Why were our grandparents more educated than today’s PhDs?

Have we ever wondered why our grandparents - and their ancestors - never had the diseases we die from today, or why there was zero unemployment and yet our PhDs are strewn all over without anything to earn a living, or why there were very low divorce rates than what we witness these days?

Students attending their graduation ceremony at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare in 2013.

It all boils down to the vastly different education systems that our grandparents – and their ancestors – had, and what we have today.

Yesteryear’s education was wholesome, as it catered for the complete individual, as opposed to today where only a small fraction of the person is catered for.

Our grandparents received what has now become to be known as home schooling, but was the backbone of the very existence and success of our species – whilst today’s generations are on the brink of extinction due to the very base education that we have.

Our grandparents’ education took care of all their emotional, psychological, spiritual, physical, and other needs that define what a human should be.

It aimed at – and succeeded in – creating a whole human who would be fully prepared to overcome all of life’s challenges.

The education we rejected focussed on ethics and morality, manners, household coordination and subordination, learning good behaviour, the cardinal virtues of life, bad qualities, and so forth.

Needless to say, our education system today merely prepares us to be nothing better than someone else’s worker – spending most of our lives fulfilling another person’s dream, and even making it our own.

We are merely regurgitating machines – as we are incapable of doing anything else besides just reproducing what we were taught in school.

A quick look at our children proves that point – they will never know what they were not taught.

If you ask them a question, it would not be surprising to hear them answer, ‘hatina kuzviita’, which means, ‘we never learnt it’.

What type of answer is that?

It clearly shows that the education that we adopted from the West is heavily flawed, as it creates human who are completely dependent on another for their knowledge – which does not encourage independent research, and innovativeness.

It is brainwashing education that is built around the concept that whatever you are taught by the teacher and the textbook is the only truth, and anything else outside that is incorrect.

Thus, if your teacher tells you – for instance – that Christopher Columbus was the first European to discover America, that should be truth – and if you challenged that and said that he only got up to the Carribean islands, and that other Europeans had reached America hundreds of years earlier, you would fail.

In so doing, we have generations of people that need to be spoon-fed knowledge, and as a  baby, if they are left unfed, they will die of hunger.

Or, as a wheelbarrow – where you push it and leave it, is where you will expect to find it the next day – as it is unable to move itself.

This Western education system was deliberately designed to turn us into the sad character of a hunting dog, that can successfully hunt and provide food for its master, but when abandoned will die of hunger, as it can not hunt for itself.

It is then any wonder that when our White masters left Zimbabwe, we all started suffering, and the country started on its downward spiral – with the economy in a free fall, and companies closing – yet we were the very same people who worked for years in those companies.

We could not even take them over and run them ourselves, as our Western education was never intended to produce such a person.

Today, we cry on the top of the hills for ‘foreign direct investment’ – a synonym for Western White people to return – as we have failed to run our own economy.

Alternatively, we go in search of those White people to their countries so that they may employ us.

Such is the folly of the Whitemen’s education!

We need to re-strategize our education system, so that it reverts to the traditional standards that our grandparents had – albeit with modifications that suit our prevailing needs as a country.

We need to put our heads together as a nation for a wholistic approach to this challenge, as we will forever be a sorry sight in the eyes of the world.

Our grandparents for starters, were trained in the value of hard-work and self-reliance from a very young age.

They never shunned getting their hands dirty, and never viewed that as degrading, since they appreciated that they needed to provide for their families and the community at large.

However, in today’s world, we view the starting of a small business, such as selling little goodies on the streets as degrading and below the education we received.

Never do we ever perceive it as a genuine business, and ourselves as entrepreneurs, who need to run that establishment with all seriousness, envisioning it as a big enterprise in the future.

In fact, we see it as temporary respite, whilst we wait for that investor to come and open up a company, which we can then go and work for.

Little do we even bother to ask ourselves how that company we want to work for – or are working for – started, as most of them were once backyard establishments.

In fact, most of today’s multi-billion dollar ventures were once ‘garage’ businesses, such as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Siemens, and numerous others.

One of our global banks started off as a small spaza or tuck shop-like room, where the owner – who was also the only employee – convinced people in his neighbourhood to save their money with him, so that he would give it back to them with a little interest – whilst he loaned that same money, for an even higher interest, to business people and investors.

This Western education has made us to lose confidence in our own abilities.

Our education also lacks the values of patience and endurance, which our grandparents were taught.

They were trained in benefits of perseverance, as they would go through such processes as tilling and preparing the land for agriculture, and planting, watering, weeding, and all that was needed if ever they were to have food the next season.

They appreciated the value of endurance.

However, today, all we know is that, if something does not work you simply throw it away and buy another one.

Additionally, with the advent of social media – despite all its undoubted benefits – we have all been wired to expect everything to happen instantly – as we no longer have patience.

Is it then any wonder that we easily give up on our marriages when we feel they are not working, or we can not even go through to the very end with projects that we start?

We expect results today, and if they are not forthcoming, we just abandon and start something else, but then abandon that as well, and the cycle repeats itself.

That is also why our HIV/Aids prevalence rates are so high in our part of the world, as we can never be satisfied, or patient and resilient enough to stay with one partner and make that relationship work.

Similarly, our daughters can sleep with any guys just because they bought them smartphones – something they could have been patient enough to work hard and buy for themselves.

Our sons have been reduced to thieves and conmen for the same reason.

It is all about instant gratification.

In fact, contrary to popular misconception, our grandparents did not stay in perceived ‘unhappy’ marriages just because of family or societal pressures.

However, they remained committed to them as both parties in that marriage knew that there was no other option except to make it better, so they were committed to making it work.

Our grandparents were also trained in the values of ‘hunhu’, or ‘ubuntu’, something grossly lacking in our Western education.

In those days they all knew that every individual’s duty was to his or her community and fellow men and women.

They would make sure that each and every member of the community was well catered for.

That is why in our traditional setups, there was never any glaring poverty, and orphans and widows were everyone’s responsibility.

However, our education today does not inculcate any of those values, as we have adopted Western standards that focus on individualism and selfishness.

That is why we all cry out to the government to provide for the poor, to build us clinics and schools, to give us textbooks and pupils’ chairs and desks, and to build us roads.

I am always so touched when ever the people of Botswana – a largely poor nation – come together in their neighbourhoods and raise funds to build decent homes for the destitute.

Can we seriously claim that we can not come together as a community and patch up all those potholes in our own roads – besides, they are our cars, and not Mugabe’s, that get damaged.

How many of us are electricians, carpenters, plumbers, and so forth that we can not volunteer our services for our community?

My mother tells me of how, in the rural areas, they grew up building their own clinics and schools, without waiting for someone else to do it for them.

This is not to exonerate the  government’s obvious responsibility, but honestly, can we travel on potholled roads, or lack clinics and schools, just because the government is not fulfilling its obligations, and we just sit by and be the ones to suffer?

Additionally, our grandparents’ wholesome education taught them other facets of being a complete person, such as one’s responsibilities in their families – both immediate and extended.

Today, we complain that our children lack respect and dignity, yet we are the very people who allow them to have Western education, and even subject them to unwholesome television programmes, music, and movies.

What did we expect?

Our grandparents learnt at a very young age such aspects as good behaviour towards others (tsika) and kuzvibata.

They understood the concept of right and wrong, as well as conscience.

In that way, they understood the values of honesty, humility, love, discipline, self-discipline, forgiveness, mercy, pity and compassion, rectitude, sufficiency, purity, repentance, patience, courage, unselfishness, and a host of others, that our Western education seldom touches on.

There is so much that we can learn from what our grandparents and ancestors were trained, that it would be foolhardy to try and write it in a newspaper article – probably I will write a book on it.

Nevertheless, from this brief discourse, it is clear that our grandparents received far much more than even our most educated people today, as their education was superior.

It is about time that we came back, as a nation, to the appreciation that what we discarded as primitive was, in fact, the very essence of a successful life.

A country that is founded on a perverted education will soon also be perverted.

We have learned nothing from the Western education that we have received over the past century, except to be turned into empty-headed, directionless, immoral and amoral glorified slaves, who can never stand on their own.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. He is available should anyone want to invite him to speak at any event or gathering. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]com. Please also follow him in Facebook and Twitter.

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