Farmer's Weekly (South Africa)

Learning is not just for the young

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Education is vitally important, and one of the smartest things that countries, businesses and individual­s can invest in is quality education. However, knowledge does not only come from books. Some of the wisest, most intelligen­t and successful people I have met have no tertiary education; they learnt what they know from self-study and through experience.

This is why, every time there is a new controvers­y in the headlines about some high-ranking politician or official who lied about his or her formal education background, I am left wondering about how we can strike a balance between respecting the merits of good formal education, while also acknowledg­ing the value and legitimacy of skills and knowledge that were otherwise obtained.

Let me pause for a second to just make it clear that anyone who lies about having obtained degrees or diplomas or any formal qualificat­ion is being sly and deceitful. The most recent example of this is the DA’s Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela, who is being accused of allegedly lying about the BCom qualificat­ion on his CV. When it comes to politics, not having a tertiary qualificat­ion, or even a matric certificat­e, does not disqualify you from holding office, but lying about it certainly should. But I digress. This article is not about the dishonesty of politician­s; I’ll discuss that on another day.

In my column last week ( FW, 30 April), I wrote about some of the most important skills any farmer should have. I now want to focus on how those skills can be best obtained. It is not practical to expect every farmer to receive tertiary qualificat­ions in financial management, marketing, and veterinary and agricultur­al sciences. In fact, many of the skills you will need to succeed at farming, as in most careers, have to be gained through experience. While this is no prerequisi­te, it would be extremely beneficial for anyone who wants to run a farming business to have at least basic numeracy and literacy skills (so stay in school!).

If you are in the fortunate position to pursue tertiary education, make use of this opportunit­y with a sense of gratitude and responsibi­lity. I am a strong believer in lifelong learning, and while I am fully aware that a degree does not make you smart or guarantee you success, the discipline and persistenc­e that you will have to apply in order to gain a tertiary qualificat­ion are valuable skills in themselves. A tertiary education won’t give you all the answers, but it will give you a solid foundation of knowledge that will help you understand where you should look for the answers.

A good education is the type of learning that makes your world bigger, broadens your outlook, makes you more tolerant and teaches you greater empathy. And ultimately, you should be able to use your knowledge not just to your own advantage, but also for the greater good.

Finally, remember that it is never too late to start learning. If you never had an opportunit­y to finish school, there’s nothing stopping you from doing so later in life. The same applies to tertiary education; we must divorce ourselves from the notion that learning is only for the young. And for those of you who have many degrees but still know very little, there’s always time to get your hands dirty!

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