Real education is the discovery of your gift
Nike Davies Okundaye
‘’Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.’’ -Jim Rohn
Will Durant once said, “Education is a progressive discovery of our ignorance.” Socrates, the father of modern education and the erudite Greek philosopher whose way of life, character, and thought exerted a profound influence on ancient and modern philosophy, depicted the original purpose of education in one of his epic quotes: “Man, know thyself”, which in Greek is written “gnothi seauton.” The legendary philosopher opined that real education is knowledge of oneself, potentials, uniqueness, gifts and latent talents.
The key to personal success is discovering your personal gifting, uniqueness and significance which can only be achieved through self-discovery. Leo Buscaglia said, “Your talent is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” There is no man that is as poor and miserable as the one that carries all his gifts, talents and potentials to the grave regardless of the wealth that he has miserably accumulated. Real wealth is discovering your gifts and talents and making the world a better place through it.
I have a very fascinating friend from Finland with whom I share almost the same perspective on the link between our education and gifts. Her name is Sanna Sihvola, a special education teacher, certified international coach and speaker in the John Maxwell Team. It will be good to note that Finland has the best educational system in the world! I told her I would be writing on this topic and she happily volunteered and obliged me her contribution. This is her own perspective gleaned out of many years of fruitful experience:
“The core purpose of education should be discovering one’s gift as early as possible. As a teacher, educator, my job is to help the child to discover it. To educate means to ‘educe’, to draw from within. Thus, the gift is already there. It needs help to be pulled out, to bring it to the light, to be discovered.
How can you actually teach this at school? I teach self-study, to analyze oneself from age 3 onwards. You can learn to ‘learn’ yourself, grow in awareness when given the right questions. This can be done from very early age. You are searching your gift starting from within. You need to learn who you are – self knowledge. That builds self- esteem. That builds confidence and that leads to loving yourself. Why is this so important? Because only until you find your unique gift, purpose, reason of being here, can you be fulfilled and feel deep contentment – happiness. The way you can contribute while living your life correlates how happy you can be.
So, what can you give? You cannot give what you do not have. At my class, we study to become who we are by asking questions concerning four key areas of life: Where am I now, what do I want to achieve, what does success look like to me and what do I do today, now to get there? A personal approach is needed to discover one’s own particular gift – as early as possible. Imagine how economical this would be for society when everyone’s full potential is discovered in early years already. Imagine how everyone would benefit when a child knows from early age his / her purpose and systematically would concentrate to become better in it. Just think, more doctors to heal, architects to plan the infrastructure -roads and water supplies, builders to build, engineers to fix electricity, nurses to care, teachers, gardeners, farmers, forest experts, business men to know where and how to invest.
To discover one’s special gift is discovering one’s purposeful life – no less! Discovering your gift as early as possible is the core purpose of education- to become who we are, to do more, to own more and to give more.”
Our individual gift and not education is an indicator of our purpose and calling in life. Any education that does not teach us to discover, nurture and develop our gifting and uniqueness is a waste. Real education should create a platform and environment where our gifts and talents are put on display. Most times the possibilities within are limitless and inexhaustible and it is pitiable that the ‘modern’ form of education teaches a man to his own neglect!
The awe-inspiring story of Nike Davies Okundaye the living legend behind the Nike Arts Gallery in Lagos, Oshogbo and Abuja, has validated the supremacy of self-discovery and human gifts. She is a woman who has redefined the purpose of education by leading the Nigerian renaissance. Nike, though poorly educated, was amazingly gifted in Arts and Crafts. Born on May 23, 1951, in her native village of Ogidi, Ijumu Local Council of Kogi State, Nike evolved from an obscure village in Kogi State to become an international figure and expert veteran in the Art of Adire design.
The fame and glory achieved by Okundaye can barely be traced to her ‘education’ but a dedication to a gift that she nurtured from the cradle. Nike’s gift has succeeded in carrying her far, where no formal education can reach! Before her advent, Adire -a traditional Nigerian Yoruba hand-painted cloth design was just an ordinary brand, but she brought it to global limelight with her magical touch and dexterity.
Her amazing story of grace and gift brought together has projected her beyond the shores of Nigeria into global and international limelight, with her designs exhibited in countries like USA, Belgium, Germany, Japan, and Italy, among others. Okundaye’s unique approach of fusing traditional styles with modern techniques has established her as a household name in textile design. Her artwork has won several accolades and has sold for thousands of dollars at international art auctions.
Her Adire painting was accepted at The Smithsonian, the world’s largest museum, located in Washington DC, USA. Some of her artworks have found their way also into the White House; with barely any formal education, she has taught in several universities all around the world, including highly revered institutions like Harvard. She was once reputed to be the only woman who did not attend university that lectures in Harvard University! She has organised several workshops at several foreign universities like Harvard, Columbus, Edmonton, Ohio, and in Los Angeles among others.
In 1983, she established the Nike Centre for Art and Culture in Oshogbo, Osun State, where trainings are offered free of charge to Nigerians in various forms of arts. The centre also admits undergraduate students from universities in Nigeria for their industrial training programmes in textile design and now admits international students from Europe, Canada, and the United States of America.
Nike was not only significant to preserving the African culture but also used her gift and vocation to mould and reform lives. She was invited to Italy by the Italian government in year 2000 to help revive the virtues and dignity of the young Nigerian sex workers who were ignorantly lured into the immoral trade of prostitution.
Through her gift, she has helped to reach out to Nigerian girls that were living wayward lives in Italy. After six years of training and hard work, 3000 Nigerian girls were reformed and had since become a great source of asset to the Italian government. She has so many awards and laurels to her credit, including one of the highest Italian national awards, which she was given in 2006 in appreciation and in honour of her efforts at using her vocational training programmes in solving the problems of Nigerian commercial sex workers in Italy.
Through her gift and self-discovery, she has continued to teach and impart knowledge to people with doctoral degrees and masters in Fine Arts. Life is such an irony; what would professors and doctors be learning from a woman with no formal education? A book about Nike was written by Kim Marie Vaz titled: The woman with the Artistic Brush: A life History of Yoruba Batik Artist Nike Davies.
I normally tell my mentees that you are not educated until you discover your gifts. Real illiterates are not people without certificates and degrees, rather they are people that lack the deep knowledge about their potentials and gifts. The greatest disability in life is not knowing your ability.
The core purpose of education is not just in the accumulation of facts, but rather to nurture and discover hidden potentials and gifts in children in order to equip them for tomorrow’s challenges, opportunities and responsibilities. We need to redesign our educational sector in such a way that it allows for the nurturing of individual gifts. We need to find the disconnect between education and gift and make necessary amendments.