Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Education? Not such a bad idea.

Every young boy's dream was to run away from school, come up with an innovation and become as rich as Bill Gates, it was basically supposed to be a “rugs to riches story.” But now that I’m older, I realize those were all childish fantasies. In my family I am the youngest, my father has a P.H.D, mother a masters, the two older sibling masters as well and my other brother, he is just a genius. So naturally, as the youngest, I had to value education from the time I was little. My view of education was; sit in class, do the exams and get it over with. I had never realized that my success was Dependant on my education until I came to university and met Suzie (her real name withheld)

Suzie is the lady that comes to my hostel every Saturday morning looking for clothes to wash for money. She speaks quite good English and it's easy to tell that she must have gotten the best education money could offer. In one hand there is her bag and the other a baby who looks malnourished. However hard I try to tell her off, the baby always makes me think otherwise. She diligently works away until midday when she takes a break under the huge mango tree. She will breast feed her child as she nibbles on a maize comb.
Looking at her from my bedroom window, I start asking myself what might have gone wrong in her life and why she ended up like this; working at a job that pays a lousy salary. Her hands reveal she has washed a great hip of clothes in her life time.

I offered her a cup of tea one Saturday and asked her to tell me about her life story. She had a great child hood, got a good education until senior four when she got pregnant, dropped out of school and her life pretty much went downhill after wards. At a certain point in the story, she began crying and that made me feel almost guilty for having asked in the first place. Her eyes were filled with regret and anguish. At that particular moment, time froze. I started reflecting back on my own life.

There are many people like Suzie, their life's journey has been different but somehow ended up the same. Some dropped out of school because they wanted to, others it wasn't their choice and for some it was their careless choices. Most students sight examples of rich people who went to school and think they will have the same lack as them yet there are hundreds of people I can mention that live a horrible life because they didn't value their education.

Education is not just for financial success. Even when you have all the money in the world, you are bound to feel slightly inferior when seated in a room with intellectuals. Education is a big achievement and thus people with degrees and masters have a right to walk with their heads up high. Salim Saleh, an icon in Uganda went back to school after the war was over. True he had the money, respect and a job but it still wasn’t the same. I bet the guilt he got from knowing he was not learnt might have forced him to go back.

Employers these days prefer to employ people who are well learned because, at a sub conscious level, it’s believed that people who are learnt are more intelligent, can rationalize things better and produce better work. Skill needs to be accompanied with education. One of the world’s most famous film director, Steven Spielberg went back to school even after he had made a name for himself and produced work that educated people in his field couldn’t.

It’s true that getting the best of education might not guarantee your success, but life will be a whole lot easier. The amount of effort a non educated person has to invest in order to earn a living is not the same as a well learnt person. Opportunities easily come their way.

After having a conversation with Suzie, I realized that without education, the rise to success is most likely very steep. Every Saturday when I see her, I get a renewed sense of determination because I want to have a better future. It makes me think of all the things in my life that derail me from my journey and decide to do away with them. Like in the words of Jim Elliot, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”

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