I went to school for fun until I read Ngugi’s masterpiece
Posted Saturday, February 9 2013 at 00:30
- Weep Not Child helped me to discover the worth of education and the link between academics, language and leadership
I date my understanding and appreciation of the purpose of education in 1980 when I was in Form Two. It was during the April holidays when I read Weep Not Child by Ngugi wa Thiong’o, a book I was bought for by my father.
I read the novel about Njoroge whose age was more or less similar to mine. I read about the deprivation in his family, the dispossession of land Africans suffered when White settlers came to Kikuyu country.
I also read about the rise of the people under the auspices of Mau Mau to reclaim not only the land but also the freedom that the Whites had taken away when they colonised them.
The uprising was not particularly new to me. I had read about it in primary school in preparation for the Certificate of Primary Education (CPE). The most intriguing thing about the novel was the ambition and dreams Njoroge had—dreams of reclaiming the land and freedom for the people but through education.
His elder brother, Boro, had disappeared into the forest to join Mau Mau fighters and Njoroge saw education as the only sure tool that could be used to restore the dignity of his people.
He expounded his vision of life to Mwihaki, a daughter to one of the Christian priests in the community. He did it with such passion that it not only seized the imagination of Mwihaki but it also captured mine.
The young girl was also in school, a better school far away from the ridges. But she had no idea or purpose why she was in school. I was similarly in school but had no clue in the world why I was there except that everybody of schooling going age was supposed to go to school.
True. I had been told about education enabling someone to secure a job but being so young, I had not at that time connected my schooling and securing a job. What for? We then lived in the best of possible worlds. We had clothing, shelter and it was not our business to look for food.
That was the mandate of our parents. We had lots of fun looking after cattle at home, plucking and eating wild fruits in the thickets we took the animals for grazing. The kind of education we were undertaking secluded from home life was something alien to our thinking.
We attended school because we had no choice. The modestly good marks some of us got that secured us tolerably good secondary schools came despite our not knowing why we were schooling.
And there came Weep Not Child! The book defined a definitive purpose of education for me.
Extrapolating Njoroge’s attitude to education, I for the first time, discovered that education can be a tool to secure certain knowledge and skills to do something for society.
It was here, more than from any book or person, that I came to understand that education can give knowledge and a chance to someone to be something to the world; something more than ignorance can allow.
My mind takes me back to Weep Not Child, when Education policy makers lace their speeches with a widely quoted statement former South Africa President Nelson Mandela made to the effect that education is the most powerful weapon with which you can change the world.
Last December, my mind took me back to Weep Not Child when I read UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon’s Education First Project in This is Africa magazine statement where he calls on World governments and development agencies to invest more in Education, more than any other infrastructure.
Weep Not Child not only defined for me the essential purpose of education in organised society; it also helped me discover that literature abounds with imaginary people and characters that can inspire and define one’s life’s purpose.
It is chiefly from reading works of fiction and biographies that defined for me the anatomy of leadership.
I have consequently learned leadership through reading great works of literature than I have learned this essential institution of stable and prosperous society from formal books on psychology, sociology or management.