Thursday, 30 January 2014

What Matters More Than Money?

Some experiences bring greater joy than the luxury of having all the money in the world. That was the main lesson I learnt in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, a movie whose release date coincided with the Christmas Day of 2011.

A former course mate, Sewa, once opined right in front of Micom Laboratory at Ladoke Akintola University of Technology that we were all in school because we wanted to have money. It was a statement that I quickly challenged because I believe wisdom is better than money. “Sewa, I do not concur with you.” I said. “Some of us are not here because we want to have money. We are here because we want to acquire universally respected knowledge and build up wisdom through the application of such knowledge.” But Sewa explained that it was because our parents or sponsors were financially capable that we could pay tuition fees. And wasn’t Sewa right? Was it not because someone was responsible for our fees that we were in school? What can you actually do today without the defence of money? Can you get quality education or acquire relevant skills without giving something in return? Perhaps, Sewa was right in a way but wrong in another.

He was right because it is true that most people go to the university because they want to get a good job or build a great career after school. Again, the intention of getting a job is to have a means of livelihood. Now, a means of livelihood is nothing other than a source of income or what a person does to add value to the society and receive cash equivalence in return. Though it is not all those that go to school that eventually get to have money (depending of what “having money” means to each person), it is true that level of income generally tends to vary with level of education or valuable knowledge. Therefore, it is true that people actually go to school because they want to have money.

On the other hand, Sewa was wrong because he generalised. First, some people just went to school because everyone in their family was educated. For them, it was just the usual thing to do lest they become odd in their family. Second, it is not everyone that did not go to school that lacks money. Many half-educated persons have proven that skill acquisition or possession of valuable information may be more important than university knowledge. Third, if a person’s hope for getting university education is money, then the frustration of widespread unemployment could make them commit suicide after school. People have committed suicide because they could not get a job; whereas the essence of life is not to get a job but to add value.

Yet, there are other factors such as government’s decision, favourable or likable personality, inherent gifts, uncommon family or parental support, divine intervention, geographical location and technology of the day, which truly influence each person’s ability to find and use opportunities that would influence their socio-economic status.

Therefore, the point here is to understand that though education is important in the 21st century, it is equally important to possess the skills that are required and valued in societal systems. Then maybe the most important thing would be to find what you can do with your own existence on earth and discover how it relates to other people. Then, try to add value to the society from that angle as much as possible. It may involve making all the money you can make and it may not. But the supreme sign of knowing that you are doing the most important thing is a deep-rooted feeling of fulfilment in your heart; the kind that would remain even if you were brought into your last day on earth.

Monday, 20 January 2014

The Futility of Commonplace Revelation in Nigeria

Knowledge is useless if it does not solve problems or make life easier. Therefore, the cliché, “A problem that is known is already half-solved” does not sound better than an unintelligent line in the context of our beloved country, Nigeria. This may sound embarrassing but it is the truth.

It was in Nigeria that I learnt the word "UP NEPA" as a 3 year-old. I was just in primary school when I learnt the difference between a grinding machine and a power generator. Unfortunately, I learnt it by the experience of a noisy environment and not by education. I also witnessed fuel scarcity as a teenager and have had to walk when there was no other option. Yet, I was told that there are countries that do not produce Oil and do not experience fuel scarcity. Similarly, I have been hearing of leaders looting the monies of the Nigerian people since I was a child and it is a shame that I still do. But this is not my experience alone as millions of young Nigerians have shared in the experience of these commonplace challenges. May I ask our leaders whose minds are set on the events of 2015 if these legacies are going to be inherited by the next generation?

I believe that the world is not a perfect place –and if it was once perfect, it no longer is. While we remain grateful for countless blessings, it is obvious that each day comes with its own token of conflicts, crises and calamities. News and personal encounters of preventable vehicular crashes, diverse acts of unwarranted human terrorism, needless socio-political clashes, endless health issues, recurrent environmental degradation and continuous natural disasters now loom on a weekly basis. These happenings are globally shared because they are mainly caused by humanity. Even in the case of natural disasters, we are culpable because we have persistently upset the state of nature. Hence, the world, which should serve as a comfortable habitat, is taking a gradual, vengeful turn and responding to all of our undue actions with budding venom. That is why experts are struggling to salvage what is left and restore our beloved habitat to its cosy, protective and stable form. And every nation is trying to reduce the amount of imperfection that they introduce to the world.

Nonetheless, it is not encouraging that the giant of Africa seems to be making a snail’s progress. Nigeria is a country where the people know what their problems are but are unable to solve them. We know our challenges and complain about them everyday because of the sufferings that they bring.  Yet, the problems remain with us like a moulded shell; some of them just seem insurmountable for our leaders. However, it is not because the problems are too difficult to overcome that they persist. Rather, it is because men and women like you and I and everyone we both know have refused to solve them –through one means or the other, whether directly or indirectly – that they persist. We seem to understand why things are not working but cannot manage to emerge with the solutions. In cases where the remedies have been implemented, some among us have gone back to destroy them either for selfish reasons or because they do not realise that we all own these infrastructures and resources. We have had some of these problems for decades and the excuse of colonial misguidance is waxing off quickly. Our leaders know what these problems are so why can’t we all solve them?

Are we lacking the power to overcome our brand of political recklessness? Is anti-corruption too much as a price to pay? Are we unable to control ourselves and the penchant for self-aggrandizing agendas? Are we truly united? Should where a leader is originating from matter if we are truly Nigerians? Can we not truly unite and break the barriers to the realisation of a better country? Our parents have told us stories of a better yesterday that we cannot reconcile with the travails of this day. Do we have to go through such cycle again? We are praying to God to let change happen. We are seeing that change happen gradually. But we are sometimes moved to wonder if the changes we are seeing are mere mirages. By praying for a better Nigeria, we are asking God for a miracle that is possible. Yet, it will come with a price and will not happen without us.

If we will reap the seeds of change that we seek, we must sow seeds of courageous actions and corrections. We must realise our collective failure and check our motives and transform our habits. We must take responsibility for our nation and communities and homes and rebuild good ideals. That is how to overcome the futility of the commonplace revelation of problems and deliver solutions.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

What is the other worth of your education?

No matter how expensive basic education is, its purpose would be defeated if the recipient refuses or is unable to apply it to the situations existing in their immediate environment.

Sometimes, I am amazed at what I see educated people do in urban centres. By using the phrase “educated people”, I refer to those who were tutored in government-approved schools or properly homeschooled.

Ordinarily, I believe that a person who is privileged to receive quality education in Nigeria must have learnt moral instructions, social studies and health education at primary level. At secondary level, such person ought to have received applicable knowledge in physical and health education, integrated science and advanced social studies. These practicable ideals form a fundamental knowledge base which prospective and current university students are expected to have. Therefore, it is quite unfortunate, though inevitable, that people who have good education still manage to constitute negative vices in urban communities.

Here is an instance. A middle-aged man who owns an expensive car and lives within the Lekki Peninsula in Nigeria is sometimes seen buying a canned drink and sausage while driving homewards in a heavy traffic. After buying the items, he auto-winds the glass pane of the door next to him upwards and consumes the edibles. Then after eating, he automatically winds down the glass pane again and throws an empty can and a snack’s nylon on the road. His car is too neat to accommodate waste but the road and drainage should suffer for it. Now, that is an educated man. What should we say about an illiterate?

Acts of this kind are heartbreaking, especially when educated persons are the perpetrators. Yet, they are unavoidable because in every majority, there is always a minority that will deviate from the norm; even when it clearly negates the overall good. That is why laws are created to enforce order, deliver justice and promote sanity in all societies. Some don’t even do such things intentionally but they do them unconsciously. So, if some educated persons are likely to act like illiterates in the society, what then should education do to its recipient?

#1) Education should empower its recipients
Even in its raw form, education has the power to improve the thinking ability of any man who is human enough to listen, practise and understand what he or she is taught. For instance, it is possible to learn Algebra in Yoruba language because its focus is on reasoning skills and not on language.

#2) Education should inform the recipient
Since it is not everything that a student learns in school that is applicable to his career, it is permissible to state that education also informs the recipient. When I was having my undergraduate studies, I observed that the university curriculum was structured such that all the students took courses in Fine Arts, General Studies, Computer Programming and Use of Library in addition to subjects in general science. So, whether a student belonged to the Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Pure and Applied Sciences, Health and Medical Sciences or Agricultural Sciences, the course offerings were almost the same in the first year. This implies that though a student was not going to be awarded a degree in more than one field (since joint degrees were unavailable), he would only be informed about other courses and is expected to see how he can relate them to his career.

#3) Education should liberate the recipient
The expected end result of education is that, having instilled and tested the knowledge and reasoning skills of its recipient, the individual combines both aspects mentally, imbibes them behaviourally and becomes useful to the society. Therefore, the recipient should be able to understand, question and refine the interdependencies between norms, values and culture as they relate to the betterment of humanity. Consequently, an educated person is expected to be free from the slavery of illiteracy.

Now, I think that the first worth of education is how much value it is capable of adding to its recipient. That is, the extent to which education empowers and informs and liberates the recipient. However, once education has been received, another worth emerges and this is the secondary worth of education. The secondary worth of a person’s education is the effect it has on the lives of people who are surrounded by the recipient. This has an equally powerful effect on the society.

So, next time you are about to do something that would affect your immediate environment, please ask yourself, “What is the worth of my education?” and prove to us that it has a secondary value.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Five Things You Should Do in Year Twenty-Fourteen

The only things that will change about the New Year are dependent on the true changes that people make. Change is a constant variable and sometimes, it depends on all of us.

Try New Perspectives
If you are used to doing things in a particular way, find new ways of doing them. That’s one lesson I learnt while watching Ben Affleck’s awesome movie titled Argo. Read books, even on issues that you think you know enough about, and you will be amazed at what you do not know. Ask honest and responsible people for ideas and if you find them realistic within the context of your values and standards, try them out. Welcome positive change and things will become new automatically.

Evaluate Your Relationships
It is true that you do not need all the keys in the world to open a door; all you need is the right key.  Hanging out with the wrong people will not move you forward but meeting the right people could do so. You need to evaluate your relationships and open your eyes to the effects of your friendships. This will help you realise where you have unduly slacked and where you actually need to be relaxed. Make appropriate changes as you find them needful; and as much as depends on you, attempt to be at peace with all men.

Bring the Game On
Pick up a new hobby or sport or return to an unknowingly abandoned one. Sometimes, learning a new game or sport could help fine-tune your thoughts and returning to an old one would make your heart merry. Whichever one you choose, the aim is to make your leisure exciting. So, get your gear on and bring the game on.

Be Grateful for the Present
If you are married, write a comprehensive “Thank You” letter to your spouse for all the good things he or she did for you last year. If you are single, appreciate your friends, colleagues and perhaps, your partner. If you are a student, appreciate your parents and teachers for their support. Thank the people who you clearly know have impacted your life positively. Also, be grateful to yourself for pursuing the goals that you set last year. Above all, be grateful to God for giving you a fresh opportunity to make amendments where necessary this year.

Do the Dew
Taking conscious steps in search of the unconscious manifestation of divine blessings is what I refer to as “doing the dew”. To perform this you need to set new goals or tweak and reinvent pending ones. Find desired opportunities. Make the right connections. Pray as though nothing depends on you and work as though everything depends on you. Have faith and try the impossible. Handle your failures with humour. Learn how to constantly generate optimism. And, find other honest means of doing the dew.

So, what are you waiting for?

On your self-drawn mark, get the resources set and go for your goals.

Wishing you a marvellous year,

Ayodeji Morakinyo