Give us the chance to dream big again!
“Education is life itself rather than a mere preparation for life.” J.W. Norman
“Give us the chance to dream again!” This is a clarion call I make to all current African Governments and even more so to that of my country Cameroon. When we all were kids, we harbored and cherished the thoughts of being great men and women in future. Little did we know, that as young Africans, the path to our beloved dreams would be wearisome and full of obstacles of all sorts. I think some of these hurdles that stand in our way are common to all societies (like lack of finances to pay for education ), be they in the developed world or not. But sad to say, the toughness and severity of these challenges are particularly higher in African countries. For example, though there are numerous academic establishments in most African societies, a good number of those who complete their education are not leveraging their full potential, and worse still, unemployment has become a commonplace. More often than not, we can trace the cause of this issue back to our incompetent education systems.
We need to revamp our education systems. Though the age of rote learning is now history in developed countries, it is presently a stark reality in most African countries. Albert Einstein once said : “A society’s competitive advantage will not come from how well its schools teach the periodic and multiplication tables, but from how well they stimulate imagination and creativity.” Most of the the technological inventions we enjoy nowadays were inspired by individuals who tried to satisfy their curiosity, whose desires to push the current boundaries of knowledge were rewarded with fresh insight on the unknown workings of our world. We need to put in place an education system that trains people how to think critically, one that will promote problem-solving skills — which are all the more necessary in today’s world of overwhelming complexity — and provide a conducive atmosphere for individuals to question the status quo. Rote learning isn’t entirely bad; it helps us get a good mastery of foundational knowledge. This fact is enunciated by the age-old proverb : “Repetition is the mother of all learning”. What we should guard against is the act of making mindless memorisation the alpha and omega of the training and evaluation of individuals in our academic institutions, as it will lead us to nowhere in this day and age.
I have experienced first-hand what studying in a poorly developed university system can be like. I spent two years in an engineering school in my home country Cameroon. During those years, I used up almost all of my time memorizing equations and theorems, instead of getting hands-on practical training — that usually makes one to savor the excitement that comes with being in such an institution. Though I was in an Engineering school, I was no different from a Mathematician than I was from a Physicist. I often pondered if I would deserve to be called an Engineer at the end of my studies, given that the technical aspects of my training were downgraded as opposed to the conceptual ones. By the end of my two-year study period, I had nothing to show for other than the ability to memorize lots of information at a go. From the look of things, I came to realize the enormous potency poor educational systems have to slowdown the progress of our African economies. As was the case with my aforementioned Engineering studies, half-baked training of individuals usually results in graduates who lack a sense of innovation and dynamism, thus giving rise to an amateurish workforce and a stagnant economy. According to a recent United Nations report, it is estimated that by 2050 there will be about 2 billion people living on the African continent. African countries are therefore in dire need of restructuring their systems of general and vocational training, so as to produce graduates that are capable of using their expertise and problem-solving abilities to address the financial and economic needs of the ever-growing population.
Thankfully, I did not complete my studies in the above-stated Engineering school. I moved to another university, this time in the UK, to study Computer Science. So far, I have found my studies very comfortable (though seldom challenging), I love my Professors and I am amazed at the sheer number of student support facilities available at my current university. Everything I now learn is geared towards problem-solving and real-world applications. Although I am pleased with how well my education is going, I sometimes cannot withhold my thoughts from wondering about the state of affairs back home; occasionally, though, I find relief in knowing that some countries like Ghana and Rwanda are making impressive strides in the remodeling of their education systems, and that entrepreneurial thinking is on the rise among African youths. To end my discourse, I pose the following questions: Must we emigrate from our home countries in order to receive sound academic instruction? Can our present African leaders give reason a chance? Is it not time they woke up from slumber? For how long should we keep on waiting for change? Shouldn’t the innocent African children of today be given the chance and space to nurture their God-given talents in order to fulfill their dreams and contribute to the improvement of the livelihood of our existing societies? The answers are blowing in the wind.