Lekan Olanrewaju: Did school really screw us over? [NEW VOICES]

by Lekan Olanrewaju

Too many times these days I find myself remembering at random (or being reminded of) things I spent several hours of my childhood obsessing over. The other night it was my friend asking me what the point of LCM and HCF was supposed to be in our daily lives now. That I could barely remember that these abbreviations were supposed to mean “Lowest Common Multiple” and “Highest Common Factor” respectively was equal parts amusing and sobering, given how many hours of my life I’d spent thinking it would be the end of the world if I didn’t understand them. Same goes for being tested on recollection of information that would be a click or a turn of a page away in the real world. There’s a case to be made for many of those things creating a foundation of understanding that would be useful down the line for more complex concepts which we might find considerable application for. But how do we justify hours spent learning things like shorthand (that is, if you weren’t like me and didn’t just give up on it after a few lessons) and typewriting (literally a step backwards)?


But specific things from our education being useless in our daily lives is one thing. Raise your hand if the work that you do now has nothing to do with what you spent years of your life learning in university. I’ll raise you two. Maybe it’s not quite the norm just yet but it’s far from the bizarre occurrence it would be just in a few years. And it’s caused me to spend a lot of time wondering what the point was, really. But while this isn’t about extolling or romanticising the virtues of possibly dropping out of school (“Bill Gates did it” etc) or about painting that in a silly light (“Gates dropped out of Harvard” etc), it’s hard not to ponder how things might possibly have turned out differently if I’d spent my time learning things I was generally more suited to (by which I mean more interested in, more skilled at, more receptive to learning about). The same can be said for anyone else who feels like they didn’t ask enough of the right questions before heading down a particular path of study.


While I wonder what life would be like (and what would have been life) for myself and my peers who happen to fall into this category, I struggle to find a place for regret. The easiest way to explain this is that I know certain things about myself now than I would have known if I hadn’t spent years of my life going from liking to tolerating to hating school and everything associated with it. The best lessons the school system has for anyone, I think, are out of the classroom. And these were only heightened for me by the seeming disconnect between what I was learning and the professional future I wanted for myself. The obvious one is discipline, of course, and this becomes especially pertinent when you struggle to see the point of what you’re doing. I’ve learned to, for example, get work done, even when I don’t exactly like anything about it. If I’d been having the time of my life then, perhaps I’d have gotten things done easier, but I likely wouldn’t have learned till much later how to keep my head down and focus on completing tasks even when I hate the process. But more importantly, I’ve learned to ask the right questions of myself before jumping into anything. I consider the bigger picture now in a way I might never have had to learn to. And for that, I can only be grateful.

Lekan is a media professional and enthusiast with a passion for storytelling and building innovative platforms. He has served as Features Editor and Associate Producer with Generation Y!, in addition to working as a screenwriter, with credits including Mnet’s Tinsel and Hotel Majestic, and EbonyLife TV’s Dowry.

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