The Importance of Having an Education

The Importance of Having  an Education


~By Diane Sheffield

I remember my parents, grandparents,aunt and uncle teaching me how to read, write, spell, add, subtract, divide,and multiply. They also taught me
family values, principles, respect,morals, character, and leadership skills. My mother would say to me,“our education is important and necessary for you to be successful; and you must get good grades in all your classes.” She laid the foundation for me and helped me to understand that education comes in many forms.My grandmother became my legal guardian after the passing of my mother.This was a beautiful lady who had so much knowledge and never attended college. She lived to be 101years old; and during the time she raised me, she shared her experiences about getting her general education. My grandmother talked to me about how she was educated by Afrikan American teachers and that she enjoyed learning. Listening to her, I understood where my mother got her passion and commitment regarding having an education. My grandmother, along with my grandfather, taught me that obtaining my education and knowledge was an on-going process and didn’t stop because I’m not in school. My grandmother taught me the history of obtaining an education for Afrikan Americans in the era of Enslavement and Freedom in the South. I learned from her that enslaved Southern Afrikans and Afrikan Americans’ quest for education was a fight and a struggle. She taught me that during the above these eras, the enslaved suffered consequences of being physically harmed or killed if caught attempting to educate themselves. It took me a while to process what I had been told, but it was real. I learned that there were laws passed that stated any person who was free, couldn’t teach, and attempt to teach enslaved persons to read or write. Books, pamphlets, etc. were forbidden to be given to any enslaved person. If a free person was caught doing this, he or she would be indicted and charged with a crime. Naturally, I would ask my grandmother, why and who would want to stop people from getting their education? She shared that a large majority of the white Southern Slaveholders deeply and seriously opposed the education of the enslaved. There was a fear that the white Southern Slaveholders had about their authority; they felt it would be threatened and taken away if there was an educated enslaved population.

I learned that the enslaved Afrikans and Afrikan Americans were smart and cleaver. They would hide books in various places and get a literate person to teach them how to read. There were “hidden schools” deep in the woods and far away from the master’s view, which were attended by many enslaved Afrikans. With emancipation, an educated Black population was still a fear for White Southerners; arson and violence were used by them to prevent the freed slaves’ attempts to be educated. But, in spite of the danger and low resources, many freed Afrikan Americans developed and operated their own schools. The students, who attended and learned, shared what was taught to them at home and becoming “teachers at home” to their family members.
My grandmother shared that she would teach her younger siblings and parents what she had learned. They actually put their lives on the line to learn how to read, write, and get educated. They knew the importance of getting an education. Hearing and learning this at such a young age was mind boggling, scary, and interesting, but it made me more determined to get my education and to continue to learn, which is what I’m still doing. I passed to my children one of the family values that was passed on to me: “Your education is important and you must get good grades in all your classes.”
I was the first teacher with my children and was involved and connected with the schools they attended up until they graduated. They are now working in careers of their choice. Today, there are concerns that a large number of our children and youth do not know how to read, write cursive, do math
or critically think. They have not been taught the value and importance of getting their education. They go to school to “not go to school.” You ask them to write or read; and they show frustration, anger or an attitude. There are many reasons and factors for these behaviors. The work that I do involves children and youth all year. I’m always talking to them about their education, asking them what subjects that they like in school, how they can improve their grades and behavior, and what are the careers and goals they want to focus on. Parents/Guardians must and need to be involved in their child’s education and school so that there is good attendance, fostering of good grades, positive behaviors, two-way communication and so much more.
Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, stated, “Education is the most powerful tool to help change the world.” We need our children and
youth to pick up and use this tool because; this world needs to be changed in a positive way!