Nigerians place a very high premium on education. Translation: they like to acquire degrees. A lot.
If you enter the sitting room (parlor) of a typical Nigerian family, in addition to family pictures, you are likely to see one or more school certificates prominently displayed for the whole world to know that Baba Bisi too went to school. And graduated.
At the most basic level, I would say that you are not considered truly educated unless you have a Bachelor's degree. In fact, some people will argue with you and say that a Master's degree is the minimum requirement to be considered truly educated. I am sure if there were more advanced degrees than PhDs, Nigerians would pursue them too. But until then ....
As much as Nigerians love to acquire degrees or value education, there are not enough university graduates in the country. In fact, there are entire families and villages where there is no single university graduate.
So, you can imagine what a big deal it is when one member of that family, for example, finally breaks through, completes his or her university education and bags that degree. Very big deal.
Naturally, we would expect it to be a blessing. If all goes well, the graduate will land a good job and live a better quality of life than his non-degree wielding counterparts. Not to mention the immeasurable prestige of being recognized as the first (and hopefully not the ONLY) university graduate in that family. There is the expectation that this graduate will succeed financially so that he can give back to his community. You can define community as loosely or as narrowly as you like, but let's assume it includes his immediate family and some extended family members.
Everything is good so far, right?
So, how on earth is being the first university graduate in your family a curse?
I think it can be a curse because of the abyss of endless expectations that are attached to this achievement.
Because in Nigeria, a lot is expected from a university graduate. I would even say there is more pressure on the guys than on the ladies. The general belief is that a college degree is an automatic ticket to a higher income bracket and quality of life. But, as we all know, that is not always the case.
The expectation that bagging a university degree somehow confers immediate success on the graduate, is in and of itself, pressure. With that expectation can also come additional family responsibilities. The graduate is now expected (since he is supposedly now doing well) to take care of other (usually younger) family members and see to it that not only are their financial needs met, but he is also expected to become some sort of mentor to those coming behind him.
Can somebody say pressure?
Arguably, the same pressure can apply to a non-degree holder or high school dropout who is simply successful at whatever he or she does.
However way you choose to look at it, I believe that in the end, graduating from the university is a really good thing. But it is more important to succeed in your chosen career, and you'll need more than a university degree to achieve long-term success. Education is not limited to the four walls of an institution. Life itself is a teacher and you never stop learning.
What do you think? Is a university education worth all the hype? Kindly share your thoughts.
*Image Credit: Nigerian Eye