Dear African leaders, education vs schooling

Zuriel Oduwole

Hello everyone and happy new year to you all. I hope it is already a fantastic new year for you, as we slowly go towards the end of the first month of 2018. I have been away for a while from writing, because it was a very busy second half of 2017 for me. I traveled a lot, learned a lot, and also, after three years of working hard on it, I premiered my fifth film in Abuja in August 2017.

But all this experience had made me see something very differently, and that is the difference between School and Education. I had never thought of it, until the end of last year, when I was finishing a short documentary I was doing for Hilton Hotel’s CSR.

On the last day of the shoot, it was very hot, so I was resting in the shade and looking at all the children from a village in Abuja, lining up to receive some soap that was being given out. They were giggling, happy, and smiling, and I saw their parents doing the opposite, shouting and asking the children to make sure they got enough soaps.

And I thought, my classmates back in school in Los Angeles are doing their schoolwork, and are totally unaware of this line forming in this village in Abuja. Then I thought about how hot it was here, and the air-conditioned classrooms back in the schools in Los Angeles.

Right there, I knew I wouldn’t trade places with them at all. Why? Because I wouldn’t want schooling to get in the way of my education! What I was doing, and what I was seeing was teaching me much more, than what I could learn in the classroom in Los Angeles, in the Geography class, or in the History class, or even the Economics class, because here, I had to learn how to budget the little time and money I had, learn the history of how things happened and why there are many people in the village now. It’s because they came from northeast Nigeria!

As we drove out of that village, we turned onto the tarred road, and it was a different scene. School was letting out and there were many high school students who had poured onto the streets, and making their ways home I guess. They were in small groups, talking and making jokes, as they waited for buses. Then we turned and I saw a sign pointing to a University called Baze University, also in Abuja city.

Then I thought, wow, those kids in the village I saw would wish they went to a good primary school, and then one day, become the high school students I saw walking home. And those high school students, would one day hope to be in university, like perhaps Baze University, or other universities in Africa, because I think the same occurs across the continent daily.

And those students in university, where are they planning to go?

Africa today
Whenever you hear a global business introduction or an African business report on the news or in the magazines about Africa, they always say Africa is between 30 to 40% youth population, some even say higher than that. But here is the one that is even scarier. They always say things like, “the African youth population is 50% unemployed”. But there are at least 70 Universities in Nigeria, which is an average of two per state. So, how can 50 per cent of the country’s population be unemployed?

Then I went back to the project that just brought me to Abuja – shooting a documentary about Hilton Hotels CSR and how they are helping their communities across Africa.

I didn’t learn to make film at school, because in school, they teach us all the cool subjects like Maths, and Economics, and Geography, and Physics, and Chemistry, and Biology and Religious Studies, and other nice subjects. I love them, and I pass them too. But that’s the same thing they teach in Universities, except they call them fancier names like Accounting, and Sociology, Geology, and Psychology, and Business Administration.

This is what I have now learned. That the day those students from University with these nice degrees, the next day, they can’t contribute to the country’s GDP, because they don’t have the skills to do so. That’s a very, very scary situation to be in.

I think the simple solution, is for African Governments to prevent that situation happening. To do that, they have to change the school curriculum now. Instead of just fancy subjects which I think are important for some, they should add skills in schools that these students can use, when they graduate. That way, they are not just going to school, they are getting truly educated, and can add to the country’s development the first day they get out of school or university.

That’s what I think real education is – when you can use what you have learned, to make a difference to your community and in your country, immediately.

That way, the youth have a real future in the development of Africa.

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