Njundu Drammeh

What is the purpose of education? To make good individuals or produce citizens? Has our schooling system, from independence to date, given us the education we need? Has it made us good individuals or prepared us as useful citizens?

A good individual may not necessarily be regarded as a useful or good citizen, politically speaking. Socrates was a good individual but those who forced him to drink the hemlock did not consider him a “useful citizen”. Can schooling give us education? Or most of the education we get are often outside the perimeters of the formal school?

“My own belief is that education must be subversive if it is to be meaningful. By this I mean that it must challenge all the things we take for granted, examine all accepted assumptions, tamper with every sacred cow, and instil a desire to question and doubt. Without this, the mere instruction to memorise data is empty. The attempt to enforce conventional mediocrity on the young is criminal…” Author Unknown

Nothing is more difficult, but more beneficial to self and others, than “thinking outside the box”, to do what Martin Luther King Jnr calls “maladjusted creativity”. Does our schooling system as it is prepare us to think asymmetrical too, to dot the lines outside of the box?

We must begin to churn out more critical, open and analytical minds through our education system, young men and women you would examine and question, who would distinguish the trees from the forest, who would be able to separate the chaff from the grain, who are able to examine issues as they are, uncoloured by academic pedantry, sophistry, demagoguery, polemics or snobbishness, and who have the capacity to grasp complex issues and reconcile opposite and diverse views and opinions and yet hold their heads high.

We must begin, though, to nourish the eyes and minds of our young with things intellectual, allow them to explore beyond the convention, urge them to question without fearing punishment, allow them to ‘rebel’ against what we think is ‘good’ or ‘bad’ so that they are able to form their own ‘good’ or ‘bad’. We kill many initiatives, many great idea, many sparks of ingenuity in the name of conformity and tradition.

A cursory look at our education system shows that the emphasis is more on rote learning than the development of critical, analytical and open minds. A look at my society, in my neck of he woods, shows that conformity and tradition are what we emphasize. We rarely question the status quo or things as they are. Subservience to leadership is the norm. Any attempt to question, to enquire, to criticize, to be the maverick is put down, discouraged, seen as uncalled for. Children’s initiatives and exploratory instincts are stifled. Growth is impossible where people cannot questioned.

Socrates argued that an unexamined life is not worth living. Dialectics enriches understanding. We should refuse to take things at face value what we learn at school or are told by others; able to question “established truths”, to see through what the text books and teachers say. Only dead fish swim with the tide.

When a person’s schooling interferes with his education; when a person mistakes the trees for the forest; when a person cannot think out of the box; when a mirage is taken to be pool of water in the road….. Take a hard look at the school.