It is interesting how the first-morning nudge, after opening one’s eyes to the world is to reach for the mobile phone. That morning, I woke up without saying a word of prayer nor did I get up to brush my teeth but to catch up on social media feeds. I found myself scrolling through Twitter feeds. While scrolling, I came across a tweet from Tayo Aina, a YouTube storyteller, who tells visual travel stories about Africa and the world. He writes, “Nothing I learnt in my past 6 years in University is applicable to the life I live now. Not one single thing. The whole educational system in Africa is redundant and needs a overhaul. We are learning outdated shit that won’t matter in real life.”
While practicing my usual morning routine on another day, I went again to the ‘street of Twitter.’ I came across a video of the Late Professor Sophie Oluwole, a Nigerian Professor and Philosopher, shared by Lasisi Lanre. In the video, she stated, “education is supposed to be functional”. Then, She later asked, “what does it qualify you to do?”
Both speakers are asking, “what is the value and usefulness of our education? If you listen further to the late Dr. Oluwole, she mentioned that school these days is all about literacy acquisition. Simply, we go to school to learn to read, write, and speak English. And so, what I tease out from Mr. Aina and Dr. Oluwole’s words is education is impractical, unable to help us acquire quality skills, and maybe cannot help us earn a sustainable income.
I work as a Sociology teaching assistant in the ‘Abroad,’ I can say that this is not only a Nigerian or an African issue. I have lived with young Americans and I see them have the same struggle an average undergraduate student in Nigeria would have. For instance, after my French undergraduate degree, I was job hunting and a little confused about what industry would find my degree relevant since I never wanted to be a primary (elementary) or secondary (middle/high) school teacher. I see people graduate and do not know where and how their degree fits or can solve a problem in the professional spaces.
There are disciplines where skills and practicals are part of the academic education requirements unlike the humanities and some social science disciplines. These are the fields of medicine, natural sciences, environmental sciences, biological sciences, engineering, computing, accounting, and some others. In these fields, in the Nigerian university, little is done to ensure these courses contribute functionally to society and equip practically the students. These are due to the lack of developed educational curricula, the lack of modern technological tools, and the inadequate exploration or involvement in advanced research that could leverage the quality of education. I refuse to use the word outdated here because knowledge does not get outdated but is built on or developed upon. Hence, in the face of these challenges in Nigeria, you could agree that first, second, or third degrees might not be all one needs to achieve functional training.
In Mr. Aina’s tweets, which was a thread, he went further to mention that he learned much of what he is doing today as a YouTuber on the YouTube platform. I also ran a survey in the course of developing this story, and I asked people about the other platforms they acquire knowledge from aside from the classroom: eighty percent of the respondents mentioned, YouTube. Possibly, a functional education might not be limited to the classroom.
Some years ago, my father mentioned to me that a first degree is foundational. It is to set us up and unlimit how far we can go when it comes to career paths and growth. Therefore, in my opinion, a degree is to make us critical, creative, and innovative thinkers. This perspective aligns with the reason survey respondents gave for finding their education invaluable. A respondent stated “[education] helped me structure my life and think logically.”
[Education] could help us pay attention to the basics we acquire from school, engage in our environment by socializing, networking, and reading outside of the classroom’s four walls, think through the process of what is next in our lives journey, and glean knowledge and its applicability from the discussions we have with friends
As such, western education has a way of helping us shape our lives so long we stretch beyond the limits of its given – that is being creative. Albert Einstein states that “the aim of education must be the training of independently acting and thinking individuals who, however, can see in the service to the community their highest life achievement.” The result that we get from education is not limited to the degree or what the degree could help us do. Oftentimes, our education may not be able to teach us how to use YouTube or Github. Rather, it could help us pay attention to the basics we acquire from school, engage in our environment by socializing, networking, and reading outside of the classroom’s four walls, think through the process of what is next in our lives journey, and glean knowledge and its applicability from the discussions we have with friends. If we pick up all these from going to school, these could get us where we need to be in terms of career and life.
The functionality of our degrees is not limited to the course-specific skills needed to be acquired nor is it limited in its capacity to help build us into reasoning individuals. The school teaches, exposes, and enlightens us. Though, it will not teach us everything. It will also not be fully functional. It might not be the meal ticket. It might not provide the exact job. But it leaves something, which is the capacity to be creative.
Disclaimer: Kindly note that this story does not relieve educational institutions or the government of their role to provide and deliver world-class education.
Featured Image Credit: Brookings.Edu
Would you like to hear more about what education is? Watch the videos below!