Imagine for a moment that you are in a class, with about twenty to twenty-five other classmates, listening to a teacher. This teacher is middle-aged, but her entire disposition is one of a person who is young-at-heart. The subject matter is Economics, and even though to some people, it is not the most engaging of subjects, your teacher is able to bring the subject to life, invite everyone in class to give examples of how the basic economic principles apply in their lives. Even better, the teacher encourages her students to dream, to dream beyond what the four walls of their classroom permits them to.
You look around class, and you see the paint peeling from the walls, you see desks that are not in very good condition. You look around and see students from different strata of society, those that belong to well-to-do families, and those whose families are barely able to make ends-meet. Perhaps, some of your classmates are the first children in their families to attend university. You look around, and see faces that are marked with something quite sad. Faces that are devoid of hope, faces that are coming to university because they have nowhere else to go, or they have been told that their lives would never change without a university degree. Yet, they know that there are no jobs after university, but it is a case of ‘attending, just in case there is a job and I would not want to be denied one, because I did not go to school’, a state-of-mind not dissimilar to that of some proponents of religion, who believe in it, not because they want to, but as a case of double-negative being positive ‘ I don’t want to not believe, in case it is all true’. How, you might ask, is this lack of faith but adherence to religion different from the agnostic who throws up his hands in the air and honestly says ‘I just don’t know’, I don’t know.
So now, the task at hand is how the teacher is able to get her students to dream. Yes, I know teachers in Nigeria are not well-paid, yes I know, as some have told me, after I shared my ambition to lecture in some capacity in public Nigerian universities, that many people teach as a last resort, and to that end, how then can they be expected to be excited and passionate about their subjects?
Yet, I also know that it is unfair to be in such a position and fail to shape minds, to be in a position of responsibility, I mean, when I look back to how my lecturers influenced me, academically, but also psychologically and socially, I think of how different, and less-developed my life might have been. These people made my subjects alive, they allowed me to dream, and they allowed me to express myself. Now, if I can go to the class described in the first paragraph, and inject some colour into the lives of those students, surely, that is a reward in itself?
Now imagine, if 10 of us did that, 20 of us, 50 of us, 100 of us….the ripple from our interactions having a multiplier effect, and changing the value-system in the Nigerian education. Imagine that, giving an entire generation the freedom to dream. The freedom to choose their own paths, the freedom to be confident in their interests and the freedom to learn the skills they want to learn. Now imagine how those students in turn can go out into the world and then become ambassadors of creative thinking, philosophical thinking, innovative ways to solve problems….just the thought of the possibilities is enough to make me think “Why on earth would I not want to teach for change?”
And you can do the same too. You can volunteer to take a class, a module, be a guest speaker, in any field in which you find yourself, you can impart some of that knowledge onto others in Nigeria, and teach….for change.