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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Are you educated or qualified?

Being educated has been recently used interchangeably with attaining university degrees or many scholarly certificates. It is only the religious who have a divergent view of what true education should be. They believe that the knowledge of God surpasses all wisdom and understanding. 

Education is defined as knowledge, instruction or learning experience while being qualified is having a particular skill (never mind how adequate the skill may be) making you suitable for a particular task.

Ironically, education has now been reduced to cramming of notes and routine sitting in lecture halls and theatres listening to monotone dictation of lecture notes and ‘copy pasting’ of materials from internet for assignment purposes.

Universities in the world are now a dime a dozen, with Kigali and its environs bursting at the seams with them. Every other young person (and the older ones who missed out in their youth) is a university student. 

Does it mean the pass rate is very high these days or has education has been simplified by the advancement in technology? Where are the mushrooming universities getting the mammoth crowd of students from? If I am not wrong, the high enrolment rate must have to do with the open admission policy where as a way of improving customer care, every applicant who shows up has to be welcomed with a broad smile and be rewarded with instant admission to any faculty applied for.

But there is big problem. Whenever demand of an affordable product goes up, oversupply follows and quick on the heels of oversupply is depreciation. That is why university education is no longer a big deal. 

Pretty soon, employers will have to start looking beyond an impressive degree certificate because one will be as good as the next. They will have to re-think how they recruit. They may have to consider first the extra curricula activities of the applicant before looking at the degree certificate. In the developed world, this has been happening; it is just a matter of time or half a time before this phenomenon becomes common practice in Rwanda and the entire EAC community.

This way, they will discover that self-taught people are better because they are driven by self-initiative. The little piece of paper from some university will not matter much. 

They will want to know whether you were sporty and active in school. They will want to know what clubs you belonged to in university. They will want to know whether you spent your free time getting drunk or doing community work and if you did the latter, they will want proof.

So yes, universities are a dime a dozen. For this reason, graduation ceremonies by far outnumber public holidays.

Twenty years ago, making it to university was a big deal. Universities, by virtue of being few, only had place for A students – the rest of ‘less hardworking’ students had to bear the shame of attending mid-level colleges and polytechnics. 

Now, private universities are springing faster than slums. Back then being seen in a graduation gown was a mark of honour. Admission requirements were stricter than admission to a presidential security circle. Now, even D students have their day in universities. Having a bit of money will ensure that the low exam grades do not matter as much.

No wonder the graduates look ill at ease in their gowns. 

How about saving our graduates from embarrassment s by allowing them to remove their gowns as soon as they collect their degree papers? The graduates should just pack away their gowns in a plastic bag, get into the vehicle and proceed to their homes to continue with the party privately.

Now, before I come out as a university basher and at the risk of contradicting myself, I think we could all do with some education. However, we should start to broaden the definition of education. 

Even before we knew how to read and write, there was education. Education is what enables us to get by, and it is everywhere. It is in art, on the streets (where I personally have a master’s degree from).  Education is in sports; sometimes we get education from the most unlikely of sources — it could be from our toddlers.

By Zachariah Mayaka Nyamosi

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