By Mfonobong Inyang
Hold your horses, pump your brakes and please – in the name of whatever you hold dear – drop those stones. Just before you rip me apart – give me the next 8 minutes of your precious time. Deal? Okay, I’ll take that as a ‘yes’. 😁
First, let me tell you a story about myself I probably haven’t shared with a public audience. Today, amongst other things, I write and talk for a living – literally. My erudition or elocution skills didn’t fall from the sky – only meteorites do. Combined with an innate passion for self-development and other variables, I am able to do what I do today largely owing to quality education – and it didn’t come cheap!
However, that’s not the point. The point is, I am from a very humble background. My father and mother met in the village (Ikot-Ofon Ikono, Uyo, Akwa-Ibom State), fell in love and consequently moved to Lagos in search of the proverbial greener pastures. My father, with his brilliant Standard Six result, got a job then in West African Examination Council (WAEC) and this further spurred his passion for human capacity development.
Looking back now, I can tell that he made a conscious decision to ensure his siblings and children got the best education he could afford at the time. So yes, I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. The one I currently have in my mouth is the one I bought for myself!
Now that Family History Class 101 is over, let’s talk about a topic that usually pops up at the beginning of every academic session – especially for children in Nursery, Primary and Secondary schools.
School Fees Week is a coinage that has, in recent times, gained notoriety amongst parents, guardians, school owners and other stakeholders in the academic community. It is that week that heralds the payment of tuition fees by those responsible for the child(ren).
However, given the harsh economic clime, it has become some sort of a burden for most parents and undertones of despair have accompanied the phrase. It doesn’t make it any better that January is that month that people supposedly struggle with paying their bills – it always seems as though school fees have to be ‘coughed’ out. For most parents, they live from paycheque to paycheque; they can barely afford the luxury of savings and investments. I understand that and I empathize with them.
Perhaps I am really writing this for people like me; those under 30, unmarried, urban professionals and thinking of starting their own family in the nearest future. Personally, I have decided that the quality of education that my children will receive will not be dependent on my financial status or income level at the time when school fees are required. My children’s school fees will be funded by a financial system that I would have put in place before they ever arrive!
One of the perks of being single is that you have more flexibility over your income. So why not invest a fraction of your earnings in long-term ventures, financial instruments or even an Educational Trust Fund for your children?
Such that they are guaranteed uninhibited access to qualitative learning? The idea is that such system put in place will fund their tuition and not your income (or the lack of it) when the need arises! This is not to say that your financial fortunes may not improve in the future but we all know that sometimes, life happens and we cannot control that.
What “Makes America Great” isn’t necessarily a function of who the president is but the great systems that they have put in place. They have a great educational system, financial system, judicial system, health system, transportation system, etc. This doesn’t mean that they have the perfect system but systems that work – so that the major job of anyone at the helm of affairs is to co-ordinate the systems. Norway is one of the leading countries in terms of human capacity development because, amongst other things, they have huge money laid up for the education of unborn children!
Recently, a light bulb went off in my head. Owing to the dynamics of Lagos State, I do whatever is possible to avoid physical meetings, not because they are not important, but because of the implications of time and mental convenience. So I attend meetings or engage clients physically, not because I want to, but because I have to. So I rely heavily on voice and data bundles from my service provider. I realized that regardless of my income level, I never went below a certain threshold of call or data balance. I always ensured that I get a top-up if I ever did.
It is so important to me that I can reach the rest of the world through my phone, so I built a system around it. Even when I seem short of cash, trust me, I would still have ample data and call credit! John C. Maxwell posits that everything rises and falls on leadership. Leadership is really the formation of systems because if things fall apart when you are not there, then you weren’t a true leader in the first place. So we can safely say that everything rises and falls on systems. Businesses that thrive do so because of strong systems (structures) – not necessarily fantastic CEOs.
Whether within or outside the bonds of wedlock, it’s easy for me to say that I won’t father a child until there is a system in place that ensures that that child will not be exposed to the harsh realities of an underprivileged human. I might be wrong, but I find those who have little or no means of subsistence bringing children into the world as irresponsible. Most times, they hope that the child will bring them ‘good fortunes’. To me, that feels like outsourcing responsibilities to innocent kids. We really need to stop punishing children who didn’t ask to come forth with our laziness.
You are only reading this because I got an education; I could have easily been a John Doe – another out-of-school statistic. If you really love your children, then you have to be intentional about the quality of education they receive and how it will be funded. Our parents would say that for the most part, they were working hard with their children in mind. So that they could get better lives than they did. It seems most people in our time haven’t gotten that memo. Now you know why we be out every day on these streets securing those bags – which in principle is us really securing the future.