Setting them right


Twelve years ago at the writers’ workshop at Chancellor College, I came across a bubbly young man who we had just critiqued his piece that one Thursday of May.

I was impressed by his love for the arts and determination to make it big in life. Above that, his discipline and attitude towards work was topnotch and one could easily tell that this was a young man destined for greater things.

It was later that he opened up to me that the motivation for his hard work was the hope to liberate his family from the fangs of the heartless beast of poverty that had long clenched his family.


The most heartrending moment to the tale was that this young man died a year before completion of college. It was even tear-jerking once we sighted his homestead. One who does not mind pricking on sensibilities would have said that the place smelt of privation and was a fine example of multinational organisations’ textbook definition of poverty. The gloomy faces of the locals wrote paragraphs and narrated volumes of hopelessness about the person they had just lost.

Years later, we had another person who came to college with a pair of worn-out pants, worn-out shirt and some rugs that had a distant semblance of a T-shirt. A story is told that this person had to borrow a phone from a friend to tell people back home how well he was being fed by the college.

In the earlier case, death, regrettably, intervened and thwarted what would have been a possible happy-ending story of a man, who would have bailed out his family out of poverty.


The second tale is actually a better one because the person went on to study medicine and is a qualified doctor.

Not long ago, the media published some depressing stories which not many would think are serious issues worth the nation’s discourse.

Some students, thousands of them, cannot proceed with their education because they cannot access tertiary education loans. Some even fail to sit examinations because of failure to settle fees balance.

It would only be a matter of living in denial if the government refuses that it has not done well when it comes to investing in education. Solid foundation for a nation’s development is not only steeped in infrastructure but investment in human resource that would later prove to be think tanks for the nation.

If at all our sermons on development are serious, then we cannot run away from pooling resources for development. Of course we are sometimes, as parents, found wanting for always looking up to the government to pay for our failure to give our children proper education. But if we, one day, learn to be a nation that believes in investing for the future, we will begin to realise that these learners who are being deprived a chance to education would have been a nation’s gold mine.

Ask around, you will notice that a staggering figure of the prominent figures we glorify today could not have reached the top of their ladder had it not been for the soft ways to attaining higher education as was in those days.

Of course we must accept that things have changed and what was sustainable then is not today.

The solution, I think, is that the government must sanitise the loan application and granting process so that we do not find ourselves in the present scenario.

What kills the soul is that while we have enough to steal from the government, we fail to use just a little of it to educate those who stand a chance to develop this country. Of course they might end in the wagons of the gravy train.

My sincerely hope is that we bail out these desperate students other than make them recite the sad tale of dreams deferred. All we need is a fresh look at priorities and we must aim at setting them right.

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