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THOUGHTS ON OUR EDUCATIONAL SYSTEM

 

One of the problems we face in Africa today is that of our educational system. The problem I like to elaborate on here is not necessarily the conditions of the schools or the lack of adequate educational infrastructure, even though a discussion on these items deserves a merit of its own. The problem I like to discuss here is that of the content of what we learn on these benches, the perception and the intended use of the knowledge that we acquire, and the mindset we adopt long after leaving school.

 

A French philosopher once said: “ Knowledge is only useful when it serves a purpose to mankind”. Perhaps this simple quote sums up the perspective that I wish to highlight on the educational system in sub-Saharian Africa today. The very essence of the acquisition of knowledge should be that of the advancement of the cause of mankind. Acquired knowledge must end up having some kind of positive or progressive impact to peoples live. Knowledge should not be sought with the intention, --conscious or not-- to undermine or diminish humanity in anyway. The very essence, the very purpose of any knowledge ever acquired should be to bring about some improvement --regardless how insignificant--, some leverage of some sort to the human condition.

 

I have written a lot on the topics of spirituality on this site. That is because I still hold the belief that basic spirituality is what truly aligns the human perception of its existence to the essence of creation, and the requirements of us to the creator. I have mentioned that spirituality is not the same thing as religion. You need not be a Christian, a Muslim or a Jew to be spiritual. Spirituality refers to the immaterial reality that enables a person to discover the very essence of his or her being, the knowledge of self. --which is also really the knowledge of God or the Creator--. Spirituality sets the premise that you are first and foremost a spiritual being. There is no knowledge nor wisdom in the universe that transcends this elemental principle. All the things you may learn, study, acquire on the surface of the earth will serve you very little if you have not reconciled your being with this basic principle. The principle of the knowledge of self, which inevitably leads to the understanding of the perception of the Creator’s will. The knowledge of Self and that of the divine being inextricably linked.

 

 

It’s generally agreed that the purpose of creation is the advancement of mankind. And all the different theories of evolution do not contradict this hypothesis. If you still have doubts about this statement, take a minute and look around you. The sun and the moon work to give light to the earth –during the day and night respectively-- and help sustain life. Modern science has asserted – rather demonstrably--that life on earth, as we know it would not be possible without the sun or the moon. The trees and the vegetation work to cool and purify the air of the earth and make life more harmonious to all. It is generally accepted that everything on earth and in the universe has a functional role that trends to create and sustain life not just of man but for other entities in the universe. The forces of nature generally work to promote life and not to diminish it. –We can argue the cases of hurricanes, tsunami, earth quakes in another debate –. But let’s grant that for the most part, these forces fundamentally work to promote life. They work to enhance creation. The cells of your own body, when healthy work together to give life to the body. They fight germs, they repair damage tissues, they reproduce, all of this with the ultimate goal to keep the body healthier, to sustain and improve its condition.

Whether you believe in God or not, whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, Atheist or Allotheist, this empirical evidence is undeniable. Considering the fact we are part nature and creation, our role on earth must fit within this grand scheme of things. If we agree on this premise, then we arrive at the conclusion that the purpose of our own existence is most probably no different from that of the sun, the moon, the trees, the cells --just to name a few--. Which is that of maintaining, promoting and uplifting life in all of its shapes and forms.

The very impulse to uplift life is observably built into the core of our being, it’s wired into the basic instincts of our nature. We are somehow genetically engineered to do these things instinctively. That’s what compels you to go to the rescue of someone who is in danger. That’s the impulse that drives you to feel compassionate for someone in need or in trouble. We are designed at the core of our being to operate on this assumption without pausing for reflection—until our Ego gets on the way—

The outcomes of our educational system in Africa does not seem to bear the above premise. I like to argue that we must do more to instill into our children, the necessity and the urgency to comprehend and reconcile these fundamental principles of creation. Our educational system must thrive to align its goals with that of creation, ---lest we are doom to failure and self destruction--. The purpose for every knowledge or skills ever acquired should be to enhance life. This is the very essence of our existence. This is the purpose for which we were created. Our knowledge must be used to the benefit of the collective. It must be put to the goal to leverage man’s ability to go about his daily business. This is in part what we see in display in modern societies today. Cars are manufactured --in part--to help people move from one place to another. Planes are designed and built to carry us from one continent to another. Cell phones and the internet were invented to ease communication among people. Modern medicine researches new treatments and drugs to cure or treat ailments and prolong life. The architects, the engineers, the teachers, the firefighters, the policemen, the researchers, the pastors and people of all works of life, all go about their daily lives helping to make life better for all.

It would be prejudice to assert that some Africans don’t do some or all of these things at their level. It will be biased not to take into consideration the lack of adequate infrastructures in third world countries, the level of poverty and other factors that impede on their abilities and willingness to do some of these things. I am mindful and cautious to the obliqueness of such a generalized statement to an entire group of people. Because the fact of the matter is that some and perhaps most Africans do these things to some degree.

However, we must admit that a good portion of our people don’t see the world through this prism. How do we explain that a high government official in Cameroon, with a PhD or a Masters degree will steal huge sum of money and ship it to a foreign bank account, knowing very well that the money is intended to improve on some public infrastructure, to build some hospital or make some public utility available to the very people he is supposed to serve. How do we explain the pervasive and rampant corruption engineered and perpetuated by the very learned people at the top of our Governments ? What is it that has corrupted the mind of these people to the extent that we see in many sub-Saharian African countries today ? What is the reason of the excessive compromised integrity of these people as we have witnessed in recent past ? I grant the argument that there is some corruption in modern societies too. But it’s nothing compared to what we have witnessed in Africa. And let’s face it, this argument becomes self indicting given that the comparison does not bear us favor. The pervasiveness and impunity of corruption, abuse of power, disrespect for the rule of law is puzzling. And I am not being histrionic by any means.

The widespread behavior of corruption or complicit silence to denounce it leaves me no option but to call out for the re-examination of our educational system. There must be a link between the wide spread of compromised integrity and the educational system. There is got to be something that we can correct in these institutions that dispense knowledge: the very first place we go to acquire knowledge outside of home.

The people whose moral character and honesty have been compromised to this extent, must have attained a state of mind where, egotism and egocentrism must have suppressed the very natural basic instincts of their humanity. Without any knowledge of Self, the knowledge you acquire becomes a trophe to selfishness and self aggrandizement. Without knowledge of the Creator, Man’s intention to acquire knowledge, dangerously trends to oppress and to enslave his fellow man. The unintended consequence of this poorly designed educational system is now working against the very objective for which education was intended. The outcomes have become a self inflicting plight to society and our people have become a hostage, a casualty or unilateral damage of our own making. These failed outcomes have become the culprit of the society, an unintended consequence of a failed educational system, where the knowledge acquired does not serve society, but rather intended to diminish and enslave our people.

Now the very people with compromised moral character of today may very well be the leaders of tomorrow. What should we then expect from them ? Are they going to suddenly become philanthropic because they have now been given more powers ? This would be wishful thinking. “As a man thinketh , so he is”. Becoming a minister or a president will only exacerbate the ego-centrism and the self-centeredness of the corrupt mind. In fact, the promotion truly becomes a justification and reward to compromised integrity, corruption and bad behavior. This is how a poorly designed system unintentionally incentivizes bad societal conducts. In the absence of personal responsibility, accountability and the rule of law, the system –knowingly or not-- rewards the compromised and the corrupt. That's how society, over the course of time, unconsciously --or unconscientiously-- normalizes and accepts immoral societal conduct. In other words, corruption, compromised integrity and other –otherwise—unacceptable conducts become mainstreamed and tolerated behavior. That's seems to be where we are today in many of these sub-Saharian African countries.

This is how we wind up with people like Bokassa, Idi Amin, Samuel Doe at the very head of these African countries. --“The people deserve the leaders they have”.-- In the sense that these leaders are born, live, grow and school amongst us. They are one of us. They are a reflection of our society, they are us in some ways. They are the fruits of our educational system, they are the sons and daughters of our land, they are the products of our loins, they are the creation of our society. They are the sum of our measure in the evolutionary scale of mankind. They are truly in many ways who we really are as a people.

While good behavior and good judgment can’t be legislated, it can be incentivized and rewarded. While we can’t legislate how someone decides to use their knowledge and experience, the system must have built in accountability principles that trends to promote acceptable outcomes while marginalizing moral perversion and corruption. The system must have built in intelligent principles such as personal responsibility and accountability, that discourage and punish bad behavior. Personal responsibilty and accountability are the psychological deterrents to corruption, compromised integrity and other vices that undermine our society. They are the dissuasive mental factor that compels and dictates good behavior in the human mind. They are the persuasive elements that remind man of his obligation to respect the law and the dignity of his fellow man and keeping his own ego in check. Personal responsibility and accountabilty are the cornerstones to the fight against corruption, misuse and abuse of Power. The fear for the iron fist of the rule of law and justice will compel man do it right by society.

The dispensation of knowledge must be guided by the basic fundamental law of creation. The law that sums up all the other laws as captured in the holy scriptures “Love one another”. Meaning among other things, that we should put whatever knowledge and wisdom we acquire to the service of man. We must seek to institute an educational system in which the knowledge it dispenses does not work against the very system it seeks to protect and improve. Knowledge must be used to create and not destroy, to sustain and not diminish life, to strengthen the and not weaken the proverbial neighbor. To this essence, we were created. It must be what creation requires of us. Is it not ?

 

Personal responsibility and accountabilty are the cornerstones to the fight against corruption, misuse and abuse of Power. The fear for the iron fist of the rule of law and justice will compel man do it right by society. – ANST

 

"Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters." –Benjamin Franklyn.

 

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