One Saturday morning the lady who washes clothes, Zenebech (Zeni), arrived home with a beautiful young girl. Usually she comes alone and does her washing singlehandedly. I took a close look at the young girl. She takes after her mom. The only difference between the two is that poverty has squashed Zeni like lemon and put a soot black seal on her red cheek. Zeni is a kind of lady who does not want to sit idle. If there isn’t any clothes to wash, she will ask to do something else.
“She is my daughter,” she said while grabbing the big basket which was stuffed with dirty clothes, “she insists on supporting her old mom.”
“Oh, you have a pretty daughter. Did you not tell me that she went to a university? …” I asked after greeting the young girl.
“Yeah… you know the current problems with these universities… I don’t want her to die a dog’s death. She is the only daughter I have been blessed with… I am scared, Gashie! … I called her to come back home as soon as possible after observing the incidents we have been witnessing in some universities. It is better for her to sit with folded hands at home with her poor mother than get killed cold-bloodedly. I don’t want her tiny head crushed with a thick club or cudgel… Don’t you think, Gashie, it is much better to die together here than to be left far off like a dead body of a truant dog?” Zeni said with downheartedness …
Zeni receives 250-500 birr per month from every household for the service she gives once a week. If it is a big family, she will have a pile of dirty clothes to clean. Here she is paid from birr 400-500. Using the money, she feeds two of her children and herself. She is a widow. The first born, daughter, is so good at her lesson that she passed school leaving examinations and joined a university last year. But now she can not continue her education due to the sporadic conflicts occuring in the higher learning institutions of the country.
Zeni’s son is still pursuing his high school education. He is likely looking forward to joining a university next academic year. But Zeni’s worry is that how will he be sent out of Addis in such situation. This is the problem many parents are facing this time in our country…
The word university is defined by Oxford Dictionaries as a “high-level educational institution in which students study for degrees and [it is also a place in which] academic research is done”.
Young people who are staying in and coming out of the university are the future leaders, physicians, military personnel, nurses, teachers, engineers, journalists, accountants, scientists, philosophers, chemists, biologists, pharmacists, linguists, generals, prime ministers, presidents, mayors, political leaders, writers… of this country. The fate of this country falls in their hands. If they have been trained in a proper manner, they will play significant roles in keeping their country in the track of development. If they are made to learn in a crooked or unproductive way (this is to mean poor curriculum and education system), the upcoming result will be bad. Poor education system can have contributions for the production of unproductive posterity. We will likely to have backward, uncivilized, impolite, disrespectful, vulgar and insolent generation. One can clearly see the wrong track this country will take being ruled by such generation. Generally, the education system will play decisive roles in the fate of this country. What is written in black and white in the Bible is a good example for such way of nurturing young ones.
“For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.” – Luke 6:43-45 (KJV)
I am of the opinion that if a country wants to march along the track of development peacefully, special emphasis should be given to the young ones and the education sector. The concerned body of the education sector in particular should think of designing promising type of schools’ curriculum before the young ones are herded in to schools, colleges and universities. If there is needed to include in the curriculum, for instance, moral education, this must be given due attention. Efforts should thus be put forth to help the production of well-mannered, productive, disciplined, passionate, nation-building… citizens from the very grassroots levels way up to the tertiary stages of the school system. The young people should be taught in such a way that they can become the building blocks of the nation. To the best of my belief this is how social transformation can be achieved through well-designed education system.
What is the purpose of going to school? Why do we learn? The simplest response might be to know about things or a subject matter and at length to get engaged in a job. What we are taught commonly is that “education is the process of facilitating learning, or the acquisition of knowledge, skills, values, beliefs and habits”. What our universities are expected to achieve through their efforts are these things. They are responsible to train the young people to responsibly think, plan, act and solve problems. If this is done, we can say the students are well-educated.
To say an individual is educated, there should occur behavioral or attitudinal change within him/her. If s/he doesn’t show behavioral change in terms of big thinking or positive progress or improvement, it can’t be said the individual is educated. If universities are not well-maintained (in terms of curriculum design, types of relevant courses or fields of studies…), they may fail to live up to their expectations.
When we come to our point, it is our belief that educated people are expected to do what they do as well-trained or well-educated human beings. In this regard, they are different citizens. They are much better than non-educated ones. This is to indicate that students are expected to solve their problems through round table discussions, civil arguments, debates, tolerance, respect… They should try to defeat one another not by fighting or killing but through dialogue, tolerance and respect. They are not expected to kill or fight one another. Those who try to solve problems through violence and force are not certified they have been changed through education. Such things are rather expected to be done by barbarians and beasts. Think of the difference between beasts and human beings. Being wild can never be associated with trained and educated modern people.
Any activist or politician who is said to be educated have to do things in a civilized manner. His/her positive thinking and productive outlook can be regarded by others as exemplary. S/he is the one who does not do things in a biased or partial manner. A genuine activist will thus not be a cause for conflicts or disagreements. Please think of some of our activists or politicians here in our country. How can we say they are the product of well-organized school system? They are not! They are rather the product of crooked educational system. They lack moral, discipline, civility… Afterall, you cannot make a straight line with a crooked ruler.
These days our universities have been changed in to conflict zones or battle grounds. Many of the young students in the universities are not acting like educated ones. They are armed with cudgels, stones, clubs, iron bars and penknives instead of books and pens. The young students do not do researches but rather they look busy killing one another, cudgeling their own school mates or brothers and sisters to death.
The young daughter of Zeni, the cothes washing lady, has been forced to quit her education and has returned home. She is among the citizens who are expected to change themselves (their lives), their respective families, communities and the country at large. But due to the said problems, whatever their causes are, she cannot utilize the privilege to change herself through education. How unfortunate she is! What is her choice? She does not want to sit with folded hands at home. She was determined, for the time being, to help her mother by washing clothes. Unfortunately, this young educated lady has been forced to do similar work her mom, the uneducated one, is doing. What will she do next? Probably she will soon find herself to be a commercial sex worker. Then she saves some money and hits the road to Arabian countries or to Europe across Libyan deserts… Jesus on the cross! … Where is the progress? Where the hell is the transformation? Can we say this should be the last destination of the young lady and her brother who are looking forward to changing their lives for the better?
The writer can be reached at email@example.com
By Haile-Gebriel Endeshaw