The Oxford Advanced Learner’s dictionary defines education as a process of teaching, training and learning especially in schools or colleges to improve knowledge and develop skills (2006:467). In a broad sense, it is a process by which an individual acquires the many physical and social capabilities demanded by the society in which he or she is born to function. Mahatma Gandhi describes it as an overall all around drawing out of the best in child and man, in body mind and spirit. Thus whether viewed as a formal process or an informal or mental process, education entails all conscious efforts at equipping man with skills and attitudes necessary for us to constructively participate in the task of changing ourselves and the world at large.
Education activates and refines latent talent needed to change the world. It frees up people’s minds and allows opportunities for creativity and innovation, new prospects and ideas. Education has played an important role in the economic construction, scientific progress and social development of China by developing a large scale of advanced talents and experts and China has one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Education is the new currency by which nations maintain economic competitiveness and global prosperity (Arne Duncan, 2013). The United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon said, “People often ask about my country’s transformation from poverty to prosperity. Without hesitation, I answer that education was the key”.
In Nigeria in times past, we regarded epidemics and diseases such as small pox, cholera, whooping cough even HIV/AIDS as the handiwork of witches and wizards, we tagged anemic infants ‘abikus’ or ‘ogbanjes’; floods, hurricanes and other natural disasters as punishment from the gods and lives were wasted and our economy suffered. With education however, via scientific researches and pharmaceutical inventions, came enlightenment as to the cause of the diseases as well as viable preventions and cures for them. Education eliminates mindless conservativeness and prejudices encouraging a paradigm shift; that is what change is all about.
Education liberates from political ignorance and oppression. Most of those who spearheaded the attainment of independence of colonized countries such as The United States of America, South Africa, and Nigeria amongst others were highly educated. Education has over the years enabled citizens kick against bad leadership and demand accountability from public officers. The Middle East uprisings in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt in 2011/2012 are vivid examples.
Education is a catalyst for change and change is the only constant thing. The change brought about by education could be negative just as it could be positive but I have looked into the positive side because that is what we need to make the world a better place, positive change. Education changes people’s mindset; a changed mindset translates into a changed person. Changed persons change their societies and changed societies constitute a changed world. Indeed Nelson Mandela was right when he said that education is the most powerful weapon with which we can change the world!