I read this startling information the other day, on Yahoo news: Education is not a sure way to overcome poverty as far as African Americans are concerned.
According to that article*, in several cases, African American university graduates are not better off than their uneducated peers!
I don’t support conspiracy theories against blacks but it is common knowledge that figures just tell what people behind it want them to!
I don’t know much about how surveys should be conducted in order to be considered as trustworthy. I had a Statistics course once as I was erring trying to study Economics, as an undergraduate, but needless to say that it didn’t leave a big impact on me! But still, I would be cautious in receiving that information as an undisputed truth.
In this era of sensationalism, journalists are quick to come up with half-baked truth in the name of breaking news even when working with a widespread media.
But then, it is easy to see that the black community as a whole is not faring too well in America today and that African countries are battling with poverty.
And one of the means everybody counts on to overcome this bad situation is Education. So when an article comes up to say that Education is failing as a tool against poverty, I have to reflect on the issue!
Let me start by saying that, for me, in the world we are living in, Education is paramount.
Some decades ago, when a villager will grow his yam, rear his goats or his chickens with the help of his wives, numerous children and fellow villagers, common sense was all that was needed to live a successful life.
But those days are gone and I don’t see how in our overcrowded cities, you can make a living, secure a job, or launch a business venture without education or some kind of exposure.
Nigerian takes higher education very seriously anyways. I am always amazed at the number of Fashion Designers, Artists or Businessmen or women who have a medical diploma under their belt. They have dedicated up to ten years of their life studying medicine to comply with their parents’ wishes but found later on that it was definitely not their calling.
As everywhere, parents want the best for their children but I must say that Nigerians are particularly driven and ambitious for their offspring. They will always push for a university degree in one of the usual top three in Nigeria: engineering, law or medicine.
But the circumstances have changed. When our parents were younger, a basic salary could take care of all their needs and allow them to buy a house.
Now, everything has become so much more difficult. A diploma, even in medicine, doesn’t guarantee you a job anymore. And not even a better life, according to that Yahoo article I referred to earlier.
Does that mean that Education should be discarded in the fight against poverty? Definitely no. Even if long studies are not a guarantee anymore. The need to enlighten yourself stays relevant.
Besides, not everybody needs to become a doctor to build wealth. We really need good plumbers, mechanics and electricians (as I joked about it here) and there is good money to be made. People are willing to pay a decent amount for a job well done.
To curb unemployment, government emphasis should really be put on training good technicians, in those traditional fields, but also in the new technologies. And young people should be willing to embrace practical studies that will lead to an actual job.
Don’t get me wrong, however. I think that it is important to study something you like. But then, you have to think of a niche, or a particular angle that will allow you to get a lucrative job with your sociology or literature degree!
I think one of the big problem we have in Africa, is money management. It is true that, most of the time, what cripples us is the lack of money, but even when money is there, it seems we have no idea how to manage it properly.
The maintenance culture is non-existent. Instead of taking care of an existing hospital so that it will stay in good condition, the new man in charge will always want to build a new one.
We castigate governors that embark on new projects in order to put their own name on it, instead of building on what their predecessor has left behind, and we are quick to put the blame on government for mismanaging public funds, but it seems to me that we are not very savvy either in dealing with our personal income!
For wealth to endure, it has to be built over several generations. But, In Africa, most of the time, each generation has to start from scratch, as usually, even when the father is wealthy, nothing is put in place before his demise, and his fortune will disappear with him.
I remember not long ago, a young girl I knew lost her father who was a European, while her mother was a Nigerian. She was in her first year in a University in London and we were talking about this regretful event with a friend who is a French man. The first thing that came into my mind was: I hope she will be financially able to pursue her studies!
The French man I was talking to gave me a surprised look, not understanding what I was talking about. Cultural divide! He didn’t understand that a life insurance, a will, or wealthy grandparents are most of the time out of the picture in African families and even when a wealthy father dies, it is a financial tsunami!
How many fortunes have been lost to Swiss Banks because a rich man refused to think about tomorrow and never trusted his wife enough to share the necessary information with her? So, many!
Part of our inability to overcome poverty and build wealth comes from our optimistic mentality, or should I say fatalistic mentality? Which is quite the same as the bottom line is that we believe that what will happen, will happen or that God will provide, God being a rich uncle, a successful son or a pretty daughter who has done a “good marriage”.
That mentality is the reason why, we don’t really care about tomorrow and why when we have a little money, we prefer spending on flashy cars, lavish parties or big houses we don’t maintain, instead of investing for the future.
Solidarity is a good thing, as long as it doesn’t prevent people from working and doing their best to provide for themselves, instead of waiting passively for the Western Union transfer!