The Other Kind of Genius

If there is anything too often said in the discussion about our schooling systems, it is usually about the neglect of public schools by the federal government or the lack of funding or welfare to their teachers. That is an obvious problem, too often discussed and seldom addressed.

Having attended school here, my major concern with the system in Nigeria is the direction of focus by our teachers and school authorities. Our society seems to be more focused around the end goal than the process.

“Does he have two heads?”

Every Nigerian child is familiar with this question, one of the many favorites of an overbearing parent. They come up with speeches about how everybody was assigned the same level of intelligence and there should be no reason why you can’t get all A’s. Forget that everybody has interests and abilities; that some kids are passionate about science and numbers, others geography. Nigerian educators forget in all their everyday practices that we have all been assigned individual talents. No matter how much we might like it to be otherwise, everybody is not meant for school, especially not to get A’s in every subject taught.

Education is a luxury in this part of the world, but is it possible that in taking it so seriously, we have completely lost focus? You shouldn’t need to get A’s in every subject because you can’t be good at everything. In fact, common sense dictates that everybody cannot be more than an ‘average student’. As a student, I was a bit more enthusiastic about activities that had nothing to do with school; I knew what I wanted to do and it did not help to be compelled otherwise.

Sadly, schools in Nigeria, especially secondary schools [where adolescent minds should be exploring interests in their formative years] are a bit one sided.

The system tends to neglect activities pertaining to the arts. Even when they do let students join art classes, they don’t take it half as seriously as they would with science or any of the ‘serious subjects’. We hardly hear about inter-state competitions promoting culture and the arts, and if you do it is barely recognized or even appreciated. A child winning awards for math is automatically a genius but how about giving our kids some credit for their interest in art, music, dance, and fashion?

How about creating opportunities for the other percentage that isn’t your regular kind of ‘genius’?

That is a question I believe needs to be addressed. Currently, there is hardly any concern for it even though our artists and creatives are now among our biggest human resource exports. Our educational system is obsessed with making sure students get exclusive grades in WAEC and JAMB, without even having the structure to ensure that all these students get into a university afterward. For those that do go to university here, it’s almost never worth it. More of our youth are leaving the country by the numbers because the system does not support them. Perhaps it is illogical anyway, to expect the youth of a country to sacrifice for a home that has failed to offer them even this most basic support.

In the course of writing this article, I reached out to a few friends for insight on what their own quarrels were with this system we had all been educated in:

A lot of them said they would have loved to be allowed to study what they understand and know best;

You can take the horse to the stream but you can’t force it to drink water.

They also pointed out the teacher’s attitude and overall enthusiasm for imparting knowledge in kids,

Actually educate, get teachers who love what they do, as opposed to teachers who see it as a last option”.

In their defense, teachers face an enormous amount of neglect by government and society, which makes no sense because they serve a huge role in the development of said society.

Practical education is also lacking to a large degree, even in universities. Titi says;

“I could tell you step by step how ethanol is produced but I’ve never actually seen it”

They gave examples of core areas that are neglected as regards practical education. Show and teach the kids how to pay their taxes, how to write a CV or form a critical knowledgeable option.

“if we are going to offer Computer as a subject, show us on an actual computer, don’t narrate with words only.”

As for Cosmas;

“hell I know all what I know from personal reading, so I can as well say I didn’t need college education”

I related so well to this that I started to wonder if I hadn’t wasted one too many years myself. Then there’s the issue of our over exaggerated exam culture and the irrelevance of the tests to real life. Titi also thinks that the schools need to quit the divide of teaching from young, formative classes – for example, the premature distinction into tech, science, and art classes.

“human personalities are too complex, it’s ridiculous to try and divide them like this”

Some people brought up corporal punishment; a very personal pain point of mine, having gone through a Catholic secondary school where I had to cut my hair every term for six years. As if the appearance of my hair had anything at all to do with the way in which I would learn.

Having said all of this, it is hardly enough to point out that all of these problems exist without at least trying to discuss likely solutions or alternatives. To state the obvious, we all need to collectively place more importance on the profession of teaching.

But besides the usual training in the art of the craft, psychology, child counseling and empathy must also be put into perspective. There is a large gap where ignorance dwells even among the educators about social issues like mental health, inclusivity and sexual education outside the confines of religion. Then, of course, valuable life skills including the use of modern technologies are a must-have in this digital world.

As a continent, we are still not paying as much collective attention to this as we need to. It’s upsetting to think that I am 18 years old and I have never experienced good governance. This is my home but it’s not what home is supposed to feel like. They say change lies in the youth but we will have to wait for a long while before taking charge; we cannot do much from a place of ignorance.

Adaobi Ajegbo

Journalist and entrepreneur. there's not much to me honestly, I love money and I love to write x.

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