Why the Street is taking Over

Image result for an african city street
Courtesy: http://www.afeimapeople.com

Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., once analogized on the difference between the old and young saying, “Older people sit down and ask ‘what is it?’ but the boy asks ‘what can I do with it?’”[1]. Therefore, characterized by inquisitiveness, a youth is one at the peak of his strength, on the verge of obtaining sufficient knowledge, in order to acquire a permanent identity of self and environment. Demographically, the National Youth Policy[2] defines the youth as ‘all males and females aged 18-35 years, who are citizens of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’. This age range represents more than one-third of the Nigerian population (Ibrahim, 2013). The old, for the sake of this essay, can be described as one that has arrived, someone that has come into the permanence of his identity by virtue of age.

Education is in itself a bridge upon which the length of years of preceding generations are accumulated, solidified and made relevant. It grants access into a rounder, broader outlook of life, as an educated man is not independent of experiences—his or another’s.[3] In light of this, I deem it a matter of importance to establish early that, the youth are, without question, the future of a nation and, to come to this knowledge of self and environment, education is required. In the words of Plutarch, “Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of fire”.[4] With it, humanity runs faster, perfects itself as well as its existence, be it societal, infrastructural or systemic. Hence, education matters and to choose to inform ourselves and our children is to stay on the side of life that guards our future and the different permutations it may take, many of which we are unlikely to see now.



Cosmos Maduka, the CEO of Coscharis Group, is one that shows quite frankly what the street teaches that the classroom fails at—hands-on experience. At seven, he worked as an apprentice mechanic and learnt the basics of the spare parts business from his uncle. Inspired by the zeal to change the lot of his family, he would go on to become one of Nigeria’s foremost industrialists. Where was he schooled? On the streets. It was by observation and a continuous reflection on his collection of life lessons that he would ascend the entrepreneurial ladder. [5] His life, today, as with others who have risen to significance, seemingly without formal education, has become a validation for rejecting the assumed overwhelming influence education can have on a man’s success, particularly the Nigerian youth.


To understand the prevailing issue of the increasing despise of formal education by the Nigerian youth is to understand the social impact of the family on a child’s psychosocial development. As developed by Erik and Joan Erickson[6], the theory of psychosocial development is a comprehensive psychoanalytic theory that identifies a series of eight stages, in which a healthy developing individual passes through, from infancy to late adulthood. The initial stages begin to unfold at birth but only begin to unfold according to a natural scheme and one’s ecological and cultural upbringing. In each stage, the person confronts, and hopefully, masters new challenges. These stages are: infancy, early childhood, preschool age, school age, adolescence, early adulthood, adulthood and maturity (Thomas, 1997).

The American physiatrist and author of ‘The Road Less Travelled’, M. Scott Peck[7] said, “The more children know that you value them, that you consider them extraordinary people, the more willing they will be to listen to you and afford you the same esteem. And the more appropriate your teaching, based on your knowledge of them, the more eager your children will be to learn from you. And the more they learn, the more extraordinary they will become.”[8] As the primary societal and cultural construction upon which values, opinions and life concepts are moulded, the family must fit perfectly into its role and fulfil its responsibilities of instilling values for life and with it, education. If the home does not value education, can its products be blamed? Unfortunately, the precarious status of our nation’s economy has resulted in the crystallization of a laissez-faire attitude to the family’s role and responsibility, thus, making it more volatile. Parents do not always take their time to review and correct wrong philosophies, thereby, leaving the child at the mercy of society. The fact is that society is an intersection of ideals and values. Therefore, it is not certain our children will know and learn the right ideals amidst its lot.


In the same way as part of his psychosocial development, the inability of a child to deal with prevailing socioeconomic factors such as family characteristics, poverty, social class and other ecological factors such as community can inhibit his balanced development. This imbalance can create a mental impression, one that may not be positive.  Abraham Lincoln, the 16th American president, noted, “In this sad world of ours, sorrow comes to all; and to the young, it comes with bitterest agony, because it takes them unawares.”[9] Exemplified in broken homes, where children usually are in a contest to validate their place in society, when a child from one finds others like himself outside the home who share his story of brokenness, it is likely that a camaraderie is built and that which was absent in the home—love, attention and care—would be created in friendship and however fleeting it may seem, it would assuage a basic human desire—the need to be appreciated and held significant. Rarely does a community of young broken souls do much good.

The despise of formal education by the Nigerian youth stems, also, from a mix of distilled anger as well as reserved disappointment. These conflicts can make young people vulnerable to the lure of gangs and their deviant behaviours. A youth gang is a self-formed association of peers, united by mutual interests, with identifiable leadership and internal organization, who act collectively or as individuals to achieve specific purposes, including the conduct of illegal activity and control of a particular territory, facility, or enterprise.[10] Gangs offer release from, and/or expression of, frustrations and bad feelings, protection from hostiles in the neighbourhood, a peer group, and ways to make money, especially during the recruitment and socialization phases of gang membership (Taylor, 2012). When a troubled child is introduced to a gang-populated environment, the potential for gang membership is high (Taylor, 2012). There are three primary factors important for gang affiliation: interest, contact and willingness (Decker, 1999). It is a primary characteristic that gangs devalue or reduce an individual’s emphasis on formal education.


Societal issues are not centrally embedded in lack but in matters of core values which include the values of integrity, loyalty to a just cause, truth and love for nationhood. Formal education is despised due to the disintegration of our collective values and responsibility to the nation we represent. If we do not strive to create the need for good education, governance and stability, we cannot value them, even, when we have them. To value is to create a need for and humanity is not absolved from this as values form the bedrock of convictions and motivations. Even as we live despite our failures, especially, in leadership, and praise ourselves for the unbreakable elements of our human spirit, the youth look to the streets for succour—since, the societal structures have seemingly failed them.


Adolf Hitler said once, “What good fortune for government that people do not think”.[11] In this age when opinions and sensibilities are sharpened by the ease of accessible information, it is dangerous to assume that people do not or cannot think. With the convenience to which information is dissipated, the youth are, unarguably, a most informed demographic in modern history. In the words of Lincoln, “You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people, some of the time but, you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”[12] The realisation of what they could do in their environments has given them a firmer belief in their abilities. This potential intoxicates and the streets have become a tool to create the existence they believe they deserve.


Today, many adopt the philosophy that somehow a future can be independent of education, which is not entirely true, because, regardless, of the form it takes—formal or self-education, it is the tool upon which any future is built. Early this year, the internet was flooded with the fresh face, Olajumoke Orisaguna, who photobombed a TY Bello photoshoot.[13] In Shakespearean language, the “divinity that shapes our ends[14] made that normal situation extraordinary. This coincidence would not only bring her significance but would change her life and offer a career she never thought or considered. Was she lucky? Maybe, but, did education play a part in her success? Yes, it did. Many do not realize that, TY Bello[15], the photographer, could have only seen that rare moment because of experience, which in this case was calcified by education, thus, making her easier to recognize such. For Olajumoke, education was important for her success, although not hers, but another’s.

Image result for olajumoke orisaguna
Olajumoke Orisaguna Courtesy: Pulse.ng

Mentorship is a relationship in which a more experienced or knowledgeable person helps to guide a less experienced or less knowledgeable person.[16] A mentor may be older or younger, but has a certain area of expertise. Though unorganized, the street usually has a structure of mentorship which the Nigerian style of formal education lacks as an integral component in its framework. At the point of graduation from an academic institution, the Nigerian youth, finds himself in a bewildering state, as he soon discovers that he was not really equipped to know how to handle the varying economic challenges present in the society and that the years spent in school learning concepts of life and the likes did not teach him how to function effectively in a society that lacks structure to carry the weight of these learned philosophies. If mentorship were to be part of the educational/academic process, older and more experienced generations would begin early to expose problems, failures and failed solutions, thereby, fostering passion in the younger ones and creating an avenue for eliminating the recreation of mistakes of previous generations. This style of mentorship is captured, precisely, in this quote by Xun Kuang, “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn”.[17]


Educationists, Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves[18], suggested in their book, “Schools must enquire deeper into their own practices, explore new ways to motivate their learners, make use of learning styles, introduce multiple intelligences, integrate learning, and teach thinking, and in the process discover the passion and moral purpose that makes teaching exciting and effective. It is what teachers think, what they do, and what teachers are at the level of the classroom that ultimately shapes the kind of learning that young people get” (Views, 2007). It is no overstatement to say that the way formal education is packaged is a little too limiting. Robert Hutchins[19]stated, “It must be remembered that the purpose of education is not to fill the minds of students with facts; it is to teach them to think, and always to think for themselves.”


“Whoso neglects learning in his youth, losses the past and is dead to the future.” Euripides[20]

In preparing for the obligations of the future, young people need to learn the mechanisms and dynamics of leadership and responsibility; to do this effectively, it is necessary that we create a socio-academic curriculum in which what is taught connects and correlates with societal demands. The significance of education is in the society not without. We do not need universities with endless and baseless courses and programs, but rather, specialized institutions that address our everyday problems with peculiar disciplines. There is a reason Harvard is not popular for an engineering program[21]. Therefore, a review of styles and methods used is necessary. According to Winston Churchill, “To improve is to change and so to be perfect is to have changed often”[22]. Maria Montessori, the famous Italian educator and physician in 1897, developed her renowned approach from understanding the nature of children as visual cognitive beings with their psychological, physical and social development: this revolutionized global child education.[23]

Image result for black teenagers in class
Courtesy: newrepublic.com

The process of change would only begin by admitting our failures as parents to build exemplary units of love and security; as teachers by living to impact; as citizens in establishing peace in our relations with one another, regardless, of varying beliefs and internal convictions. Only then can we review our thoughts, actions and motivations for we cannot “solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

To speak of the government as independent of the people is to deny the channel through which the other proceeds. Franklin D. Roosevelt, once, in an address at the University of Pennsylvania, said, “We cannot always build the future for our youths, but we can build our youths for the future”[24]. A government is responsible for and to its people and we must not fail to preach this before aspirants take on positions of leadership. To build a self-reliant economy, our systems must change, since the future belongs to intellect—to minds that have been sharpened and refined, and not necessarily physical strength. By this, chances are the strongest and most influential societies in the world would be a by-product of the population of intellect they possess. Statements such as “education is not for the poor”[25] have too expensive a price, especially, when those, who not long ago could afford it, are struggling to feed now. What happens when a society is full of people who cannot afford education? Who, then, is the future? What would be their place when there arises a hierarchy of societies in the world? We should think, continually, of that.


Truth be told, education should be sought with the perspective to serve a societal need and not only the alienation of ignorance. A sense of awakening on this may allow us reach out to a greater number on the brink of this societal dysfunction—apathy of formal education. Since, the street is defined by the character and nature of the society, for formal education to take its place, there is a need for a counteraction. And, to do that is to favour a total overhauling of its form and systems by dedicating ourselves to creating a secure environment for all classes, especially the youth, to access education. Why? Education distinguishes men, not merely by status or intellectual potency but in sustaining the gift that life is, as in the words of Aristotle, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living from the dead.”[26]

[1] A 1987 Interview with an American magazine.

[2] “The National Youth Policy” is a publication of the Federal Ministry of Youth Development, Revised 2009.

[3] Abang Oyintare Jennifer, NHEF Annual Scholarship Essay, 2016

[4] Plutarch, On Listening to Lectures

[5] “I became an automobile apprentice at age 7 to escape poverty- Coscharis boss”: Vanguard Article, July 7, 2012

[6] Eric Erickson was a German-born American developmental psychologist and psychoanalyst, known for coining the phrase “Identity Crisis”. His wife, Joan, an educator, was a well- known collaborator of Eric.

[7] M. Scott Peck (1936-2005) was an American writer and psychiatrist. This is his best known work.

[8] The Road Less Travelled: the 25th Anniversary Edition: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth, Simon and Schuster, 2002.

[9] “Letters to Fanny McCullough, Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln”, edited by Roy P. Baster.

[10] A Youth Gang Problem: A Community Approach, Irving A. Spergel, Oxford University Press, 1995.

[11] Adolf Hitler, author of Mein Kampf, was a German politician and leader of the Nazi Party.

[12] September 2, 1958, speaking in Clinton, Illinois, during the famous Lincoln-Douglas debate, Abraham Lincoln made the statement.

[13] Courtesy Wikipedia: “TY Bello”.

[14] William Shakespeare, the English playwright, “Hamlet, Act 5, Scene 2”: Online.

[15] TY Bello is a popular Nigerian photographer and musician. She was the official photographer of former President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, during his tenure in office.

[16] Farren Ph. D., Caela, “Eight Types of Mentor: Which Ones Do You Need?”, Mastery Works. Courtesy Wikipedia.

[17]Xun Kuang is a Chinese philosopher who lived from 312-230 B. C. His works are collected in a set of 32 books called “Xunzi” at about 818 AD. The quote is generally ascribed to Benjamin Franklin but there lacks evidence to prove this.

[18] Professional Capital: Transforming Teaching in Every School, Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan, Teachers College Press, 2012.

[19] Robert Maynard Hutchins (1899-1977) was an American educational philosopher, dean of Yale Law School (1927-1929), and president of University of Chicago (1929-1945). Courtesy: Wikipedia.

[20] Phrixus, Frag. 927

[21] Harvard University has an engineering science school called School of Engineering and Applied Science; it is an independent school within with few electives. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), close to Harvard, has a well-developed engineering faculty.

[22] Winston Churchill, “His Complete Speeches, 1897-1963”, edited by Rhodes James, Chelsea House ed., vol. 4 (1922-1928), p. 3706.

[23] Maria Montessori, MD (1870-1952) was the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree.

[24] Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered the address on the 20th September, 1940. Online by G. Peters and J. T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.

[25] “Free Education is Biggest Disadvantage for the Poor- Fashola” June 24, 2013: Interview on Starconnect Media: www.starconnect.com

[26] Attributed to Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), reported in Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers, trans. R. D. Hicks (1942), vol. 1, book 5, section 19, p. 463.


A part of a whole


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s