An Encounter With An Educated Illiterate!

There is no denying the fact that two schools of thought now exist in support and in disagreement with the argument that on the grounds of the falling standard of education that there is now a category of graduates that can best be described as “Educated illiterates.”

Given the pejorative weight of the lingo, it is not unexpected that some readers of this piece may want to know from this writer who an educated person is, and how is he supposed to be conducting himself or herself in public, or rather make utterances.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to describe an educated person in this context as the one that owes a responsibility of creating a good and peaceful family or home. Aristotle maintained that family is the smallest unit and the first school of anyone’s life. Only educated persons can educate and inculcate morals, build character in his children: it is not about going to the four walls of a learning institution because there is a thin line of divide between education and literacy. This is because somebody can be educated and still be an illiterate. At this juncture, it is expedient we resort to lexicographers for clarification. To them, “Education is the act or process of imparting or acquiring particular knowledge or skills, as for a profession.” In the same vein, the definition of illiteracy is lack of knowledge in a particular subject or the inability to write and read.

From the foregoing perspective, it is clear that education can informally be obtained as it is about the acquisition of knowledge or skills. From the foregoing understanding, it is not a misnomer to say that an educated person can play an important role in promoting women’s education by treating both boys and girls in his family equally and offered them equal opportunity for education.

Still in the same vein, an educated person is the one that can use his knowledge to educate and awaken the people at large about their rights and duties. He can also make other people realized that in a democratic set up, while there are certain rights, there are certain duties that complements such rights for peaceful co-existence to prevail.

An educated person can create love for our country by sharing and spreading our rich culture. Simultaneously, he can also encourage our younger generations to prepare themselves for discharging their responsibilities to build a national character by sharing our legacy which we inherited as a result of huge sacrifices made by our ancestors.

An educated person can also play an important role in creating social, cultural and religious harmony so that love, trust and peace are ensured in community life. This would also ensure national unity and protect our national integrity and development.

Despite the presence of 44 federal universities, 48 state universities, 99 private universities, it is paradoxical that some people still come across as “Educated Illiterates”. The reason for the disagreeable development cannot be farfetched as the universities are not imbuing them with the right discipline, help them develop self-control and a generalized respect for others that would collectively be a tool for moral growth.

As basis of opinion is been formed from the foregoing perspective, it is expedient to ask, “Who then is an educated illiterate?” I am not going into the definition of these words!

To aptly bring the description of an educated illiterate to bear in this context, it is expedient to narrate an encounter I recently had with him, and possibly cite two or three examples about his irascible behavior from elsewhere.

To this end, it would be explanatory enough to say that an educated illiterate Nigerian is seen and heard everywhere. One sees him with disgust when he urinates in the open, particularly in public places. The “educated Nigerian” regards him with probing eyes when he is seen throwing waste in unauthorized places. When he is confronted, he would retort and bellow, “Do you know who you are talking to?” “Ask people in the neighborhood or in this estate, they will tell you about me, and I guess you are new in this environment”.

This “short fused” bloke is everywhere. He is the ubiquitous figure that has the predilection to look down on anyone that comes his way. When given the opportunity to represent his people as a politician, his weird behavior will become fully blown to the astonishment of those that once see him in high regard by virtue of being educated. In the course of his legislative duties, on behalf of his constituents, he would be seen throwing chairs in a ruckus that sometimes occur in the hallowed chamber that is meant for law makers. He would be among those that would literarily turn it to Motor Park.

Recently in the course of commuting from the office to my residence, the driver of the bus I boarded had an altercation with another road user whose car was unarguably flashy in every sense of the word. The expression on his face was that of deep-seated anger. I sensed he had developed such erratic gestures after he angrily spat on the face of the driver, and flared up, “God go punish you”, “E nor go better for you”. To the condemnation of all the passengers with me in the bus, and to the disappointment of many as he cut the image of a gentleman, he no doubt exhibited a cantankerous habit that portrayed him as someone that was at home with his normal chore. I wanted to comment on the development that took place but didn’t. Though there was nothing stopping me from doing so but I chose to restrain myself given his temperamental disposition, and the impeccable English he expressed with the driver who was no doubt an illiterate or semi-illiterate with his conductor. The next moment, a co-passenger commented, “This is what we call being illiterate even after being educated”. It was a cursory answer that inspired me to share my experience with other Nigerians. With his mode of dressing, everyone in the bus was unanimous with the view that he must be an “Oga” coming back from work as the drama was shamelessly acted around 6.00pm or thereabout.

This short histrionic encounter, no doubt, revealed the thin line between education and literacy. An educated person who portrayed himself as an “Area Boy” on the road was a literate person but not an educated person. The words literate and educated are used interchangeably in the general sense but a closer look reveals that there is a thin line of difference. One’s education is known by the sensitization he has developed over the years through his experience. That anyone can speak eloquently, and write does not make him to be completely educated.

According to Mahatma Gandhi, education is the realization of the best in man; body, soul and spirit. He maintained that education must be based on ethics and morality. We need to revisit our education system beyond the literacy framework. We need to educate our kids and youngsters so that they become instrumental in strengthening the nation rather than becoming force of division. Today, even people with high degrees surrender their reasoning and speak language that is divisive. Looking at the hate speeches and trolling rate on social media and on the ground that leads to tension and divisiveness, we can reasonably argue that we are unable to deliver education, which can potentially become medium to realize man’s best, as Gandhi had foreseen in his vision.


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Articles by Isaac Asabor