It’s been wow over here at the University of Nigeria; the length and breadth of the University community is agog with the pomp that goes with every years week-long convocation. As it were, aside the fun derivable from convocation activities such as night of music, night of awards, convocation lecture, drama night, and VC’s cocktail, graduands and their family and friends are usually in high spirits. Of course, the rationale for this high spirits leans against the backdrop that a ‘successful graduation’ is a great achievement in this part of the world where ‘schooling’ is more important than ‘education’.
This piece is informed by my active participation in the ongoing UNN’s 45th convocation ceremony; I’d graduated on its 43rd in 2014. From Wednesday until now, I’ve been seeing many graduands, reported to be numbering 13,554, move around campus with heads held high to showcase the no-small-measure of achievement graduating is, and more so from UNN. What usually strikes me at the sight of this boisterous showcase is: what if they knew?
Truth be told, in more ways than I can say, I love UNN – beyond words. This love is not so much about the Pride of the Den, which every alumnus of my alma mater proudly identifies with, as it is about my personal and peculiar experiences there: the people I met, the things I did, and, especially, the realizations that dawned on me. I’d met too many people of both fraternal and strategic relevance, and I’d done quite a number of things that orchestrated my self-discovery and got me prepared for ‘the future that lies before me’. As per the realizations, I like every Nigerian graduate to pay attention to the following facts:
1. You may now begin… Graduation is important, but not so special. The first mistake is to think that there’s anything so special about graduating from an institution of higher learning. To say the least, graduation is akin to acquiring a travel visa. Having done so, now begin the journey. Let the euphoria of convocation not even cross your mind the morning after. Simply just begin the rest of your life!
2. You’re already disadvantaged… By schooling in, and graduating from, a third world higher institution, one is already assumed to be lacking in thorough and meaningful schooling. The reasons for this assumption are legion: senseless strike actions by the various and varied unions, poor commitment on the part of the administration and lecturers, poor infrastructure, inadequate research and other facilities, etc. And so, one cannot really be said to be capable of global competitiveness. Of course, only with the exception of students who were passionately and personally committed to excellence; those who went the ‘extra mile’. Little wonder they say we’ve more of half-baked and unemployable graduates.
3. Schooling is not education… Formal schools were not there from Adam. Schools only came in as one of the ways to realize education; an arrangement for the impartment of education. It is not education itself. And there are a number of criteria to be met for a school to be true to that name. Anyway, just bear in mind that education is a lifelong journey, while school is a brief trip. And never confuse the fact of having been ‘schooled’ for being ‘educated’. Yes, school gives us only the necessary grounding with which to embark upon the lifelong voyage of education.
4. The system has always been a conspiracy of the rich… Rich Dad Poor Dad’s Robert Kiyosaki always contends that the entire educational system is a conspiracy of the rich. His main argument revolves around the fact that the one single thing that can make or mar any human being is never taught in school: financial literacy. Of course, common sense reveals that everything we do on the planet run the gamut from making, spending, saving, investing, to even wasting money. The omission of financial literacy from the curriculum is not accidental; the system goals to produce docile cows ready for milking. So, your financial literacy, the ability to read the numbers, is your responsibility.
5. Times have changed… Now, more than ever, a certificate from an institution of higher learning isn’t a conditio sine qua non for success. No. The No. 1 requirement for success now is alignment to change. Everything has changed and continues to change. The one who adapts to change, schooled or not, is the one!
6. Ideas reign supreme… It’s all about ideas. Start thinking.
7. The government can’t offer much… Even the government itself is in trouble, how much help do you expect from it? The economic realities of the moment are forcing the government to ignore some of her pristine duties. They make promises they can’t fulfill; they lie. And you will be doing yourself a favour by ignoring the government and taking your destiny in your own hands.
8. There is hope… In the very dear words of Martin Luther King Jr., “I say to you today my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment…” The situation is as pitiable as the challenges are dire. However, we, Nigerians, are experts at braving the odds and hewing a stone of hope from the mountain of despair. Get to work!