I got beaten quite a lot in primary school. It was not for punching a girl, or for stealing a class mate’s lunch, or for sleeping during lectures (although I was guilty of that a lot). I got beat simply because I talked, because I expressed myself, and because the person writing names of noise makers was not my friend.
It’s ironic that we spend so much time telling our children to keep quiet, if we knew any better we would tell them to speak up more often, to let their voices be heard. But we stifle their words and their imagination; we see quiet students as the intelligent ones. But you know who changes the world when they grow up? The noise makers – the ones we tell to keep quiet, the ones we beat till their hands go numb – they are the ones who change the world. But we beat their voices out of them in school and then years down the line we ask why our youths are not speaking up!
And where did we get this notion that education was created to be about quiet learning? Because, it does not fit us…because Nigerians are loud – we speak loudly, and argue loudly, and express ourselves loudly. That’s how we communicate; that’s how we evolved. But instead of embracing our natural cultural history, we instead jump into the British way of doing things. And it should not be that way. The Nigerian educational system, if not all educational systems, should not be about how silent you can be, but rather how loud and expressive you can be. I mean you don’t learn by staring at your books and teachers in silence; you learn by engaging with teachers and students. That is the way the real world is. Now I am not saying that learning in silence is always bad … I’m saying that noise making should be encouraged in school, and not shut down or punished. Apart from stifling learning and the development of intelligence, it kills any form of engagement – so the average Nigerian grows up as an individual seeking to be the best he can be, instead of being part of a collaborative group of people seeking to be the best they can be and offering the best to their community or country!
I mean we spend 12 years telling primary and secondary school students to keep quiet, and then we thrust them into the world and tell them to make a change and speak up against social injustice! And then we are shocked that they can’t!?!
We have to break the myth that a well-behaved child with good grades is the ideal leader! I mean look at people like Gani Fawehnmi, Fela Kuti or Pat Utomi – one would be hard pressed to believe that they were amongst the quiet ones in class … in fact chances are they were top noisemakers in school! But look at what they have done for Nigeria by simply speaking up and making noise … let’s stop writing down the names of noise makers!
Illustration courtesy of ofilispeaks.com and picture courtesy of igbobasics.com
This entry is an excerpt from the upcoming book How Intelligence Kills: A Critical Look At Our Dangerous Addiction To Religion, Intelligence and Respect.
Ochuko: Akpos, where have you been?
Akpos: Watching a football match?
Ochuko: Who played?..
Akpos: Ivory coast vs Cote d ivoire
MAMA: How was your paper?..
AKPOS: Good, but I didn’t know d past tense of “think”. I thought and thought, then finally wrote “Thunk”.