School: The Gift and The Curse

If you have been “fortunate” enough to live in the 20th and 21st century, reside in civilization and have means to afford western education, then it is absolutely impossible to not over-emphasize the importance of school.

As the world became more civilized, school became the basis for everything; it became and still is the benchmark for judging each individual as a human being. For instance, a student making distinctions in school is generally and automatically perceived as a good child and any other attitude (disobedience, lack of manners, laziness and others) portrayed by the child is easily overlooked. On the other hand, an academically weak child is assumed to be wayward; by teachers, even by their parents.

School is the avenue for everything as you grow up, friend-making, knowledge acquisition, fun, and anything you can think of. Imagine seeing your kid with a friend, you ask where he/she knows the friend from and the answer is not school? The relationship immediately looks fishy to you as a parent. School gives you as a child sense of purpose, belonging and you basically learn everything from school at this stage; life is fun and everything is all good.

As you advance academically, say from primary to secondary school or from secondary to higher institution, the pressure of school builds up immensely; so much that you hardly have time for anything else. During holidays and after school hours, some children take up extra-curricular programs to acquire skills out of school. I’ve had friends and heard of students take up barbing, hair dressing, fashion designing, sports and the likes after school hours or during holidays, while some take extra classes after hours and attend summer coaching during holidays. School huh?

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The human brain is capable of amazing things; like going to school and developing side skills out of school, but we choose to put all our eggs in one basket (school). Maybe because we are so afraid of failure or more importantly, we believe school is the answer to lots of our problems. A family that barely gets by financially will still be at peace so long they can gather enough money to send their kids to school, with hope that the kids will grow up, get a nice paying job and pave the way to a better life for the family.

This is a good plan! But then, good is just an enemy of great” because, unfortunately for most, it is not always this simple and straightforward. Mostly because, by the time you graduate from a higher institution, you become one big pile of an average human being with no specific or marketable skill. Thereby, forfeiting the whole idea of going to school in the first place; learning a skill to make money. Right?

Now, when I say a “big pile of average”, I mean most people I know growing up possess one natural skill or another. I’ve had friends that could draw but will never became an artist, one that could sing that will never be a singer, one that could write and will never be a writer, could build but will never become an engineer and so on. Why? Because they put all their time and mind in school and they didn’t get to sharpen their natural skill(s). Thereby, being just average at this natural skill too, another skill not marketable. Nobody pays for average!

Paulo Freire in his book, “Pedagogy of the Oppressed” wrote that, “Education is suffering from narration sickness”. He further explained this by painting the picture of a typical teacher-student relationship. He described the teacher as a “narrative subject” and the students as “listening objects”, because the teacher’s task is to ‘fill’ the students with the contents of his narration – “contents which are detached from reality, disconnected from the totality that engendered them and could give them significance”. Narration (with the teacher as narrator) leads the students to memorize mechanically the narrated content, turning them into “containers” to be “filled” by the teacher. The more completely a teacher fills the receptacles (students), the better a teacher he/she is. The more meekly the receptacles permit themselves to be filled, the better students they are.

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Thus education becomes an act of depositing, in which the students are the depositories and the teacher is the depositor. Instead of communicating, the teacher issues a series of information (make deposit) which the students patiently receive, memorize, and repeat. Paulo Freire referred to this as the “banking” concept of education.

With the way higher institutions operate in Nigeria (typical example of the baking concept of education); very few graduate with readily marketable skills from school. Even many so-called medical students that spend seven years in school and are going to be dealing with human life afterwards are hardly competent after school; I’ve met some of them. Only a handful of students who already have glimpse of what they want to do with their future and have taken steps [like developing readily marketable skill(s)] to start securing it.

Whether you are educated or not, I think it’s safe to say that we are all just trying to get wealthy, or at least get rich. You can do this in either of two ways; you either earn money or make money. Skills acquired (if any) from school will at best earn you money most of the time, and that’s if you are lucky. While skills developed based on talents, blue collar training or professional training will make you money, if properly put into use; because these out-of-school skills are practical and readily marketable, with such skills; businesses, even companies are established.

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The goal of this piece is not to discourage you about school, but to challenge your conception about it. To make you realize that you are not in school to learn (they hardly teach anything these days), but to “learn how to learn”. School is all about acquiring a certain level of confidence and self-esteem that makes you believe anything is possible, because even if you are endowed with all these readily marketable skills I was talking about; without some level of literacy, turning those skills into profit get really hard (harder than it should be).

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One thought on “School: The Gift and The Curse

  • Olajide Ishola
    October 14, 2015 at 3:45 PM
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    This statement cannot be stressed enough “there’s a wide gap between school and the real world”. There are great things taught in school but are hardly useful in the real word. There’s one thing I have come to realize about school, it is meant for “Networking”. Make sure you build a network of talented individuals while in school, on whose talents you can leverage on later in life. In other words, skills outside of school is very important and every individual should endeavour to nurture their natural skills or acquire sought-after and valuable skills.

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