Big men, small character

One of the best definitions of education that I often find enthralling, which makes me to refer to it often, is the one that construes the concept as the process of developing one’s three h’s. These h’s are the head, the heart and the hands. While the “head” concerns the mental domain of learning and the “heart” focuses on the affective, the “hands” concerns psychomotor skills or ability to do things, such as painting, typing, sowing, plaiting, etc.

According to the experts, the head symbolises the intellectual faculties which include knowledge, understanding, application, analysis, synthesis and evaluation. The heart concerns the faculties of social and personality characteristics such as values, attitudes, interests, adjustments, habits, perception, social relations and beliefs. The hands, on the other hand, represent the psycho-motor and neuro-physiological faculties which concern skills acquired in manipulation, following specific procedures and body movements.

The problem of our colonial education was that it relegated the use of hands, a significant component of the tripod of education. Rather than develop the hands with technical skills through which we would be able to develop the society, the colonial education sought to fill our heads with foreign ideas and precepts with little or no bearing on our society.

As Babs Fafunwa puts it in its seminal book, “History of Education in Nigeria”, the goal of colonial education then was “to supply men for employment in the government”, “to produce men who will be able to carry on the native administration in the spirit of the government” and “to impart sufficient knowledge of Western ideas to enable the native to meet the influx of traders, etc., from the coast with the advent of railway, on equal terms.” This explains why emphasis was then on humanities, not sciences.

Yet, as limited as the scope was, what people lacked in the use of hands was adequately compensated with the development of the head and the heart. That education produced the first generation of leaders that the nation is proud of. To a large extent, not absolutely though, educated people were men of learning (head) and character (heart). There are many of them who selflessly served Nigeria and humanity with dignity and integrity.

Today, however, our education in is dire crisis. It is only the head component that schools focus on. Education which should serve the purpose of reformation of character seems to have failed woefully in achieving that end. The result is the stark reality of what Nigeria has become: a nation of big men and big grammar, small minds and small character.

Most of our big men and women in Abuja, State capitals and local government headquarters have only concepts and ideas stuffed in their heads. They ruin the society as a result of their lack of character, which consists of love, compassion, kindness, peacefulness, uprightness and good behaviour.

Those that are elected or appointed to serve the public have turned service to self help. Criminal accumulation of wealth, excessive indulgence in flamboyance and pathetic disregard for the common good are the traits of the “educated” ruling class. As the greed of the privileged few increases, the nation slowly bleeds till rivers of blood now flow across the land.

The relegation of character in the scheme of education is not limited to the political class. It permeates the entire social fabric as morality is thrown to the sharks in the quest for lucre. Big men with small character say one thing today and its exact opposite tomorrow without shame. Chameleons!

Gone were the days when parents warned their children to remember the sons and daughters of whom they were and not to soil family name. The jungle wisdom today is that anything that yields money, no matter how morally reprehensible, is quite okay. This is very unfortunate.

Lawyers have no qualms holding briefs for confirmed criminals and vagabonds in power as long as the clients are ready to pay. Doctors can go on strike and watch patients die because of ego. We often read of vacuous minds promoted as celebrities telling us they can act nude if they get the right pay.

Youngsters that should be quarantined as “social Ebolas” are watched on television assaulting our cultural and religious sensibilities with lewd lyrics, devilish dances and see-it-all attires. Exploiting the prevalent corruption of everything, they harangue the public and make a lot of money, which makes many innocent students wonder why they should be “wasting” their time in school when others are stripping and debasing themselves, dancing and singing to material success.

I love the motto of the University of Ilorin which simply translates to “character and learning”, with the emphasis on character. This is because without character, learning is useless. It is when we complement learning with character or crown character with learning that we shall regain our lost paradise.

Whether our education has failed us or we have failed our education lies in character. If we focus more on the affective domain of learning and develop our students’ hearts to love and to care and we live by example as teachers and elders, a great deal of our problems will be overcome.