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Saturday, October 01, 2016

Programmed to be Stupid.

Written by: Olakunle Allison


Yes, I was.

All my life I went to public schools. Public schools in Nigeria had a pride of place in the 70s, I learnt. You'd get to the 80s (particularly late 80s) and a steady decline began to set in.

One thing I noticed about my public school education in Nigeria was the extremely non-practical, textbook-based nature of classes. Even practical experiments were done on the blackboard!!! My mind struggled to keep up. Every other thing remained vague. The teachers could not be bothered. 

But I hadn't need to worry. Just make sure you can reproduce enough of the garbage and move up the ladder.
The emphasis was on passing. It was not on Knowing. Hence, cramming came in handy.

Early enough, we were subconsciously taught that promotion was more important than cognition. It was our delight, I recall, to tell folks, 'I am now in Primary 5' or 'I am now in Senior Secondary School 1'. We drooled over such feats. For us, that was education. I'm talking about promotion.
I didn't know at the time that I was in a balloon that would soon explode in my face. Many of my colleagues too.

Then I grew older and things changed!

I could not guide a stranger to a known destination using kilometres/metres, and I couldn't tell the East from the South from my standpoint. 
Rather, I'd say things like; 'move a bit forward' and then 'turn to your right', 'turn to your left' and 'when you get to the 'junction' (instead of 'juncture') or 'when you get to a bend' or 'the next street to your right'. In most cases I was actually doing both of us a favour because any other method would have gotten the stranger lost. He or she too was groomed by the same mediocre system.

When the sun was high up, I only knew "hot" and later "scorching", until recently (early 2015 to be precise) when I met a 6-7 year old girl who schooled in England telling her father that the sun was so and so degrees. 
What?!!! Even with my Law Degree I felt so dumb at that moment that I almost cursed my teachers. 

Without looking at any thermometer, this juvenile mind could tell the exact temperature of the sun from its intensity! At least she could attempt an educated guess.

As if she was determined to further embarrass me and throw me into a sea of depression, this beautiful UK-trained girl was predicting the position of the Earth's Equator at that time. Huh? 
Equator what? 

Guys, I immediately consulted the Google 'oracle' for the meaning of "equator" and where it is on the planet. I have heard the word a few times but it didn't matter much to me until that day.

That day, I suddenly woke up to the difference between being 'certified' and being 'educated'. Most Nigerians, 90% (to be conservative) are merely certified ignoramuses. I mean no disrespect. It is the simple truth. It's really not our fault perse. We were simply programmed to be stupid.

This may strike a wrong note in most Nigerians but if we must be honest with ourselves, the system failed all of us. If you've ever met any intelligent Nigerian who schooled in Nigeria from A to Z (especially in our Public Schools since the late 80s), he or she is most likely a product of Self-Training. 

These are the few lucky ones who discovered early that the educational system was a sham, a counterfeit and quickly adopted a self-imposed western curricula. Something shifted in their paradigm towards education.

Someone like me started late on that path, but I started. But not until I had being called to the Nigerian Bar. I began to reeducate myself. If you think you are smart but all your competitions schooled in Nigeria, trust me when I say that you are a LOCAL CHAMPION!

If you can hold a meaningful conversation with anyone who had his/her entire education up till graduate level in the UK for 30 minutes, then you have made significant cognitive leaps. But given our current educational modus operandi, I challenge you to try it. You'd hate yourself. And then you'd hate all your teachers who did nothing but held canes in a menacing fashion, threatening fire and brimstone against noisemakers.

Nigeria is not ready for competitiveness in the global space. Not until we fix where we mould minds. Presently, I don't see much happening in that department. Rather, youngsters are being programmed to be stupid, like I was.

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