By: Salisu Suleiman
This is my first letter to you from school, and what I see, sir is not a pretty sight. I know this letter will break your heart, but you taught me to speak my mind. You must know that nothing is as you recall. You say school gave you some of the happiest years in life, enlightenment, education and a future. What I see today are bleak, blank faces, gazing at bleak, bland futures.
I do not see the cheery days and starry nights you recall so fondly. The tower you remember has crashed down to the dungeons of decrepit desolation and disrepair; from an incubator of fresh thinking, it is now a prison of dead thoughts. What I perceive from the prism of this prison is a picture not of enlightenment at its highest peak, but ignorance at its darkest pitch.
What education I see is confusing; teachers perplexing; methods stultifying and solutions unnerving. What I see is truth tethered on the tentacle of lies and facts fanned by farce. What I see is a dearth of research, paucity of original thinking and plentiful of intellectual inertia. I see teachers who grimace at the embrace of technology then retreat to their comfort zones of submerged subterfuge, prostituting posterity for pittance. They teach in public schools, but all have children in private schools.
You say you made your best friends in school, but through the miasma that shrouds the clouds of today’s comradeship, what I see are the bonfires of the occult as they sweat, shiver and shout; they see everything and nothing; they strangle, shoot and stab; they climb a mound of skulls for a moment of transient clout that is premised on pretexts, lies, fears and tears. I see no lasting friendships in that fraternity.
I swear, sir, that I see a 1000 students crammed into a class meant for 100; I see PhDs being dictated lecture notes; I see scientists that have never seen a laboratory; I see everywhere labels that complicates the easy and distorts the simple. I see students who tried to live by the norms and were labeled conformist; some tried to be proactive and were deemed radical; those who sat on the fence were called unstable. For trying to articulate their ideas a few were stamped controversial. Some opted to do what they believed in but were termed fundamentalists.
I interact with students who know everything about soccer, nothing about Socrates; all about Arsenal, nothing about Aristotle; all about Maradona, nothing about Michelangelo; all about Pele, nothing about Plato. I see the mast of memories misted by the fog of foiled, failed folios; I see the sunlight of education supplanted by hollow halogens, fanning the flames of familial frames into frayed fringes. Next time you tell me I can’t speak, read or write English, I will tell you that I speak better English than my teachers. Next time you say youths today are without creativity nor intellect, I will reply that I am taught by professors who have published nothing in a dozen years.
Through the prism of so many prisons, I see once cherished values dragged into the gutter of moral penury; I see students storming through a million pages without comprehension for a piece of parchment; I see teachers bluffing and bullying their ways with blunt ignorance; I see culture confined to the cellars of a confused continuum called civilized conduct; I see sons reject time honored symphonies to go searching, picking and parodying primordial patterns from which they obtain no education, no enlightenment and nothing of the nuances needed to knead a livelihood.
The school I write from today is a place where the search for truth is nothing; students lie and cheat with sacred texts that meant something to get scores that leave them sharing no shade and no shelter from once shielded sanctuaries, now synods of sybaritic sacrilege. The time has come when merit is wasting and cheating is without compare most paying. The time has come when dirges announce the birth of new ideas and pyres precede people unable to pirate patents. And because government is on a stretched, secluded sabbatical, it has lost touch with my teachers. So they teach for three months and strike for six.
In the hostels you recall like yesterday, I am awakened by the bedlam of students scurrying to fetch water to wash their faces and cook their meals; I see 16 students crammed into the single room you once lived alone. On the shelves where you kept your books are kerosene stoves; in the wardrobes where you once hung your shirts are sacks of food; in the hands of masters students, I see lecture notes stenciled from back in the 1980s; the libraries are homes to books of antiquity and today’s seminars, a bizarre bazaar of intellectual ineptitude.
In class, we are plied with new lies to quell old fears; where you once watered the bud of hope for the flower of your future, what I see now is the slow, death dance of fast fading hopes. The ivory towers are anchored on the rusty chains of complacency. As I watch the procession, I am confronted by life’s stony harshness, and fear I may singe even further from the emptiness of an education that is stilted, shapeless, shrouded in mystery, mindless, meaningless.
Once in a while though, I do see shafts of sunlight, summarily supplanted, but from which hinges the hope that for a second split into a million shreds, the clear path to light may one day flash through, and my education may be a fraction of all that you hoped for. In the meantime, father, I am school, but learning nothing.