African kids shouldn’t study quantum physics

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Image from tcdailyplanet.net | Flickr Creative Commons

Or things like that.

I had a particularly upsetting day for me during my stint in England in 2010. I was rounding up my studies in Industrial Systems and Management and had been invited for a cocktail by my sponsors. My thesis then was in the fairly esoteric field of ant colony optimisation algorithms and I was quite pleased with the initial results of my work. I think my supervisors and industrial sponsors were too! We were looking at novel schemes for algorithms that may one day be part of the backbone of so called self serving assets e.g. aircraft that are aware of their state and autonomously select and procure maintenance services for themselves as they fly all over the world. So pretty next gen stuff.

So I was in that place where I was flirting with the idea of research for the next couple of years. You know? A PhD from a prestigious university and everything. I was mulling the idea everyday, weighing the odds, exploring potential supervisors etc. In the middle of that period was this lunch/cocktail thing that came along and we were all just standing there that afternoon, chatting about everything and nothing in particular when this man asked me what my next plans were.

I spoke freely, told him about my current research and my thoughts of a potential PhD along those lines. He looked at me incredulously and said something like “but how is that relevant to Africa?” Hmm. The man has a point, doesn’t he? We can’t even figure out how to generate electricity for the continent and this one is talking about aircrafts that call the service centre to check themselves in. I can’t remember how I responded to that seemingly innocous question, but I was upset. Upset because the tone of his voice suggested that being from Africa automatically drew bounds around what I was allowed to explore – development, sustainability, you know the usual suspects.

He looked at me incredulously and said something like “but how is that relevant to Africa?” Hmm. The man has a point, doesn’t he? We can’t even figure out how to generate electricity for the continent and this one is talking about aircrafts that call the service centre to check themselves in.

That’s unfortunate. Completely against the spirit of the place we met and I daresay, against the spirit of education itself. I understand the spirit of the scholarships that we frequently get handed out in exchange for showing promise. The idea is to use the opportunity to develop skills, return home and make our countries better. I get that. But does that circumscribe the limits of our intellectual exploration or contribution to knowledge? My personal view of education, especially tertiary education is that the subject matter itself is not what counts (except in some particular cases) but the process of learning – I promise a post on that shortly. So I didn’t think he had a point. In fact he probably won’t have asked the same question of a self sponsored student. But oh well.

I didn’t do a PhD in the end. For a bunch of reasons that had nothing to do with the suggestion that it was out of scope for an African kid. But I wonder how many of those interactions go on daily. How many people who could probably make phenomenal contributions to different aspects of human endeavour get nudged away, because of where they come from, because of how they look, because of their sex, or their orientations? Folks, don’t let anyone; even those who have been tremendously beneficial, limit you. Do what you will, follow your curiosity. Live. Be.

Don’t stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing – Albert Einstein

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To the top! Summiting Morne Blanc in Seychelles

The first time I visited the beautiful cluster of islands called Seychelles was in 2013 – for my honeymoon. I’d wanted an island getaway, not too far off, and wowsome. We were suitably impressed from the beginning, though the immigration and customs officers were a little too poke-nosey. Looking back though it was understandable that we got some scrutiny given that we had sufficient bags to stake out the island for years! The missus was relocating immediately after the wedding and we didn’t want to do another trip back to Nigeria just for the luggage, so we just brought everything along! Pretty sure the guys were convinced we were moving in…

Talking about moving in, who wouldn’t want to? The approach to the airport takes you over the stunning Eden Island development. Just check out this picture below I took from the plane. Aquamarine waters, red roofs, and docked catamarans? I was ready to move in right there and then!

Eden Island from the sky

The Eden Island development from the sky

When you escape to an island you expect to see a lot of beaches, stunning glorious beaches. That’s a given. And Seychelles doesn’t disappoint.

Noir - it's stunning, even when you bleed off the colour.

Noir – it’s stunning, even when you bleed off the colour.

The one thing I didn’t really think about until I saw them are the mountains. You see, I’ve always imagined islands as these flat pieces of gently undulating land terminating in beaches and then the sea. Imagine my surprise when just outside the airport all I can see is a giant mountain covered with a lush forest dominating the view – and it’s pretty much the same wherever you go on the islands. You either get a sea view, or a mountain view. Usually both. Continue reading

Glory!

The struggle of the American Blacks is at once alien and familiar – resonating with the familiarity of a chronic backache.

Perhaps that’s because it’s not only a race or class struggle, it’s a struggle for humanity itself.

A struggle to be considered human, same as the other.