How Education Strengthens Democracy – Lanre Olagunju

There is a major link between education and its influence on democracy, and that link becomes easier to identify when we essentially bring to mind that democracy is government of the people by the people for the people. Going by this popularly known definition of democracy, it implies that true democracy revolves round the people, and the height of citizen’s involvement will to a great extent determine what the people make out of it.

 Over time, critical studies have revealed that strong and stable democracies over the world are countries given to education, as there are no countries with poor level of education or educational system that have managed or sustained to be democratic for a long period of time.  On the other hand, looking through a list of developed nations with stable democracy, one would easily point out that these nations have a high level of educational system that have assisted them in maintaining a successful and well established democracy. It was Thomas Jefferson who said that “if a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”

True democracy stands for freedom from oppression and subjection. But freedom comes with a price; even the Holy Bible agrees that the price for freedom is knowledge. For it says in one of its books that, “you shall know the truth and the knowledge of the truth shall set you free” So that settles it that democracy which clamours for freedom cannot flourish without education.

Education enriches one basically with the ability to read and write, which enables people to communicate well and work collaboratively with others.  The ability of a people to work together helps a lot in defending democracy. The ability and role of an uneducated man with limited capacity to process information is absolutely incomparable to that of a learned individual in a democratic set up. It’s evidently clear that democracy cannot succeed in an environment dominated by ignorance.

I think many African leaders claiming to be practising democracy are aware of the connecting tie between education and democracy, and it won’t be out of place to say that they are deliberately impoverishing education system for their own selfish interest so ignorance can reign

Nigeria for instance still wallows in an educational structure that equips its youth for a world that practically doesn’t exist anymore. Beside that the present system is loudly inadequate, shallow and archaic, yet it can’t even be trusted to run optimally at its present inadequate and mediocre level.

For months now the Academic Staff Union of University hasbeen on strike and the Federal Government is less concerned about such a nasty development. Well, it is not the first of its kind, there are records of strikes that lasted well over a whole semester and even close to an entire academic section while I was in school.  And the same goes for secondary schools as well. This shows that the Nigerian government hasn’t realized that the country’s development can only spring up, first, by paying attention to the development of its human capital through an improved educational system.

Our falling educational system should be restructured such that it helps the youth to build self-reliance, hence turning them into idea generators who finish school not as “half baked” like employers tend to call fresh graduates; but individual who can come up with genuine ideas to tackle the challenges of the nation and that of the African continent.

It is quite amazing and appalling that our educational system has no regard or concern about instilling the habits of citizenship amongst its youths through civic education and the teaching of history. It is amazing that as a nation we collectively assume that we can achieve lofty heights without the knowledge and consciousness of our history. We forget that a nation without history, without collective memory is a country without a future! To stabilize our fragile democracy, we need a critical mass of the population to be active citizens. That’s a vital way to ensure that the government heed to the voice of the people.

 Therefore, citizens have to be well informed to be engaged in the polity, to this end, it’s imperative that we begin to advocate that civic education be included in the Nigerian education curriculum at all levels. This essentially would go a long way in ensuring that the youths acquire the basic knowledge and ideals to become active citizens in order to strengthen the survival of our democracy.


Lanre Olagunju is an hydrologist turned freelance journalist.  An alumnus of the American College of Journalism, Lanre advocates on several international platforms for the prosperity and absolute well-being of the African continent. He is @Lanre_Olagunju on Twitter. 

Lanre writes on the significance of education essentially as it strengthens democracy