B.Sc Or MTV?
I’ve known 9ice for a long time now. Part of the benefits of being a journalist is that you get to meet people on a regular basis. And, as is always the case, you never can tell where these people will end up. In the prison? In a government house? Inside Aso rock? Or on top of the charts? Usually, it’s something only time can tell. When first heard about the ethnic singer, I was not particularly impressed. So he has a unique voice, and he soaks his lyrics in a pool of proverbs? I know a couple of people who could do that. But when he stepped into my office in 2006 and we had a thorough conversation (interview if you like) I quickly made up my mind that this young man will not just go places; he will go plenty places – I wasn’t sure exactly where and where. But to start with, I had an idea he would ‘go’ to the top of the charts and (and stay there for a long time).
How did he win me over? He had said he would title his debut album ‘certificate’; and I asked why. 9ice then went on to narrate how he used the money his parents gave him for JAMB form to book studio sessions and how he was convinced that music was his calling. To many conservatives, this will sound stupid and irresponsible. And I’m not exactly saying every kid out there should tear their admission letters and head for the vocal booths. But I believe, and very strongly too, that if you’re convinced beyond reasonable doubts, that your calling is in a particular field, the earlier you set your path on the journey, the better for you. It could be going to a school of aviation, instead of going to study Medicine to satisfy your parents. It could be going to a film school, a make-up school, a fashion school or a soccer academy, instead of opting for the ‘conventional’ University system. And in the case of 9ice, it could be locking yourself up in your room, writing songs; mixing with accomplices who are ‘stupid’ enough to share your vision, and finally hitting studios to unleash ‘havoc’ on an unsuspecting public.
9ice is lucky his ‘experiment’ worked out. And today, at 28, he’s filling auditoriums while many of his mates are filling vacancy forms. He’s writing rhymes and writing cheques while many young men his age writing application letters. He’s doing what he truly loves and getting paid in full while most of his friends are getting copies of The Guardian on Tuesday. Today, his mother (who runs a canteen in a popular school in ) will look at him and smile with pleasure; telling anyone around- ‘that boy, I knew he was going to be great. Since I had his pregnancy, I knew there was something special about him…’).
Now, sitting back on my chair, listening to 9ice and 2face Idibia (on the bragadocious cut ‘Street Credibility’), it suddenly occurs to me again – didn’t Idibia also abandon his studies at IMT Enugu in 1997 to come to and pursue a career in music?
Looking at it more deeply, it’s not just 2 and 9 that are teaching our youngsters that these days, the keys to success – and most importantly, fulfilment- no longer lie solely in getting a university degree. Two other prominent music stars Asa and D’banj opted out of their studies at State University at different times. D’Banj left for where he set foot on the path that eventually led to his breakthrough. Asa went to music school. Weird MC let her law studies at Ogun State University to follow her dreams: music.
For every TY Bello or Ruggedman that have a University degree, I can assure you you’ll find no less than a dozen others who either didn’t know the way t a tertiary institution, or simply dropped out half way.
In a society where so much emphasis is placed on material acquisitions; where the young are plagued by the GRQ syndrome (sorry, that’s my invention – it’s actually means ‘get-rich-quick’); where the most popular musical lyrics are those that espouse the wealth-o-mania, those that celebrate casual sex often using brash, unapologetic lyrics (and occasionally using non-covert innuendoes)… in a society that hypocritically makes it ‘important’ for every child to be educated up to university level; yet makes it impossible for ‘every’ child to get a job after studying to get a degree, what lessons are we learning from the elaborate successes of these ‘drop-outs’ amongst us?
In a world where music is extremely influential, who are our kids looking up to? 2face or that jobless guy around the house who left school with a second class- upper? Who is society more likely to reckon with? KSA, KWAM 1, Pasuma, Femi Kuti, or some anonymous professors locked in some non-functional laboratories, with no hope of ever spearheading an invention, or getting a theory ‘sneaked’ into any global scientific journal?
Let’s face facts folks – this generation (and I fear it’s the same for those coming after) is more facebook than NIPOST; more than NTA news; more chatrooms than classrooms; more bank balance than CGPA; And it’s not surprising, youths the world over are toeing the same line – we’re all drunk on the wine of technology, music and soccer. And, that more and more ‘non-graduates’ are behind the wheels, appears to me, a testimony that the guys at the helm of affairs in our education sector are not too keen on drinking. Why? Because if we had an education policy that favours the creative arts, sports and technology, maybe 9ice wouldn’t have chosen a studio session over JAMB. Maybe 2face would have stayed back for his HND at IMT. Maybe Weird MC would have gone to law school. Maybe, just maybe.
Imagine our universities having course on the English premiership, and Notorius B.I.G; getting instructive lessons on the melodies of 2face Idibia, , , KSA; or understudying and understanding the music of , Oriental Brothers, Orlando Julius, Shina Peters, Ebenezer Obey and Osita Osadebe… Imagine music undergraduates getting initiated to the ‘beauty’ of production softwares like Protools, Fruity loops and Reason… open or the NBA for sports students. Imagine mass communication students sitting in class to study the advent of new media, using myspace, facebook, youtube, linkedin and blogspot as case studies. Imagine music students learning the poetry of Dauda Epo Akara, Mode 9, Maman Shatta, 2pac, Ayinde Barrister
I can go on and on. But so that I don’t sound like a worn CD, the point is, we need to structure today’s education to tally with what is going on around us. We need to equip students with knowledge that’ll be useful when they eventually leave school. We need to speak in a language today’s school-goers understand. If not, more and more youngsters will continue to shy away from classrooms. And when they do make a success of their lives in spite of being ‘drop-outs’, I’m afraid, more and more of our young ones will begin to take the exit doors from lecture theatres.
Will we blame 9ice and 2face and Weird MC for influencing our kids ‘wrongly’? Or will we blame the school system for shutting the door in the face of a generation that has a mind of its own?