May 26, 2024

Dialogue

Robert Leslie Fielding: You are not formally educated, and yet here you are saying, in effect, that education plays a major part in shaping a person’s life.

Fatima Surayya Bajia: That is correct. I did not receive any formal education to speak of and yet I do indeed value education.

RLF: Could you tell us why you feel that way?

FSB: Certainly. Let us take other benefits in life, and compare them to the benefits offered and provided by being educated.

If you asked people what benefit they would most like in their lives, most would say they wished to be wealthy; to have a lot of money.

RLF: I think everyone would think that the most attractive benefit. What do you think?

FSB: I can fully understand why people want to be rich, but I think that if they really think about their lives, they would want to be healthy first and last.

RLF: Sure, that is right, but after being healthy, which obviously comes first, being wealthy would seem to be the most popular choice.

FSB: There, you have hit the nail on the head, by using the phrase, ‘the most popular’ – people think that way because being wealthy is a part of the dominant myths in modern culture. Everybody wants to be rich, so why shouldn’t I? That is the way people think.

RLF: Then how can you argue that it isn’t necessarily so.

FSB: I am going to argue that being wise, being knowledgeable, being educated, in other words, benefits people far more, in the long run.

If you think about life – three score years and ten, one’s life has to run through a lot of phases or stages. Life goes through infancy – a time we think we know very little, but actually the time when most is learned; through childhood, when formal education comes to the fore, but yet when the influence of parenting is at its peak, through youth, when there is sometimes a certain amount of rebellion, but is still characterized both by formal learning, in higher education, for example, and in vocational learning, once a young person gets a job; to young adulthood, characterized chiefly by marriage and by giving birth to children – also characterized by learning, and by teaching too – teaching one’s children, as well as learning something about oneself as one brings up one’s own youngsters, then middle age, which, for most people, is an age of consolidation, using what one has learned to make a good life, and then to old age, in which one has time to reflect on what one has learned in that long life.

Is that life not fulfilled by means of education? Of course, money plays its part, but, I would argue that the part it plays is merely a facilitative one – it allows you to live – physically live well, having food in your stomach and a roof over your head. It is education that plays the major part in each and every stage of a life – all life, and to deny that would be to deny many things, and be denied them to.

RLF: Can you give examples of what would be denied by denying someone the advantages education offers?

FSB: Of course. To live without education would be to live a life that could not really be said to be a life in the true sense of the word. We speak of the good life. What is that? It is merely having enough food to eat, having a roof, however splendid a roof, over one’s head? Surely not.

The good life is that which is spent being responsible – for one’s kids, for oneself and one’s partner, and for the community, society and for the environment in which we all dwell. We cannot count any life good if we leave out even one of those.

The key to living life to the full, taking into account what I have just said, is being rational, thinking carefully before acting. We cannot ignore each other, we cannot ignore our surroundings – near and more global, and therefore, we cannot ignore the role and the value of being educated.

To be educated, what we used to call being ‘book learned’ has changed beyond all recognition as the technological world encroaches on all our lives. And although some say the value of books is lessened in this age of computers, the role of reading and understanding is just as important as it has ever been. To understand the world in which you live is the most vital undertaking you can have.

For consider a person without this understanding – or at least, a wish, a propensity to understand. Such a person would surely fall foul to all the ills of the world – moral, social and physical. A young person just going to university, is educated, not just whilst she is in the classroom, in the lecture theater, or in the library or study, she learns much from being with other students.

Going to university is many things, but one that is least mentioned is that part of studying at university with people of one’s own age – people from different parts of the same country – people you would hardly be likely to meet in any other way, other than on a university campus.

Society – a nation – a community, is held together more closely by contact, and by that I do not just mean being in the same shopping mall, but interacting in ways that are meaningful.

To be denied that chance – the chance to interact with one’s peers from wherever they come from, is to be denied the opportunity to engage in the important work of building a nation, of building a society, of building an entity we call a nation.

RLF: Exactly right. What nation is worthy of the name if its young people aren’t educated together in one place – in a university. The home is truly important in life, but it is in leaving home that we truly grow as people, is it not?

FSB: It surely is. Insularity – isolation – selfishness – are not beneficial to nation building, to building a fuller, more wholesome, more rounded personality. The values we get from our parents – moral, religious, functional and psychological and philosophical, are the bedrock upon which the young grow and flourish into maturity. Socializing in educational pursuits is a great second to parental education.

If we grow with others, we grow within ourselves and we are, in turn, then much better equipped to bring other children into the world. Education in all its forms is the key to life.