By Bakare Ayomide
The school has become a restriction. It is completely vicious in its ways, hiding behind a façade, perhaps a former truth of what it was. It was without a doubt that school influenced many of the world’s greatest minds and has given multiple individuals a distinctive profile in their society.
The restrictions that school has placed on the lives of students is a topic that is seldom spoken about. It is, after all, a systematic cycle that the world has created. As Aldous Huxley once wrote, “all men are snobs about something,” and among the many things man has snubbed is the restriction that schools have enforced in the lives of their students. What, then, are these restrictions? One of the many restrictions is the one on creatives. Nowadays, schools have done nothing to inspire creativity among their students. In schools, rules are created to restrict colourful minds from spreading their colours; there is no freedom to think outside the box, and before one is allowed to think outside the box, they must have followed the rules all their lives.
There is rigidity. Rules must be followed in perfect order; there is no room for innovation; there is no room to express what you have learned; rather, it must be an expression of what you must learn. It is why famous creatives such as Arthur Rimbaud denounced school and why popular artist (painter) Alexandre Cabanel (famous for his paintings of Venus and the Fallen Angel) suffered greatly while creating his art. Plagued by the rules of academicism, an art movement that required technique, craftsmanship, and a lot of training, the proportions must be detailed, and the brushstrokes must remain invisible. It is why he wrote, “…that’s my reward for all the trouble I gave myself not to submit an average piece of work…” after his painting, The Fallen Angel, was rejected by the academy.
In Nigerian schools, there is hardly any room for artistic liberty; writers are hardly given room to tell their stories; competitions only favour mathematics, science, and technology, which are already made by rules and studied by rules, to be applied by the same rules. This causes a lot of disinterest, which creates another restriction.
The restriction of interest, in schools, has caused a huge apathy in academia. Students no longer inquire about knowledge unattainable to them; there is hardly any curiosity towards why things are the way they are and how they work. One might say technology caused this, which is true because technology, itself, is imperialist; however, schools only teach students to pass their examinations. Students are taught how to be academically validated but not how to validate academia in their realities. In most Nigerian universities, for example, most of the students that graduated hardly knew much about their course of study. They only write their answers in ways that please their professors; the autonomy of power given to professors has dampened many students’ will to enjoy their course of study, and the grading system is the university’s favourite way of restricting students.
Another restriction is the restriction of practicality. In as much as subjects are taught for the growth of knowledge, this knowledge remains a vacuum if students are not taught about the realities they live in. Many undergraduates complete their Bachelor’s degree without any knowledge of the real world, and once they are put in this world, they are left unprepared. Students are continuously taught to read their books and pass their examinations. There is hardly any room to generate social skills and learn how to react to the world. One might argue that social skills are being taught in schools, but the truth is that in most Nigerian schools it is mandatory, where the students face favouritism, nepotism, and tribalism whilst trying to encourage their skills.
Furthermore, schools have encouraged the restriction of mental health. The mental health of students is in high disregard; students are expected to study, write notes, pay attention in class, get good grades, and repeat. The school does not create a space for the well-being of students and their experiences outside school. It is a known fact that school can be overwhelming; a popular case is among law students in Nigeria whose mental health has taken a serious toll on their livelihood. They are put under such enormous pressure from school and their homes that there is hardly any space for them to breathe. Locally, law students are sometimes assumed to run mad because of the amount of knowledge they must attain and retain to become competent lawyers. Anxiety and depression creep into the minds of multiple students and poison their hard work. It is why many students drop out—simply because they cannot handle the pressure. It is with this continuous trend of bad mental health that issues such as “exam fever” are common among students in Nigeria and how they still affect many students today.
The restriction towards the lower class is another hidden truth about schools. To be educated is expensive; fees must be paid, books must be bought, and other extra costs must be settled to ensure a proper learning environment. Unfortunately, there is no luxury for the lower class. The quality of education is ridiculously low, especially in Nigeria. In most public schools, the students are maltreated, and their understanding of a subject is not a priority. There is a constant struggle in the lower class to attain their dreams; some work over zealously to pay their school fees, and others decide to get student loans, which puts them in major debt that they might have to pay off for the rest of their lives.
In conclusion, schools have a rigidity that obstructs creative liberty, drains students, has no way of preparing students for the real world, and removes the lower class from the benefits schools are supposed to provide. It is a major threat to innovation and the pursuit of knowledge, which have changed the lives of men in the past. As much as schools have major importance and still contribute in some way to the environment, there must be some sort of change, a new set of curricula that applies to the world as it is today.
* Bakare Ayomide writes from Lagos