I spent some time ruminating on that wonderful answer we have accepted to be the right one for, maybe centuries, or at least decades, and my conclusion is that the answer –Education – is the wrongest answer, “ever!”
One strong reason why we think education is the best thing we can give our children, apart from the fact that it is the only response we have heard in decades, is that, for most of us, that is what we have. I like to point out to people that I am a second-generation university graduate, and a child of the 1970s/80s Nigeria, whose parents’ education put them in a social class well above that of their illiterate parents. Most of us “second-generation” graduates had grandparents that were relatively poorer than our parents, and these were grandparents that looked at the white colonials with awe. Anyone that could understand them as they spoke through their nose, and wielded tremendous legal power, was next to the gods, as it were.
Our grandparents were very proud, and rightly so, to be the proud parents of lawyers (that could take your ancestral lands away in the English man’s courts); doctors (that could save the life of all the pregnant women, and even give orders to the king, in form of drug prescriptions); and teachers (who often doubled as priests of the new religions, interpreters of the new laws, and were essentially the custodians of superior knowledge). We must concede that point to them. Education, for the baby boomers, was the best gift they could have gotten from anyone, anywhere.
What we have come to appreciate, and their parents admired, is not necessarily the education they had, but what that education gave them. It gave them political power; it gave them economic power, as African nations nationalized decades-old colonial establishments, in a frenzy. The education they had gave them the thing that I believe is the best gift we can give our children:
By independence, you should know that I do not mean a new flag, and a change of national anthem.
By Independence, I mean, the means/skills/ability to navigate the world as you please.
The more educated our parents were, we find that the more choices they tended to have, as to who to marry, where to work, where to live, how long they lived there, what houses to build etc. But the world has changed in a biiiig way. It’s a whole new world out there, where the present group of youth in the age bracket 25-34 is at their most “educated” ever, and they have the highest levels of unemployment, ever! All over Europe, this pitiable demographic has an unbelievable percentage still living at the parents’ homes, well after their college degrees (the highest level of the so-called “Education”).
They were educated, but it seems their education is not so useful in the face of global economic depressions.
Truly, the system that worked before is broken, and the situation is much worse for countries like Nigeria that from the beginning, had a wrong understanding of what education was all about. Truer in Nigeria than in the developed countries, education was more about churning out clones of the tutor, and not about asking more questions to re-order knowledge, and in so doing improve our lives and the way we do things.
Independence on the other hand, would ensure that you are equipped, no matter the level of your “education”, to know how to communicate effectively; Independence will ensure that you are equipped to know how to “win friends and influence people”-that you have wining people-skills, to borrow the words of Dale Carnegie; Independence will ensure that you find your own natural abilities and talents, and that you hone those abilities so well, that you could never be out of work. What you have in you, well-tailored, will always be in demand – or you would not have come here in the first place.
To make things much easier, the internet offers us the ability to find out a lot about what the so-called “education” was meant to show us, and interestingly, for every successful man with a paper showing he is educated, there are undoubtedly at least two without the paper, but have discovered their natural abilities and are now very successful having honed them and put them to very good use, either building software firms from inside garages in the United States, or selling car parts or cement in Lagos. You find them as rich actors in Hollywood, and as footballers in Barcelona.
What we need to give the younger generation, our children, is the ability to navigate this world as they please.
The ability to be the best they can be, ever! Let their schooling not stand in the way of their education (as Mark Twain once said), or they will find, if we insist on this same old models of education, that :
” In a time of drastic change, it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.” – Eric Hoffer.