Education, its definition is so easy to understand yet so difficult to explain. This is because the exact meaning of education may vary from one person to another. It is interesting that whenever a discussion on the topic of education is at hand, it tends to incite resoundingly passionate debates round the table. Individual experiences with education have ranged from bitter but sweet, easy yet difficult as well as happy and sad.

In general terms, education basically means a teaching and learning process by which knowledge or skills are developed and acquired. The commonly understood and accepted percept of education is the giving and receiving of systematically formulated instruction, usually at an institution, for example, a school, learning centre or university. This is education in its most formal form. However, education encompasses such a wide spectrum that it would not be entirely precise to suppose that education is just about going to school. It must be said that going to school plays a crucial part in order to achieve academic excellence. However, paper qualifications are not the be all and end all of education, it is just a part of the whole process of education.

I have been blessed in the sense that I have had no difficulty whatsoever going to school and getting a formal education. I was born in a country where opportunities and choices for formal education abound. Education up till high school in public schools is free for all. Local universities are heavily subsidised by the government and private colleges are reasonably affordable. Boys and girls are treated as like, neither gender facing unreasonable risk of discrimination nor prejudice to be registered and admitted to schools, colleges and universities.

However, my true challenge was to attain knowledge and skills to face the difficulties of life, gain street exposure as well as to claim valuable wisdom imparted only by experience. Perhaps this was mainly because I grew up in a small community where girls are mostly sheltered, protected and shielded from life’s harsh realities, so much so to the extent that they easily become naïve and inexperienced, lacking in courage and confidence to brace the big world outside. As a result, I fell much into the mould of being booksmart rather than streetsmart.

I strongly believe that in order to have an all-round and well-balanced education, it is important, especially for girls, to learn from both the formal and informal sides of education. Indeed, getting a formal education is of fundamental importance to all girls today. However, of equivalent merit and importance to academic knowledge is the learning and development of character attributes like emotional intelligence, self-confidence, self-reliance, courage, spirit of adventure and the like. The School of Hard Knocks also known as The University of Life is getting increasingly more recognition and appreciation in the world of education today to be of equal value to that of its formal counterpart.

It has been said over and over that the process of continuous learning is the key to successful living. Indeed, there can be no value or price to be put to education. I have just recently invested all of my life savings to return to University in order to re-train myself as well as gain some new knowledge and skills. I have found that applying what I have newly learnt has proved to be so rewarding to the point of life changing.

There was a time in the days that when everything was conventional and simple, education was so complicated. Ironically, in the age of globalisation and the Internet today, when everything else has become so much more complicated, education has become so much more simplified. Web 2.0 is really a platform that offers unparalleled learning and creativity as well as unlimited educational opportunities.

Most certainly, there are real and difficult challenges faced by girls and women to access and gain education even today, when we are already living in the 21st century. However, it is really up to us to use the resources available at hand to ensure that we are not left out or behind in the race to knowledge and learning. In order to face up to contemporary challenges of a multifaceted nature, women must be capable of renewing, restructuring, adapting and reforming ourselves to ever-changing novel times.

Education is our light in the journey we call life. We start learning from the day that we are born, only ending on the day that we die. Together, let us create a world where all forms of education are free for all; a world where education knows no boundaries, suffers no restrictions and tolerates no limitations.

We live, we learn, we achieve, we survive.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.


Hello Zha Zha! I can really relate to growing up in a small community and being sheltered from the rest of the world. This experience left me feeling very afraid of other people and the world in general. I really lacked a lot of confidence. Over the years, I have made great leaps in overcoming my fears and building my confidence. It has been difficult and worth it! I encourage you to keep sharing your experiences and your feelings. I am continually amazed at how alike we all are in the seemingly big world as we share our stories. Thank-you! With much appreciation, Traci

I too grew up in an environment where girls were sheltered. It was a homogenous bubble that was stifling in so many ways. Girls lacked the courage and desire to explore the world outside their comfort zone even when they had the resources to do it.

I think you put it perfectly when you said, "Education is our light in the journey we call life. We start learning from the day that we are born, only ending on the day that we die. Together, let us create a world where all forms of education are free for all; a world where education knows no boundaries, suffers no restrictions and tolerates no limitations."

Education about life is priceless and so enriching. May we help encourage those who do not have the desire or resources to step out of their comfort zone to get an informal education!

Courtney Calardo

discover the power within

Your article is so inspirational and can serve as an eye opener. One should have thought that, given a woman an opportunity to obtain formal education is an automatic improvement on her living conditions for a life time. But from your article, you brought out very practical explanations on how informal education, experience and over protection of women can do a great deal in guaranteeing women's freedom.

You are very correct. Indeed "Live is a struggle" and education (both formal and informal), experience and exposure are all the key to success in this struggle.

Zha Zha, I sincerely share your views.

Yvonne Riwuya Gemandze Chief Administrative Officer and Researcher Center for Independent Development Research, Cameroon Junior Chamber International (JCI) Cameroon National Vice President +237 70212069