Education with empathy is the way out of slavery


In this article, Kayode Oluwaseun observes that education does not necessarily translate into empathy as educated people don’t turn out empathetic to the plight of the uneducated. He notes that slavery continues to thrive in our world despite education and connects this to the lack of empathy.


Taking a tour of the slave ruins at Badagry and learning about Seriki Abass has exposed a very important part of all round education which is missing in most curricula. Our lessons in the classrooms are not complete if we do not include this important value in it.

I am talking about EMPATHY!

It’s important that I draw a line between empathy and sympathy at this point. In brief, empathy is feeling with or alongside someone, while sympathy is feeling sorry for – Brene Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work.

When you are empathetic, you don’t just feel pity, rather you put yourself in the shoes of the person suffering. You feel the pain with the person and be moved to relieve the person of such pains.

Back to Chief Seriki Abass Williams…

Dude was a renowned slave merchant during the 19th century who became the paramount ruler of Badagry. From the point of his coronation, he was known as Oba Seriki Williams Abass.

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Born Ifaremilekun Fagbemi in Joga-Orile, a town in Ilaro, Ogun State, Abass was captured as a slave by a Dahomean slave merchant called Abass during one of the Dahomey–Egba clashes. He was later sold to a certain Brazilian slave dealer called Williams who took Abass to Brazil as a domestic servant and taught him how to read and write in Dutch, English, Spanish and Portuguese languages.

Alright, so that’s all I need to say about him at this point…

For Seriki to be grounded in four languages, that’s to show the quality of education he received from Williams. However, empathy was missing in that education.

Seriki came back to Nigeria after his sojourn in Brazil to become a slave merchant in Nigeria, under which he supervised the trade of thousands of human beings to the whites through the route that leads to the point of no return.

He sold tens of able bodied men for just a bottle of whisky, gave out 40 beings with complete 5 sense organs for just an umbrella. Seriki placed 40 human beings inside a small room with a tiny window for ventilation for three weeks, as they await their journey to the point of no return.

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Human beings with red blood flowing in them lost themselves all because Seriki lacked true empathy. He was educated, but his education didn’t liberate him and his people from the system that produced him, rather it further produced more robust chains and cuffs with which many more people were held bondage.

Continuous reflection…

-How did we get to this point as a nation?
-Why do we still remain under the control of the western society even after the 1960 independence?

Yeah, we wear our white and green and still dance under the tune played by colonists. Our leaders got educated and they have used the knowledge they acquired (most of which is through free education) to divide us along religious and ethnic lines, yet we still follow them like the gullible.

So this is it, slave trade still exists today in Nigeria. Our people still run after one Congo of rice and N250 during election to vote for these corrupt set of leaders, like we have no better choice, just the way hundreds of slaves walked without resistance behind 20 white slave guards.

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Most of our leaders of today got free education just like Seriki Abass, and it’s used to oppress and divide us further. This education is used to turn our national wealth into food for snakes and monkeys. Yet, we (the slaves) keep looking even when we know by how many millions we outnumber them.

We need to revolt! Yeah, we need to do that.

We need to strengthen our education system and ensure that it produces more empathetic leaders, who would rule with the fear of God and love for the people. There has to be an infusion of this great virtue in our curricula.

Also, we need to stop being slaves. Let’s cause an uprising by using the advantage of our numbers. Atleast we have the power to choose our leaders, just as we can walk through Badagry as free men today. Let’s use this power to elect our next set of leaders who would neither oppress nor suppress us.

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