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The Entertainment Industry is Killing Formal Education

Tue, 20 Sep 2011 Source: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong

It is an indisputable fact that the future of every society lies in the tiny but mighty hands of its younger generation. It has also been convincingly established that the mightiest and most reliable weapon in a fight against economic wretchedness and underdevelopment is formal education. The education of children thus becomes imperative if a nation is to achieve significant success in its developmental agenda. I have always maintained that experience undoubtedly is a supreme educator; however, only in books has humankind uncovered not only the immensity of the thorns of life, but also close-to-perfect truth, friendship, love and beauty. But worryingly, something other than formal education seems to be occupying the minds of today’s youth.

Presently, more and more children in Africa are paying less attention to formal education, and intensifying their interest in entertainment-related careers that do not require years of lengthy tutorials in the classroom. A couple of decades ago, children dreamt of becoming accomplished natural scientists (biologists, physicists, chemists, botanists, oceanographers, astronomers, etc.), lawyers, engineers or architects, geographers, tutors or lecturers, accountants, journalists, pilots, politicians, economists, and many more. But today, the focus seems to be shifting to OVERNIGHT careers in the show business or the entertainment industry; specifically music, acting, football, athletics and talk show. Please note the strategic use of the term ‘overnight’.

Every African child today wants to become the next Daddy Lumba, Kwadwo Antwi, 2Face, Becca, Genevieve Nnaji, Jackie Appiah, Majid Michel, Ramsey Noah, Didier Drogba, Michael Essien or Adwoa Bayor; no one wants to become the next Busumuru Kofi Annan, Prof Chinua Achebe, Prof Wole Soyinka, Prof Ayi Kwei Armah, Dr Kwadwo Afari-Gyan, Dr Philip Emeagwali, Prof Frimpong Boateng, or Emeritus Archbishop Dr Peter Akwasi Sarpong.

This is certainly not to discredit entertainment-related professions (or careers in the show business); what I am trying to figure out is the kind of future that awaits a nation whose youth thinks of nothing but becoming overnight full time entertainers and not accomplished scholars in various academic disciplines. I am wondering the kind of future a nation will have if all her children become entertainers. Make no mistake, I do love a number of African entertainers – those who exhibit a considerable level of professionalism. I do for instance watch loads of African movies, but only those made by people that I consider to be professional actors and directors.

Every youth wants to write lines good only for rap music; no one wants to pen lines as beautiful, educative and inspiring as Kwesi Brew’s ‘The Mesh’ and ‘The Dry Season’, Gabriel Okara’s ‘The Call of the River Nun’ and ‘New Year’s Eve Midnight’, or David Diop’s ‘The Vultures’. But why won’t children dodge formal education and dream of becoming instantaneous musicians or rappers when a banker’s entire career earnings could be less than the proceeds from the release of a single song or album; and why won’t teenagers who perform well in music contests leave high school to focus on becoming the next Castro or Mzbel when they know how their teachers are struggling to make ends meet.

Why won’t children avoid formal education and consider a career in the football world when footballers are earning $200,000+ a week, while the lecturer after decades of intensive and expensive education or learning earns only a fraction of the quoted amount a year.

Why won’t children snub formal education and think of becoming instant actors/actresses when actors receive all the attention and admiration, and the medical scientist spending hours, days and years in the laboratory to find antidotes against various deadly diseases is hardly recognized and mentioned.

Why won’t children quit formal education to consider becoming overnight celebrities in the lucrative entertainment industry, when some so-called stars breach the law and go scot-free, and when one has to pay to take a photograph with a “star”.

Why won’t children sacrifice formal education for instantaneous jobs in the world of entertainment when some people are getting famous and earning huge sums of money for composing crappy and disgusting songs, showing their nakedness in movies and for unskilfully kicking a spherical object, and others are being poorly paid after “wasting” time, money and other resources to become physicians, nurses, engineers, mathematicians and educators.

Why should children take formal education serious when many university graduates in various academic disciplines are roaming the streets of their towns and cities jobless and more broke than a mouse residing in a church building, while many overnight entertainers are loaded and living extravagant lives? And why won’t parents advise their children to consider a vocation in music, football and acting when their monthly pay as public servants is unacceptably miserable.

Obviously the careers in the entertainment industry have become hugely attractive because contemporary society is paying massive attention to people in that industry. Society is quick to patronize entertainment-related activities but reluctant and slow to contribute towards essential scientific researches. The universe, particularly the African continent now seems to be transforming into a world of entertainment with almost all the attention focused on celebrities in the industry rather than accomplished figures in the “academic world”.

Until African leaders start putting in place and/or supporting activities that promote education, until they start to constantly and publicly acknowledge and reward the achievements of people who have embraced highly academic-related professions, and until they start finding efficient solutions to the alarming graduate unemployment rate, majority of the continent’s younger generation will become overnight entertainers; and when that happens, the losers will undoubtedly be the various nations of the continent.

If promising future leaders of the continent are not motivated to take formal education serious, and they all become overnight entertainers, who will be entertaining who? Who will pay to watch who? To whom will the mantle of leadership be handed over? Who will take care of the nations’ finances? Who will educate posterity? Who will be informing us about the things happening within and around us? Who will be defending us in court and who will be dispensing justice? Who will be curing the sick; and if we die of our illnesses due to lack of physicians, who will prepare our bodies for the mortuary and for burial? Will the entertainers be up to the task?

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah

Emmanuel Sarpong Owusu-Ansah (Black Power) is a lecturer and an investigative journalist in London, UK. He is the author of ‘Fourth Phase of Enslavement: unveiling the plight of African immigrants in the West’. He may be contacted via email (andypower2002@yahoo.it).

Columnist: Owusu-Ansah, Emmanuel Sarpong