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Published On: Wed, Oct 14th, 2020

Seeing education as a Hobson’s Choice

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By Isaac Asabor

There is no denying the fact that Nigeria’s economy has over the years been experiencing a downturn, and as a result led to a rapid increase to the rate of unemployment and poverty, particularly as graduates from tertiary institutions of learning have been finding it difficult to secure jobs. As a result of the foregoing gloomy situation, most parents are beginning to reason that a good foundation to employment generation and job security lies in the learning of artisanal vocations. In as much as one is not factually disposed to argue against their decision, it is expedient to agree with them that the growth of any nation depends on its technological components.
However, that does not rule out the fact that education is a Hobson’s choice. At this juncture, it is expedient to ask, what is a Hobson’s choice? According to lexicographers, Hobson’s choice is a situation in which you are supposed to make a choice but do not have a real choice because there is only one thing you can have or do. Analyzed from this definitional context, education; whether it is not guaranteeing gainful employment remains a Hobson’s choice.
To buttress the fact that education is a Hobson’s choice, former Nigeria’s President, Major General Yakubu Gowon, after being toppled as Nigeria’s head of state on July 29, 1975, returned to school for more studies and acquired a Ph.D. in Political Science. This time around, it has to do with his going back to school when he is, officially, close to 80 years. In the same vein, former President of Nigeria, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, to the admiration many education-loving Nigerians, enrolled at the National Open University of Nigeria (NOUN) to study Theology even when he was about 80 years old, and having attained international fame as the former president of a country. Consequently, in 2018 he received a doctorate from the same Open University. Still in the same nexus, former Odua Peoples Congress (OPC) leader and the current Aare Onakakanfo of Yoruba Land, Otunba Gani Adams, despite his enviable position in the country, particularly in the western part of the country, and his fame, he went back to school, and graduated from Lagos State University, LASU, Ojo Campus where he obtained a degree in Political Science.
Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to say that examples abound on Nigerians who were known to be famous and wealthy but later opted for the furtherance of their education. That goes to show that education is a Hobson’s choice.
At this juncture, it is not out of place to ask, “Why should those the society may have seen to have made it in life go back to school?
The reasons cannot be farfetched. To some in their myopic reasoning, people go back to school so that they can secure a good job which would bring them a good (and steady) income, and makes them afford a good life. For most people, this is all there is to it. But the rich and famous as cited in the foregoing think differently.
To some, furthering their education even when they are already rich and famous is to enhance their eligibility for top political appointments. Some job appointments are highly political. Hence, there has to be a compelling reason displayed to the world why anyone is given such a position.
To others, furthering their studies at the stage of being considered to be fulfilled in life do so for them to have something to brag about with. Yes, there are people who go to school for this. In fact, there are wealthy people who have made a lot of money without going to school or as dropouts. But the issue of not having a degree bugs their minds. So they go back to school to earn a degree so that they can have some academic success backing their financial success and complement their status in the society. And for most people, it puts them in a position to teach, share and be a thought leader in their industry.
As you can see, the emphasis is not at all about what is taught in the classroom. Choosing a school based on what is taught in the classroom is poor decision making. In some cases, the course of study doesn’t even matter.
The rich use higher education to get into other wealthy circles and position themselves to be richer. The regular people are going to school to learn something in the classroom.
It would be recalled that in 2017, when the multiple award-winning actor, Kanayo.O.Kanayo enrolled to study Law at the University of Abuja, after he bagged Master’s degree from the University of Lagos, few years back, explained at a media parley that why he took the decision was to prove those who believe that entertainers are not educated wrong. According to him, “Many people believe that we are not educated but I am here to prove them wrong.”
In the same vein, in 2014, when Premium Times, a Nigerian online newspaper, contacted the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo on why he was returning to school, he said it was important for him to make some commitments towards achieving his aspirations in life.
He said, “I’m going back to school because I have to have something to aspire to in every endeavour of life, I always aspire to something new in my farm. I do that in my international activities. I do it in my writing. I do it in the improvement of my academic work which helps to sharpen my brain and strengthen my faith.”
When asked how he was going to cope combining his studies with his tight international engagements, He said he would take advantage of the flexibility of the National Open University’s system.
“Fortunately, the Open University is flexible enough and I will definitely be able to cope. I was able to cope when I did the Post Graduate. I was also busy during the period,” he said.
Analyzed from the foregoing perspective, it will not be out of place to say in this context that education is the foundation of basic life skills and street smarts. While education might sound like a fancy technical term, it’s really everything we learn in life about how to best conduct ourselves from day to day.
Education can be the most freeing and empowering thing in the entire world!
Truly, living life to the fullest means being well-educated and holding a vast amount of knowledge about the world around us. It also means we continue to learn every day in all kinds of forms, whether it be from the people around us, newspapers, experiences, research, or traditional classes.
Without any scintilla of hyperbole, education breaks barriers between people, and allows people from across the globe to be empowered as it allows its possessor to become the best, demonstrates the fullest version of himself or herself, learn about what interests him or her, and what he or she is good at. Education makes its possessor to become self-aware and conscious about the world around him or her even as it can help such person to establish a place in this world, and feel complete. Just like Archimedes was quoted to have said, “Give me a lever and a place to stand and I will move the earth. Give me a fulcrum, and I shall move the world. Give me a firm spot on which to stand, and I shall move the earth”.
To my view, education is unarguably a place to stand, and it is a Hobson’s choice.
Isaac Asabor is a Public Affairs Analyst.

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