I recently added a lecture entitled “The problem of education and development in Sub-Saharan Africa” by Professor Moses Oketch at the UCL Institute of Education. This lecture provided an insight into the higher education landscape within Africa today.  One statistic Dr. Oketch mentioned that below me away stated that in the 1970s, 200,000 students were enrolled in higher education. Fast forward to 2008 and 4.8 millon students in Africa were enrolled. After absorbing so much information, I began to think more about education. What does education actually mean? How has it benefitted me? Why is education important?…

My name is Stephanie Offei-Ntow. I am an BA International History graduate from London School of Economics and Political Science. Next year, I will be studying my masters in International History at Columbia University. I truly believe that education is important because it allows the individual to think, explore, assess and continually learn about their chosen field and/or multiple fields. There are so many varying definitions about education. Regardless, education will always be about enlightening and equipping you with knowledge that will enable to you practically develop your career or craft.

Education is an important tool to not only empower yourself but to make a difference in society. Lots of graduates now see university as a mean to an economic end however going to university can offer so much more. Normally students attend their first year of university eager to specialise in one field or can take a double disciplined degree. However, I would strongly urge students to attend a variety of lectures available at their disposable within different fields. Join societies completely unrelated to you in fields where you have an interest or a field you think you might want to start in career wise. The opportunities at university are endless and its important you make the most out of it.

I cannot stress enough getting involved in extra-curricular activities. Yes, it is important and should a priority to manage your time wisely. Notwithstanding, being strategic about which extra-curricular activities you get involved in is also key!. Setting aside time for this is also helpful not just for networking but to be able to demonstrate skills you will need in the workplace. In the real world, unless you become an academic, is not spent studying and reading books – its dealing with people and working in teams. If you are unsure about societies to join, do not be afraid to start one!

Lastly, ensure you gain work experience! This is extremely important. Experience, experience, experience. During your time at university you have endless opportunities to get experience during Easter and your summer breaks. The job market today is particularly tough on graduates and one way you can set yourself apart is by gaining experience and being to demonstrate what you achieved and what skills you gained accordingly.

However, despite the above, some young people are not able to go university. Please understand that every one’s journey is different. However, if you want something you must be determined to get it. If you want to work for an organisation, go to their offices and try to find out the best way to go about gaining experience. Speak to the people within your network. Learn a technical skill/craft. Enquire about various apprenticeships if that is a route you are open to taking.

If you have gotten to the end of this post, please take these few nuggets away. Education is not limited to the classroom. Education is an everyday life process that should concern us all. You do not need to go to university to be ‘educated’. Your journey and career path is different so do not compare what other people are doing instead don’t be afraid to ask questions. Finally, please please do not be afraid to ask for help or guidance from those working within in your ideal career.

By Stephanie Offei-Ntow (2017)