13 July 2017

Ethiopia: Keep Walking - A Lesson From Pain


Last Sunday Addis Ababa University (AAU), the first and oldest of the thirty three Universities we have in Ethiopia, graduated 10,908 students for the 66th time in several fields of study. AAU has contributed many thousands of professionals and scholars, who have been playing crucial role in the socioeconomic and political progress of the country.

The establishment of the AAU was a turning point in the history of Ethiopian higher education. The university is a pride to its students and graduates alike. It's not a strange phenomenon to observe or see someone bragging about studying in AAU which reminds me of a little story that a friend of mine told me recently.

It happened when the students of AAU made an educational trip (tour) to University of Gondar (UoG) which is also one of the prominent colleges throughout the Nation and well known for its contribution in the fields of medical science. That's where I graduated from some ten years ago.

According to A friend, those students of AAU had the chance to see all the modern educational facilities and infrastructures in different campuses of GU during their visit. Some of the campuses are newly established and it is very likely for them to house the latest educational facilities. So, the students have been impressed by the modern structures with advanced technological access. But the joke was made while they saw one of the newly built and digitized libraries. It was the biggest and fully equipped. So, observing the digitized library one of the students from the visiting crew said "This library is very nice, especially with the great number of computers and digitized books in it. But there is one thing that makes the students of AAU different from the students of GU."

Then one of the students of GU who has voluntarily been guiding the guests eagerly asked "What is it?"

"Well you may need all these books, but we don't"

"Oh yes? Why is that?"

"That's because, all the scholars who wrote those books are still lecturers in our University."

Well, that's supposed to be a joke though it caused a dispute between the AAU visiting crew and the students of GU which fortunately didn't go physical, according to this friend. The best thing being a college student is that one could have his/her own fair way of responding to other's verbal insult. This friend didn't tell me what the GU student's response was but I'm sure he would have made his own joke.

To me, the idea of studying in college is not to have a scholar walking around the class rooms but to utilize their wisdom weather it comes in words of mouth or through a written document. One thing that I could understand, from the point that the AU student said about his lecturers as the authors of the books or other educational documents, is that the University has been following strict principles in boosting the efficiency of its scholars. I remember that it has applied a 'publish or perish' principle some months ago, which could be considered as an indicator.

The above story also reminds me of my time in college when we enrolled and graduated not knowing what a digitized library looked like. Back in those days; forget about having thousands of digitized books with computers connected to the internet but borrowing manual books on a shelf through catalogue system was a painful process as one has to wait in long line until his/her turn comes. If we needed to borrow a book, it has to be only for two weeks. That's because the number of books, research documents or journals in the libraries did not fit with the number of students at the time.

But they would have been good enough if some students hadn't borrowed the books just to be seen with them in their hands while walking around the campus and never trying to read. Of course such people had their own reasons why they walked around carrying books. One reason is that the girls admire boys with the books in their hands; so it would be easier to socialize with them. Yes, back in our time, girls weather in or outside college used to like boys with books in their hands. They may have thought that that person would be smart. But if someone already makes it to college, doesn't it prove that he is smart?

Somehow, it was a good choice that they preferred boys with books. That is because these days, I have seen girls that put their eyes on or socialize with boys who only have expensive smart phones or tablets. And I can't blame them because one can download hundreds or thousands of books in his smart phone. But he could also download something else 'dirty'.

The other reason why some boys walked around with books was to be a topic of discussion, thinking they would be assumed as some of those who read too much and are full of knowledge, in the eyes of the other guys who spent most of their days playing pool or watching movies in the TV hall.

However, people like 'Spider man', who was a fresh man student when I made a third year, didn't want any of those two reasons to have walked around with books in their hands. The girls and everyone in the campus had known Spider man for something else which entitled him with this nick name. He was one of the guys who went crazy for the loose freedom of college life.

One night he went to his room, which was on the fourth floor and got drunk with his friend. For some reason they wanted a lighter or match but there was not one in the room. Then they realized that they would find one in another friend's room down on the third floor. But the door was locked. So, they returned to their room and that was when Spider man decided to jump down by the window and land in to the room on third floor. He did it. But instead of landing on the third floor, he regrettably ended up on the ground. He got the nick name Spider man when he returned from hospital.

I think pain had given him a very important lesson about the consequences of taking his freedom too far in college. And that's when he started to walk around with books in his hands hoping that the college society would call him a changed person.

Of course, college life is not only about academic performance or graduating with flying colors but also learning from its life experiences and shaping one's own ethics. If one used such lessons and changed the direction of his/her life from self destructive to a constructive way, he/she will obviously be effective in his/her future career and well acknowledged by the public while serving the Nation. I believe this quality is expected from all college students and graduates of this and all the coming years.


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