CNN recently run an interview with Assou-Ekotto, a Cameroonian soccer star that plies his trade with Tottenham Hotspurs in England. Assou-Ekotto is a high-school drop -out but has made a fortune playing football in England. Apparently football runs in his family, but what I found interesting are his efforts through a foundation, to ensure kids have a proper education. Quite interesting to a star that earns thousands of British pounds every week.
More interesting were the reasons for dropping out of school. He argues that it looked so strange and boring to sit in a class with one man standing in front telling stories about Christopher Columbus and the voyages of discovery. The idea remains relevance of your knowledge of Christopher Columbus for your life. In life we are concerned about things that bring prosperity and successes. Whether the knowledge of such historical figures is relevant can be debated. I am not suggesting abolishing history from the Malawi school curriculum. My father would have killed me for it.
Consider the context of “chikhwaya cha Mangochi” in a typical Malawi setting. The chikhwaya cha Mangochi, with due respect and sensitivities it brings, is a very rich, uneducated illiterate. He or she has millions in banks, investments of all sorts and employs various people. Their lifestyle can be ravish or simple and depending on your biases, primitive or whatever definition. Such folks did not go to school and we have seen people exhibit ambivalence to the value of education. But in essence, such types of folks are actually entrepreneurs. They are not idiots but clever folks that know their trade pretty well. Their main attributes include the ability to see an opportunity where no one sees it. In fact they have taken risks and lived frugal lifestyles and know exactly what they want to achieve in their lives. Generally they do set themselves some specific goals and love to take risk and more of it. They are not comfortable with the status quo of being able to pay bills. Interestingly, they have the patience of a fruit tree farmer and can wait long enough to reap their rewards. They create jobs and continuously invest even without formal schooling.
It now brings me to the Christopher Columbus stuff that our Africa soccer star found as a reason to quit school, and the relevance of a curriculum. On an empirical basis, it is a foregone conclusion that more years spent in school have a positive correlation to your income or earnings. Of course, it excludes those years of repeating Standard Eight many times simply because of limited places in public schools. Effectively, we can correctly put aside any reasoning that discounts the benefits of schooling. Similarly, we put forward a case that relevant education brings even extra benefits in-terms of income overtime. Primary school curriculum of these years has evolved to include social studies and other stuff. The same can be said about secondary schools. I I am not sure if the university curriculum has changed, I can be corrected. The moral of the tale is still rooted in making curriculums relevant as we build more schools.
What is clear is that in school a lot of skills are learnt and get better later on in life depending on individual situations. While some individuals have successfully invested and made millions without education, entrepreneurship can be incorporated in our school curriculum at all levels of learning. Everyone can be an entrepreneur irrespective of their profession and teaching our young people at all levels, primary, secondary, vocational, and tertiary or any other level will ensure that Malawians are equipped with life skills. We cannot accommodate everyone at Mponela to learn a few business skills. Values of success in life need to be cultivated at a tender age.
The global economy has become more linked over the years. Education, particularly if it seriously incorporates entrepreneurship is more effective at exploring opportunities beyond the border. Billionaire habits can be easily acquired through an education system that teaches kids how to invest, take risks and manage any little resources at their disposal. Beside money, billionaires have many things in common. Frugal lifestyles, risk loving and opportunity setting. If such skills are properly combined with the right education, in the golden age of information technology, a forex thirsty nation like Malawi has a reason to exist. Otherwise, it is no value telling kids each year and out that the world war started in 1914. Was it really a world war? They can google for themselves.