As they tell, me time after time, they are the ones in our schools who are undergoing the current educational system, and whatever reforms that need to be carried out should be done with their input immersed within it.


“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

The current craze in the world is – bigger and better, measuring success through vastness; bigger classrooms, lots of resources, superior test scores, better learning environments, etc. Yet, the true essence of education is close to the quote stated above by the acclaimed Irish poet, whose poetry I diligently studied during my college years due to his terrific mind and way with words. “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.”

Which leads to the question: How do we set the hearts and minds of our young people alight? From my experience, doing this requires a preliminary step. Inquiring from them.

During the various STEM bootcamps that we have held in the past couple of years, we have interviewed dozens of students from across Lagos to understand what education means to them. We asked them what “future readiness” meant to them and it was both encouraging yet sad to hear of the hopes and dreams they had and their despondent views about the education that they were receiving. They recited issues within the educational system, had strong ideas about what they should be taught to be prepared for the global economy and were saddened that they were given no say as to how their future should be like.

We carried out surveys to deduce their thoughts: 89 per cent of them desire more of a focus upon skills that would lead them to future readiness. They spoke of wanting more chances to understand prospective career paths and how their present learning should lead to future readiness.

From the results of our survey, 74 per cent of our students would like to improve their school environments. A clear margin (88 per cent) of the students were interested in acquiring 21st century skills such as creativity, communication, and collaboration, to name a few.

My experience has taught me that we all have a lot to learn from our young people, which has led me to the conclusion that we could all learn from them and their expressions should be given the platform they require.


This has led to change agents pondering how to enable our youth to become heard; how do we make this a reality?

There are organisations springing up that aspire to do this. They provide our youth with platforms to share their opinions and advocate for the presence of students and student voice in decisions made about their learning outcomes. I was involved in an organisation last year that held outreaches that involved direct contact with students and driving the sustainable development goals (SDGs) in Nigeria. They were passionate about education’s potential towards changing the mindset of the youth and enabling them to be part of the change they desire in society.

One popular way that they currently do this is by voicing their opinions on issues taking place locally and internationally on Twitter. They state what they don’t like about education as it exists for them and compare this with how it is elsewhere in the world.

It would be of great benefit to community leaders, policy makers and other stakeholders in society to take note of their feedback through this medium, and to include it in documentation tallied about them and research papers.

My experience has taught me that we all have a lot to learn from our young people, which has led me to the conclusion that we could all learn from them and their expressions should be given the platform they require.

As they tell, me time after time, they are the ones in our schools who are undergoing the current educational system, and whatever reforms that need to be carried out should be done with their input immersed within it.

Adetola Salau, Carismalife4U@gmail.com, an advocate of STEM education, public speaker, author, and social entrepreneur, is passionate about education reform.

Picture credit: Philly’s 7th Ward.