Education to me means the all-round development of our facilities—physical, mental, and moral. Physical education should be imparted on playgrounds and gymnasiums by means of sports, games, and exercises. Moral education depends largely on healthy disciplined exercises over young minds at home and at school, and more by good example than by precept. But for the education of the mind, nothing can be more helpful than the study of books and instructions imparted by teachers, even more valuable than tutorials. Instruction is the one that is derived from the study of books. For it often happens a man’s real development so far as his mind is concerned due to the influence of books that he reads or has read.
Nigeria’s Noble Laureate, Wole Soyinka, is not highly educated in the usual acceptance of the term, but he has furnished his mind with a wide reading of books and other learning materials that fetch him knowledge values, and substances. His influences and essentials in the society of his art have been very great. Hence, whatever arrangements you make for the education of our children enable provision. We must be ready to have the opportunity to read a large number of books and read happily in a selected library. Of course, it is necessary to read books with discrimination, particularly these days when all sorts of books are published. It would be physically impossible to do so for the most voracious readers.
Reading books must therefore be organized in such a way that we can derive the maximum of benefits from reading as many of them might be possible for us. Needless to say for this purpose, it is better for the readers to rely on the help and guidance of a well-read man. In Western countries, the librarian is invariably a man of this type. Librarians are specialists in charge of the different departments of knowledge, and they are more than helpful; they often taste and direct the mind. He knows the mental aptitude and capacity of his students, and he gives his suggestions accordingly. By following, his suggestions, therefore, avoid wastage of labor. It is disappointing that lack of reading these days extends to tertiary institutions and this has affected building knowledge and humanity.
Higher education, i.e., education that is imparted in colleges and universities, is in bad odor these days. Truly, in a country with millions of illiterate people, higher education seems, on the face of it, to be almost a criminal luxury, since its high cost imposes a financial burden on the state that, in one view, ultimately deprives the poorer people of any education. And this is more so because we have from our infancy been taught to associate higher education with all good things of life: “Bata re a dun Koko ka to o ba kawa re” (your shoe is sure to sound well if you are well read), run a Yoruba nursery rhymes. This is one side of the coin! On the other hand, higher education today is, speaking generally, un-remunerative, the half-education mechanic earns more than the average graduate. And so the conclusion is drawn that higher education is not normally justified nor is it materially good as a preparation for life. But all these arguments may be said to run on false lines.
In the first place, so far as the relative claims of primary education and higher education are concerned, primary education raises the average intelligence of a nation, making it able to undertake its democratic responsibilities in the proper spirit. But higher education is an index of the cultural level of the people. It pares the way for the appearance of great scientists and great poets. It ensures that the nation will not only live but will also contribute generally to the progress and uplift world as a whole. Because Nigeria has had some form of higher education, even with the limited resources, given to the education sector by her ‘dedicated’ and patriotic’ emperors, she has been to keep her place in the council of nations. Would this have been possible if she had received primary education only to the exclusion of higher education?
But the real argument is that higher education fits one for understanding higher responsibilities- not of earning one’s bread merely but of living a full life. “Man does not live by bread alone” –These noble words are true for all times. Higher education throws open the windows of the mind to the light of knowledge.
Besides, its subsidiary effects are seen in refined manners, a habit of clear thinking, and a taste trained to appreciate beauty. After all, a man is to be educated not to make shoe nails and pins, but to be a man. Furthermore, education certainly makes us able to tackle the business of life. An educated man will carry into every task to which he is called a system, a habit of organization, a capacity for simplifying the mechanism of work. Hence higher education will remain the most adequate means of preparing me for the great business of living, not somehow, but worthily, with noble aims and with commanding success.
It cannot be denied that in our country higher education has only a great tradition, but had played a noble role in our freedom movement. Higher education was the tonic that our nationalists needed to make them the torch-bearers of freedom. They had been the first to realize the importance of national independence. Even today new political ideas are first absorbed by them and then carried far and wide.
They have been the leaders of ideas which move nations. Of course, we must not deny that in order to fulfill its purpose, higher education must be wisely and realistically planned. It must have a definite and tangible object. A high education that is meant merely to encourage speculative habits, that makes an everyman a philosopher, interested only in abstract theories or poets dreaming dreams on a vacuum of abstraction can never be desirable from any standpoint. Education must be based on life; it must arise out of the needs of life, it must serve the ultimate ends of life. Such an education will always be a real preparation for life.