While everyone has been talking about ITC for some time now, this week attention fell on the importance of literature and history. President Paul Kagame has called upon Rwandans to write more books. The Minister of Sports and Culture, Joseph Habineza, has asked young Rwandans to help record events.
A writing competition is to take place; the winner will spend three months in a training programme in Ohio, United States. This emphasis on ‘liberal education’, that includes history, literature and the arts, is welcome.
Education for economic success is one thing (and a very important thing at that) but much is lost if education is about employability alone.
As a graduate in English Literature I have often bemoaned the fact that I didn’t spend my three years at university studying something a little more practical, something like economics or journalism, geared more specifically towards a career.
What of the hours reading Shakespeare, where have they got me?
Novels, poems and plays, a source of much pleasure, yes, but what is their place on my CV, how are they to help me get a job?
The answer came from a friend: “education is not just about your career”.
What liberal education gives is not scientific or practical, but it opens up the possibility for us to live more reflectively and knowledgeably, especially when it comes to the range of human experience and sentiment.
As a philosopher wrote, the aim of liberal education is to produce people who go on learning after their formal education has ceased. It is to produce people who think, and question, and know how to find answers when they need them.
So while we strive to be foot soldiers in the country’s economic struggle, the embrace of liberal education, will allow us to get and give more terms of cultural and social experience. Life will be more fulfilling and participatory both in work and outside it.