We were robbed of creative thinking in our childhood

Students learning how to code. / Net photo

The preconceived notion that creative thinking is inspired by an individual’s IQ is interestingly debatable. Without having to dethrone folks who are already highly esteemed for their creativity in the past years, I choose to state plainly that groundbreakers are also a reality of the present age. To come up with intriguing ideas from scratch is a challenge passed on from years of the old and consequently, we are made to think that creativity is not for everyone but an anointed group of people. Creativity though, does not necessarily mean coming up with something totally new that has never existed. Rather, it includes one’s ability to look at existing materials and wittily getting them together — connecting the dots to come up with something that no one else thought would emanate from the same resources.

Once the materials used are disconnected from the end results, then this is deemed the epitome of creative thinking. For instance, I have seen a lady that makes chairs and tables out of wasted car tires, those dumped by the street. We all know tires; we all know seats. But how many of us recognise and evaluate the connection between the two? Categorically, not everyone but this one lady!


From childhood, I was boundlessly creative. With fellow peers, we collected waste plastic water bottles to build small houses. When our elders found us filling the bottles with soil, they spanked us. But in the current reality, people that are using plastic bottles to build houses are awarded creative thinkers.


Despite the spanking, exploration did not cease. In kindergarten, I used to love drawing. During our mini breaks, I would hold a pencil, and draw cartoons explaining the teacher’s lesson to fellow pupils. This was a crime because I was using a cartoon to represent a teacher. But today, Disney World hires about 600 animators. My prospective job with Disney World must have departed with the teacher’s blinding slap on my cheek. 


Then came primary one. We used to play with boxes of matches, and magnetic tapes from old cassette tapes. I would sit at the front in class with a wire inserted in a match box and communicate to a friend seated behind. Fellow pupils approved my genius for which I was occasionally spanked severely when I distracted a class. Today, over 5.13 billion people are using mobile phones. Dropping this, I ventured in making planes out of polythene, making me a renowned pilot, at least in my village.  Alas, no one took pride in this at home. I recall being spanked for misuse of polythene, (back then, they were a fortune). But now, drones are all over. I would be playing ping pong with Elon Musk’s Space X.

This is a fair account of the story of almost every child raised in African society. What we were urged to drop, is what has given birth to the world’s ultra-rich. Now, as we grow up, we are more conscious about our surroundings; we care so much about what the world thinks, fearfully loathe risk-taking to avoid embarrassment of failure and then end up with a hesitant mind-set, wallowing in sheer complacency. 

As children, we used to question everything: But since birds and planes fly, why can’t I fly? Why did Jesus turn water into wine if drinking wine/ alcohol is bad? How come mum has a big stomach? We got no responses except saying- it is all bad to drink. That mum got a big stomach from the supermarket among other odd replies. They would tell us that children should respect their elders – to keep silent and ask no questions in their presence. But today, the world is craving people that ask uncomfortable questions that possess that passionate child-like curiosity.

When we escaped from the tyranny on our ingenuity at home, we ran into an inhibiting formal education system. Silent children were praised; they were the good students. Until now, those who go to school and fail to excel in examinations are still erased off the list of intelligent students. In other words, academic excellence is now a standard measure of intelligence. It is forced into our DNA that we must all excel in school. That we must think and follow a certain formula to our particular careers.  But I know students that are terrible at academic writing yet outrageously smart at sound engineering; underperforming at data analysis but sensational storytellers and curators of techniques. When they score less grades in the hallowed academe, they are branded eternal failures — made to retake or even suspended from school.

Regardless of our past, we are all capable of innovating and developing great ideas that shall make the human race better and change the world. The world seeks those that are curious, inquisitive, ready to fail and learn and still stubbornly create, both in thinking and action. But the system is deliberately sticking to the past. It is now upon us to nurture and stimulate creative thinking to thrive in this turbulent world. We need to broaden our spans of relevance by looking for knowledge widely in diverse fields and earn as many experiences as possible — reading and listening for ideas. The greatest creative thinkers are those who have knowledge in diverse fields and keep enhancing their mental models and seeing everything they undertake through varying lenses. By so doing, they borrow knowledge from several creatives, connect dots and make up something familiar from strange materials.

The writer is a student at African Leadership University


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