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What is an Education? by Femi Onakanren



Education Nigeria At least 20 students have committed suicide for failing exams

By Femi Onakanren

“Nigerians love book o!” This!!! đŸ˜…

The above was a comment from one of my friends. He was reflecting on an article about Nigerians being some of the best read nationalities in the world!

I actually think it is one of our issues; we have the form without the substance.


We have a twisted perception of education (in local parlance ‘books’). I daresay only the Indians surpass us (interesting coincidence that both ethnically and culturally diverse countries were colonized by the British? I think not!).

Education is perceived as a ticket to a better life and a status symbol. This flawed, and now generic understanding of the utility of education has become a cancer eating into every fabric of our national consciousness.

We have graduates who are barely literate, are averse to logical reasoning and research, prefer social media narratives to facts, are enamored with falsehoods and narratives that belie the touted education; basically, far top many of our people, especially the younger generation, are educated Neanderthals.

Precious little of our education is focused on solving problems; our academic curriculum focuses on building and rewarding powers of recollection in favour and at the expense of powers of probity, discovery, alternative thinking, quality of questions etc.


These other powers build an innovative, progressive, value creation and problem solving knowledge transition. The single power we focus on builds grit, resilience, quick thinking, quick adaptability.

Whatsapp, Facebook and Instagram are all down

This may explain why we are more reactive than proactive to problem solving. This explains why even the simplest of problems bedeviling our nation appear as daunting as centuries old mathematical problems.

We see ‘education’ as a destination, not a lifelong adventure of continuous discovery, intrigue, insight and improvements. If the process is poorly understood, the product will invariably be defective

Perhaps it’s more apt to say “Nigerians love degrees and certificates sha”

Our entire academic structure and curriculum need radical overhaul; from the basics, at kindergarten levels to tertiary and advanced certifications.


Also, we need a culturally in-tune solution to the above mentioned structure and curriculum. The adventure of problem solving and right thinking starts with self awareness.

According to Plato’s theory of education, education’s objective is to achieve enlightened individualism, abolish incompetence, entitlement and immaturity, and establish the rule of the efficient.

Even if we are able to surmount our legacy issues (infrastructure deficit, little governance accountability, poor social amenities and security, weak and declining economy, unemployment etc.), we would still return to ground zero if the foundation of our knowledge base is structurally handicapped.

How can we achieve the much needed productivity required to move our country forward if we have this albatross hanging around our neck?


We need to integrate and celebrate the values of probity and objective curiosity. I have oft said that the quality of questions reflects quality of intelligence. We need to start, from very early, to encourage the value of sound questioning.

It is really sad that, for a highly educated nation, we are easily swayed by ethnic, religious and partisan rhetoric. These flashpoints often override the little logical reasoning we’ve acquired thus we collectively appear as a miserable case of the foolish leading the ignorant.

The good book reflects that if the foundation be broken, what can the righteous do?

There is an urgent need to redo our educational foundations otherwise, all the noise, expectations and agitations will be no more than exercises in futility.


Femi Onakanren is a Business Development, Strategy and Policy Advisory Specialist. He is a social commentator on local and global socioeconomic issues. He writes from Lagos

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