Reflection of a Mandela Washington Fellow: Does Africa Need an Education Reform?

Learning is great; not just because of its ability to expand the mind beyond recovery but also for its ability to shed light on the paths of life. And for a few who are committed to continuous learning, it delivers a deeper craving for something greater than self, a point at which we begin to realise that our lives are too small to be the purpose of living.


In about one week of arriving at the prestigious Wagner College, New York, it has been an awesome and enriching opportunity to learn about the success stories, uniqueness and challenges of fellow young African leaders from 20 countries. Thanks to the awesome Wagner family and community for such warm reception and a comprehensive curriculum which is being delivered in a fulfilled environment.

 What makes this learning experience different is the diversity and uniqueness of the African communities, which altogether helps us appreciate our common challenge as a people; one of which is the challenge of (good) leadership, among others. Even though this may be more pronounced in Africa, it is not limited to Africa; it is global. 

Prof Nimrod shed more light on this global issue by emphasising that the challenge of leadership is not the lack of it but its quality. On a deeper thought, however, I am of the opinion that the leadership of any community is a direct reflection of the collective character of its people. So the question remains, if we accept that our leaders are short of character, we also must admit that, as a society, we are short of character. 

Seeing that character and moral soundness of leadership, especially civic leadership is a root challenge we have to collectively address, then it is time we query what the education in Africa has delivered to us. Of what good is the education that does not build character and moral conduct in our children? Of what good is education that doesn’t deliver a sense of purpose to our youth? Of what good is the education that does not bring development to us all?

Civil leadership is about taking responsibility for the common man; which in essence is morality – demanding more of ourselves for the sake of others. It is an act of living; with respect, control and appreciation (not betrayal) of our potentials, while helping others live also. It is not an easy burden to bear but it is a meaningful and significant one.

As we continue to examine the subject of Civic leadership, one fact remains: we must continue to probe what exactly the dividend of education has been for the African community. If at any point, we realize that our long years of supposed literacy has not contributed positively to the building of morally sound leaders who are civically engaged, and an empowered populace (who look beyond the appearances and the words of their leaders to probe the content of their minds and the state of their hearts), then Africa is in dire need of an education reform.


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