BY OKEY UZOECHINA
The ultimate goal of education in our immediate society stretches beyond imbuing scholars with literacy or arithmetic skills, towards attaining capacity building which then engenders national and global growth in ways that yield sustainable results.
There’s no doubt that education is at the core of any nation’s development. It enables us to apply creative methods learned while engaging with real-life problems in a bid to create a better future for humanity in the long run.
Sadly, the model of education in many African countries, which is based on the 3Rs (Reading, Writing and Arithmetic) is outdated. In fact, we have been doing it the wrong way for decades.
While this tripartite model had served its purpose during the industrial era which required routine production and replication, education in the information age requires us to aspire to be more than human-robots. In this era, creative problem-solving trumps routine and replication.
Education equals development in this era. And, interestingly, the developmental model of education begins with the mind. Only “developed” minds can build a united nation, strong institutions, adaptive and enduring infrastructure, supportive and sustainable environment, a solid national economy, and political culture rightly hinged on the people’s needs and priorities.
Developed minds weave the knowledge, skills, capacity, ability, attitude, and initiative to solve their own problems. It’s akin to empowerment and self-determination. What, then, is wrong with our model of education? Why has lasting development eluded African countries for decades? What can we do differently to get better results? Who should be involved in this new approach to education?
THE REALITY CHECK
One of the core problems of Africa’s development is the mental trap, a midset conditioned and reinforced by our attitudes, environment, and lived reality every day, so the cycle of entrapment continues on autopilot. Mental traps aren’t imaginary; they’re real and tangible like a brick wall.
The mind is the wellspring of imagination and creation. What you think affects what you are, who you are, how you are, and everything around you. Think it this way: development at any level involves envisioning a better future, a better outcome or a better way of doing things, setting clear goals to shift into the better dimension, and working towards attaining those goals.
Now, compare this to our current reality: the social, cultural, economic, legal, policy and political environment in most African countries are unfriendly to innovation and future-based planning. Most people are still caught in the trap of survival.
In the hierarchy of needs, humans must first satisfy the basic needs of food, shelter, and clothing to open up higher levels of need which include envisioning a better future and working towards attaining goals. Yes, we must feed but we can’t stop there at the stagnation and even retrogression.
On a macro level, investments in experimental methods or research and development which are essential to large scale problem-solving are often seen as not addressing the clear and present concern of basic survival.
To make matters worse, unresponsive governments, outdated policies and tardy administrative processes often constitute stumbling blocks instead of being catalysts and enablers of human and national development. Potential Microsofts, Amazons, and Apples on the African continent get stifled before they get to see the light of day!
Mental trap: Malaria is a major problem in Africa, a major killer-disease. Our default solution? Nigeria imports antimalarial drugs from China, India, Malaysia, and other Asian countries instead of developing homegrown remedies and even exporting our own solutions to the world.
Nigeria is rich in natural resources and produces crude oil in commercial quantities. But her dysfunctional refineries have had the country exporting crude, importing refined fuel at higher prices, and penalizing her lack of creative problem-solving ability by subsidizing fuel price.
Africa has the potential to generate solutions that will outrun her problems. However, to attain this potential will involve breaking the mental trap to envisioning a better future, setting clear goals, and then working smartly and assiduously every day towards attaining those goals.
It’s not about a national development plan which regularizes and perpetuates the usual way of doing things. It will involve aiming beyond routine efficiency and making a quantum leap from unhelpful and self-destructive attitudes, inefficient methods, and dysfunctional systems to creating a culture of problem-solving and change-making.
Change begins in the mind; the rest is technical details. This is why we must enthrone a new model of education that enables a mind-shift at the most elemental and basic level. We must shift our consciousness into higher frequencies of possibility and thereby create a new reality.
For Africa to become a global force to reckon with, there must be a massive shift in orientation and consciousness towards creativity and innovation, homegrown solutions, and capacity building to create a better world for us and posterity. We all know this, right? Yet, for decades we’ve been unable to break the mental trap!
Mental trap is like a cobweb to a housefly, almost ethereal and hard to grasp, hard to crawl out of when you’re stuck in it. The harder you struggle, the more entangled you get. The untangling process is less a physical act of struggle and more a mental act of shifting perspective or frequency.
Mental trap is the bane of Africa’s development. Educating the mind to enable a shift is the most essential element in unlocking our development. Politics, ethnicity, and religion will not solve our problems. Educating the mind is our only hope, our map, and the compass to the future.
The rest will fall into place. Educating the mind is everyone’s business. It’s not the sole responsibility of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Information or the National Orientation Agency. We’re all stakeholders.
Individuals, parents, teachers, families, schools, peer groups, social enterprises, the media, social media, communities of influence, governments at all levels, the 3Ps: the public sector, the private sector, and the people sector should all have their hands on deck.
A BETTER WAY?
Our approach to Africa’s development has been skewed for decades. Yet we wonder why fancy developmental plans, strategies, initiatives, projects, and programmes have not yielded lasting results for most parts. I know this from experience.
I’ve had over a decade’s experience in the development sector working with various national governments, intergovernmental and international organisations, non-governmental organisations, donors and development partners, think tanks, the private sector, and citizens across the continent and beyond.
Our general approach to development has been heavily weighted in favour of two connected strands:
- Aiding or supporting development, which involves donors and/or development partners supporting governments based on the assumption that governments are legitimate expressions, extensions or representations of the people.
- Grafting or interposing development, which involves undertaking interventions and initiatives designed to jumpstart development based on models that have been developed and tested in other regions of the world.
These are useful in some cases but they shouldn’t be the foundation or the starting point of development. A more effective approach, however, is:
- Enabling development, which involves creating an enabling environment for the people to undertake homegrown development or to take their development into their own hands. Enabling development is akin to ownership, empowerment, and self-determination.
- In enabling development, the people determine their own needs, set the priorities, pool the resources, put in the effort, build on successes, learn and improve from failures, and bear the responsibility for results. This is an organic and sustainable pathway to development.
Educating the mind is at the core of enabling development. This is not education for the sake of acquiring certificates and finding a good job, but education which enables people to develop the mental capacity, knowledge, skills, ability, attitude, and initiative to solve their own problems.
Remember, only “developed” minds can build a united nation, strong institutions, adaptive and enduring infrastructure, supportive and sustainable environment, a solid national economy and national political culture which is hinged on the people’s needs and priorities.
BACK TO THE BASICS
The highest common factor (HCF) of development is mind education—in other words, it is the factor that has the highest potential to yield the best result and have the highest impact over time in any context.
This is because education is intrinsically linked to human capital development, national development, and global sustainable development goals (SDGs), which seek to end poverty, generate prosperity, promote peace, and preserve the planet for future generations.
Likewise, the lowest common multiple (LCM) of development is educating the mind—in other words, it is the common denominator or the key which has the highest potential to unlock all the 17 SDGs over time.
In the words of Albert Einstein, “Education is not the learning of facts, but the training of the mind to think.” Educating the mind of an individual or enabling a mind-shift does not happen overnight. Shifting our collective consciousness into higher octaves takes even more.
It takes a systematic approach, flexible strategy, deliberate effort, and consistency of action. It takes doing things differently and doing different things. It’ll take convincing people who have become used to one way of seeing things to self-disrupt. It’ll take changing habits and expectations.
It also requires starting early, planning for the future, and focusing on children and young persons for massive results over time. It requires prioritizing education on the developmental scale and in the annual budgets of our governments and taking bold steps to adjust our education systems, structures, policies, and processes to reflect and enable the essential shift.
Fundamentally, it requires our individual and collective will to make the shift. Hence, mind-shift is inevitable. A mind-shift happens first before any real change in attitude, behaviour, character, culture or reality becomes manifest. There is no better time than NOW. All hands must be on deck!
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