Education remains the bootstrap of both human and national developments. It is the solvent to the myriads of societal and economic challenges. As the world marks the International Day of Education, there is need to ensure that education both at national and international levels match and address the current local and global challenges.
According to the UNESCO, the theme for this year is ‘Learning for people, planet, posterity and peace’. This year’s theme calls for a multidisciplinary approach to teaching and learning, a multidimensional approach to societal problems and challenges, a concerted effort and sincerity of purpose from both governments and individuals. It is also a direct clarion call for education for sustainability. Sustainability is a word that is loaded with meanings and responsibilities. Bearing this in mind, this year’s theme appears holistic in that it stresses the fact that the survival and extension of humanity is dependent on people acquiring the right education for the sake of survival and extension of the human race. Thus education that is adequate for the current national and global challenges must focus on the preservation and sustenance of the planet earth both for the present humans and posterity. This challenge to preserve and sustain the present humans and posterity can only be possible if there is peace at all levels and societies of the globe. The reality of this is that violence and similar acts which deny the society of peace has butterfly effects across the globe. It has both spiral and trickle down effect.
The summary of this year’s theme is a call for values orientation and reorientation. Education remains a major route to this. This challenge needs a revisit to our traditional pedagogic and andragogic approaches and routines. A critical analysis of the theme is a good starting point.
Education and ‘learning for people’ is to ensure that the curriculum has objectives of ensuring that we learn to appreciate our humanity. Humanity has been dangerously challenged that we no longer know what it means to be human. We are becoming more like, if not worse than, animals. Ironically some who think and believe that they are not animals see others as animals and treat them so. Individuals are kidnapping their fellow citizens sometimes killing them if no ransoms are paid. Even younger ones are involved in the get-rich-quick syndrome which has graduated from the former yahoo yahoo swindling to the current yahoo yahoo rituals. Humanity is commodified. Some are now involved in organ selling. Also some Governments across the globe no longer have regard for people. Incarcerations are becoming the order of the day. Citizens are being treated like puppets. We also live like people who have no future. We think only of the moment. There is need to appreciate diversity. Every Nigerian needs to have an ideas of what it means to respect life and the associated human rights. Civic education at all levels must reflect this. There must be sanctity of life.
As we learn to have regard for people and humanity we need to appreciate the fact that we live on a fragile spot known as the planet earth which is diminishable and with limited and diminishable resources. There is need for this understanding. The educational curricula should ensure that there is need for appreciation of prudent use and management of available resources. The introduction of environmental-appreciation-related courses like environmental ethics should be incorporated at all levels of education for this special purpose. Environmental sustainability is a challenge for all. However there is need to understand and appreciate the justification for prudent management of planetary resources in the face of opposition by climate contrarians and those who believe that planetary resources are infinite. There is need to balance our material quests for prosperity and the challenge for sustenance. Many are yet to appreciate the enormity of the challenges posed by climate change. The impacts are already with us. There is to appreciate the reality the challenges faced by the planet earth.
The need for education and learning to appreciate our humanity and also to protect and sustain our planet earth are all geared towards the present generation but most importantly for the sake of posterity. What we the present humans should understand is that we were once people categorized as ‘posterity’. If we had inherited an inhabitable and nonconducive planet, we wouldn’t be as we are today. Our genes could have been distorted. This is just one of the strands of logic for education and learning for posterity through sustainability (education for sustainability). We owe posterity a healthy planet. Education for posterity (as an aspect of this year’s theme) is not only from the perspective of sustainability of the planet earth but also from the perspective of extension of humanity. Humanity is challenged already by extinction and certain posthuman drifts through technology and its advancements. The present human race is being challenged by what may be rightly called ‘technological beings’. The current species of human beings may become the minority to be discriminated against in the nearest future. Genetic engineering is seen as both a disease and a cure. This is what deconstruction philosophers call ‘pharmakon’. This calls for the introduction of technology ethics or philosophy of technology into the curriculum of all technology institutions and departments across the globe. This will help to ensure that technological developments and innovations have human faces. Our policy makers should be wary and circumspect of technologies and its advancements. There is need to adopt the precautionary principles in the areas of genetic engineering with special references to genetically modified organisms and products. The cases of Monsanto and Dupont remain eye openers. Side effects of certain contentious issues sometimes take more time than the period of study and trials to emerge. That’s the message of the precautionary principle.
It is only people that are humans that can understand how to treat people like human beings and persons. It is also human beings that will understand the need to preserve the planet and ensure intergenerational equity. We owe a lot to posterity.
In all, the entire quests become a mirage and the challenges become herculean if there is no peace. Peace remains one of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the realization of the entire quest of the theme for this year’s World International Day of Education.
Education for peace demands a lot. There is need for appreciation of cultural and religious diversities. Terrorism has become a global threat that is unsettling many societies. There is need for nipping this from the bud. Education for peace and antiterrorism needs orientation in critical thinking. Uncritically individuals are easily recruited into terrorism and its organizations. The curriculum should emphasize the need for ‘Learning to Live Together’. This has been one of the four pillars of education according to UNESCO. There is need for tolerance. We are one humanity irrespective of creed. Inclusive humanism and critical thinking should prevail in our educational curricula.
Nneji writes from Lagos