I was walking along the middle path on the compound of the KCB Leadership Centre in Nairobi when I asked Bryce a question.
“What’s the key lesson you’ve learnt from Lagos?”
Bryce is a Cameroonian working in Lagos.
“Lagos has taught me that life is a continuous struggle for survival,” he said.
And I looked at him, he looked at me. I nodded. He nodded. Bryce’s words are true almost everywhere on our continent. It cuts across sectors. No boundary is spared. Rural and urban places are in the same boat.
Access to electricity that could transform the economics of an entire village is still a luxury for most people in sub-Saharan Africa. Quality healthcare is a struggle to get. Most of our education pumps us with information that we’ve got to regurgitate in exams. It simply prepares us to churn out, word for word, what the teachers taught. We reproduce what’s in the textbook. That’s what comes out strongly in the system we currently have. It’s just about the exams. Our schooling process doesn’t allow us to immerse ourselves in the learning.
I recently dropped out of a postgraduate course. I wasn’t learning as much as I thought I should’ve been. I couldn’t think in the classes. I got the impression that every class I was attending – even as an adult student – was to prepare me for an exam. Some lecturers would say, “This will not miss in the exam. Be ready for it.” What is the point of going to formal school if the core purpose that is presented to students is just to pass exams? The worst part is this is something that is being driven right from primary school.
I have no problem with sitting for exams. I know exams are good for assessing if someone has learnt enough or they need a bit more time to get things right. But if the primary reason for going to school is to sit for an exam and pass it, then that’s not an education I want. And I believe it is not the type of education you’d also want for yourselves. Not for your children and definitely not for your grandchildren and their children. That’s probably why some of you take your kin to study at schools in a different continent. It’s also probably because you agree their education is superior to what we currently provide to our own people on this continent.
Think about this, leaders. What would it take to provide an education that’s experiential? What do we need to do to shift from going to school just to pass an exam to going to school to be able to think, to apply ourselves, to solve problems?
We need to invest in this sector. We need to invest in education infrastructure and systems. We need to value our teachers. We need to see teachers as the professionals that shape who we all become. We need to have the commitment supporting policies that allow our children to learn and thrive in the 21st Century and beyond.
The right education will allow our children to adapt. It’ll allow them to favourably and confidently compete and find ways of flourishing even amidst uncertainty in whatever part of this world. Will you commit, even silently, to making the quality of education our people receive a priority? Will you hold your ministries of education accountable for the kind of learning our people receive? Will you hold yourselves accountable if our children continue to receive sub-par education?
Image from pixabay.