By Ing. Yayah A.B. Conteh

It is not the intent of this article to paint a very colourful picture of one who ventures out into the academic world in search of knowledge on the one hand, and the ultimate acquisition of one kind of profession on the other; rather it tends to chronicle the views from the vantage standpoint of the individual who envisages himself as the defender of education in all its forms and dimensions, closing his ears to the doses of savage utterances from its various detractors.

It is not strange to highlight here that, in our societies today, public opinion, in some quarters, continues to twist and distort facts about the true significance of education. We see people today, in our midst, rich and influential, spending huge sums of money on a vast and unprecedented scale. To me, regrettably, majority of these sets of people are intellectually defective, having long ago acquired a scorning for education.

The successes in life, scored by some of these privileged few in the amassing of untold wealth, have been conditioned by the application of certain “formulae” in the areas of societies they happen to find themselves. Their efforts have often yielded fruitful dividends, thereby enabling them to acquire huge business empires, fly from one corner of the globe to the other in pursuit of pleasure and adventure, erect magnificent edifices, etc., etc. To them, therefore, the quest for education, to better one’s material lot, seem a complete waste of time and energy.

Time seems too compressed in our nuclear age for many people to settle down and adjust themselves to any meaningful academic pursuit. Some confess they cannot withstand the rigours of schooling at all, and the challenges involved in preparing and taking an examination for the betterment of the individual self.  Eventually, they always appear detached from the educated lot and pretend to be oblivious of the gains and advantages of education.

It is common knowledge, held the world over, that some people were actually accorded the opportunity to attend school. They were at one time or the other given the opportunity to darken the corridors of some educational establishment. But rather, unfortunately, they didn’t leave up to the expectations of their tutors or to the disciplines to which they were subjected. This caused them to quit schooling altogether.

The avid thirst for the acquisition of instant material wealth instead lured them away in search of other adventures. Little wonder therefore that these educational detractors, through their utterances regarding the merits and demerits of present day education, are always ever determined to wreck the cherished dreams of those species of human beings endeavouring to reach the pinnacle of their academic dreams.

These wide circles of critics often haul the blame at the system itself, ranging from the allegedly exorbitant cost of education in their country of residence (despite the fact that some often have had or continue to have sources of financial support at one time or another healthy enough to enable them forge ahead and which, regrettably, they let slipped off) to the unavailability of job opportunities once their educational ventures are done with. Instead they hurriedly abandon their long term goals for short-lived enthusiasms. They aimlessly target short term gains in place of targeting challenges that would yield lasting benefits.

The academic adventurer, in this explanatory literature, should view himself as one convinced of his powers of intellect and wisdom geared towards the acquiring of an education rich enough to improve upon his individual self, his material lot and those of the less endowed around him.

He should be overzealous in the quest of such an education, not ever allowing himself to be pushed faraway by the utterances of his detractors that are most often times edged with mockery and loaded with a barrage of negativities. Instead their utterances should only inspire him to greater daring in the pursuit of his goals.

He would no doubt come to find the act of acquiring knowledge itself as a tiresomely burdensome process. But nonetheless he must first of all look upon himself as one of the fortunate few whom God in His infinite wisdom has blessed in this direction. He should be ready at all times to put up an interminable fighting spirit in the course of his quest, and always take heroic measures to keep his dreams afloat.

It is an undeniable fact that, in the battle for survival today, a good life is always worth striving for at the end of the struggle involved- be it in the academic arena or elsewhere. But be as it may, the academic adventurer should be consistent in the pursuit of his goals and not allow his desires to deflect him from his own chosen course of action, for afterwards he cannot embrace the luxuries of life all at once. His watchword should revolve around ‘consistency’ in all his academic pursuits, knowing that there is no greater wealth than wisdom genuinely acquired through the constant turning of pages.

The academic world seeker must always buoy up with high spirits and hopes. The thoughts of his future achievements should engage the innermost recesses of his subconscious at every turn in his life. The cornerstone of his success should be exemplary hard work as dictated by his tutors and the like, and be ready to conscientiously discharge the duties imposed upon him by these people with an ever increasing momentum, in the hope that his cherished dreams will enable him endeavour to work with a high sense of pride and dignity, and provide him penetrating solutions towards the attainment of not only a meaningful life but one worth emulating too.

The long journey to reach the pinnacle of his academic endeavours may be fraught with lots of difficulties; this should not deter him an iota from his set goals. A general academic weariness will tend to settle in as well in his climb to the top; that too should not knock his ideas to pieces. He should cling to them untiringly and pursue them convincingly to the conclusion they deserve.

One of Nigeria’s literary icons, the late Professor Vincent Chukwumeka Ike, was reported to have said that, “He would rather prefer to leave 20 books to his credit to 20 million pounds sterling in his bank account.” If I rightly comprehend him, he must have nursed the hope that when he shall have passed away the joy and pride he would enjoy by the accumulation of knowledge gained from the reading of his books for the betterment of mankind would serve him a more useful purpose in the hereafter than money accumulated across a lifetime, probably by ill-otten means, that would fizzle into nothingness with the passage of time. By the utterances of the Professor we see him as an outspoken positive critic of the values and essence of education.

Remember that the truly academic adventurer is never envious of the glory and magnificence of others; he will never be able to establish a genuine academic forum in a vacuum. He will need to derive his strength and admiration, or part of them at least, from not only his tutors and immediate superiors, but also from those of his kind around him.

Let us therefore endeavour to seek education by every conceivable means; let us embrace and cultivate the culture of reading extensively so as to broaden our mental and intellectual horizons and help improve upon our material lot and that of the rest of mankind; let us read books, books and more books- books whose languages are neither thin nor with material content paltry-for afterwards, are books not the outlets through which our souls view the outside world?

Engineer Yayah A.B. Conteh is the Director of the Mechanical Services Department (MSD) of the Sierra Leone Roads Authority (SLRA).

Tel. Nos: (076640364/077718805)

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