Ignorance is NOT Bliss: The Importance of Education for Personal Safety and Well-being

Learn from my experience

by Sylvie Tamanda

In a world abundant with information and constantly evolving circumstances, ignorance is no longer an excuse.

Taking personal responsibility for educating oneself about various subjects is not only essential but can also be a matter of life and death.

Lesson 7 delves into the significance of self-education, highlighting how remaining ignorant can lead to dire consequences and why it is crucial to prioritise knowledge acquisition.

Story Time.

My fingers froze out, they called the police on me, and I eventually started receiving letters threatening me with a lawsuit and a potential prison term.

I arrived in the UK for the first time in January of 2019. My friend Denise picked me up from the train station, and we rode a cab to her address.

Denise had been in the UK for 3 years prior to my arrival, and she was studying at a university campus that was directly opposite my university campus.

I stayed with Denise over the weekend, and on Monday, she took me to London for my university’s freshers fair (an induction day for new students).

From the time we left her house, she told me to pay attention to the trip. Every single bus stop, train platform, and exit point

I found it all very confusing, but Denise reassured me that I’d be alright after a few trips from home to school on my own.

At this point, it is important to highlight the fact that I already was a pretty mature woman with two small children. And I was coming from a life where I had my car, a villa, full-time housekeeping, and a few other pecks. And here I was, chasing buses and running across train platforms.

And although it wasn’t my first time travelling out of my home country, Cameroon, it was my first time travelling to Europe.

My first impression of England was something like, Sylvie, are you going to cope in this super fast paced environment?” Everything made me dizzy at first, and even after four years, I am still a work in progress.

Anyway, I digress.

So Denise took me to school, waited for the event to be over, and we travelled back home to Harlow together. Overwall, the distance covered between buses and trains to commute to and from school was about 3 hours and 30 minutes.

My troubles started the day Denise took me to my university. I wasn’t able to register my presence as mandated, and I was asked to come back the next day.

The next day, I asked Denise if she was able to take me, but she said, “Sorry, sis, I must be at work today, but I trust that you will do just fine. You should follow all the routes we used yesterday, and if you run into any trouble, text me”.

So, I set off from Harlow to Coventry University on Middlesex Street in London and managed to make it safely to the university without getting lost or passing out in the streets. (I don’t care if you’re rolling your eyes at me right now or calling me a village girl, but I am not ashamed to speak my truth.)

I went to school, and the registration process took forever. By the time I was done, I was met with the London rush hour crowd. The closest train station to my university is called Liverpool Street Station.

At 5 p.m., all the high-street bankers and office workers had had enough of a busy day at work and all wanted to get out of Liverpool Street. For a “Johnny just come like me,” this wasn’t an ideal situation.

source of image: Bing.com

I was getting stressed by the crowd at the same time as I was by the idea that It was my second day in England and I was about to travel back to a home that I had never travelled to on my own. The night was falling, and my boobs were licking too( Kuden might have been crying for breast milk in Cameroon). Did I mention that I’d just had a baby who was still breastfeeding when I handed him over to my mom in tears and boarded the plane to fast-paced London?

It was important for me to catch the last train that left Liverpool Street for Epping and another train from Epping to Harlow train station before jumping into the bus 105 that goes to Meadows Road in Harlow. Did that confuse you, or were you like, That’s easy, Sylvie?

Anyway, I was rushing through the crowd in the direction that I had seen Denise go. I tapped a card called the Oyster card. (An Oyster card is a payment method for public transport in London and certain areas around it.) Denise had given me one, and all I needed to do was top it up with some cash at one of the ATMs in the station.

When my card was ready for use, I was rushing towards the barriers when I caught the sight of a transport for London rail staff.

source of image: Bing.com

Instead of just sticking to my plan, I decided to double check with this gentleman just to make sure I was on the right track, which turned out to be the biggest mistake I made.

The staff told me I was on the wrong path and convinced me to turn around and head towards an overground train called Greater Anglia.

I tried to tell him that my friend Denise asked me to get on the underground train to Harlow via Epping, and this man managed to convince me that Denise was crazy and he was right. After a little bit of resistance, I thought to myself, Who am I to argue with someone who works at the train station? After all, I was the new girl on the block from Africa. So I zipped my mouth shut and went in the direction he pointed me in.

When I got close to that train, I asked another staff member if the train was headed to Harlow Via Epping, and she said yes. She asked me to tap my oyster card and board the train quickly, as it was about to leave the platform.

I quickly did, jumped on the train, and breathed a sigh of relief. I was indeed relieved, but not for too long.

The train finally arrived at Harlow, and I disembarked feeling proud of myself for making it back so easily. I was looking forward to telling Denise all about it when I got home, but I wouldn’t see Denise until nearly midnight, in tears and with frozen fingers.

As I approached the exit barriers, I took out my oyster card to tap out, but it wasn’t working. The barriers remained locked, and after trying a few times, a railway staffer walked towards me and demanded to see my train ticket.

I told him I didn’t have a physical ticket, however, I reassured him that I had paid. He said, “Ma’am, it appears you have violated the law. If you don’t have a ticket, I’m afraid you have to be charged the full price for your trip from Liverpool Street station to Harlow.”.

So I said, “Sir, I am sorry, but there must be a mistake somewhere. I was told by your colleague at the station to tap my oyster card to board this train, and that’s what I did. You can check my oyster card, sir. I paid £14 to get here.”

He said, “Sorry, Ma’am, this claim isn’t valid. The train ticket price is £21 and you have not paid, so right now I have no choice but to enforce the law. Whats your full address, please?”

At this point, I was freezing…., confused, and somewhat mad.”

So instead of just paying the damn £21 and learning my lesson, I decided to assert my rights—rights that I knew absolutely nothing about, as it turned out”. I insisted it was unfair to charge me the full amount plus a penalty.

When I converted the total into Francs CFA, the Cameroonian currency, I told myself that there’s no way on earth I’ll spend all this money for being misled by a paid railway staffer.

I tried explaining that I was JJC(new comer) from Africa; I showed him my passport and my immigration arrival stamp, and I even showed him all the registration documents from my university. I pleaded with him that it wasn’t my fault that his colleague at Liverpool Street had misled me.

He never cared about anything I said; instead, he threatened to call the police on me. At this point, I had no phone battery, I was crying, and I could no longer feel my fingers. I’d been held at the Harlow station gate for 3 hours by three white dudes who stared me in the face and decided to give me a baptism by fire.

After adamantly waiting for the police to arrive, they never did. Midnight was approaching, and I was no longer feeling my legs, so I finally decided to give them my damn address so that they could let me go. I walked out of the station, and it felt like a graveyard. There were neither buses nor humans.

I was hungry, angry, tired, and mad at everything that all the train staff had just put me through. I started walking into the dark with the hope that no one or nothing would jump out of the bush at me.

And then I saw a bus. I begged the driver to please drop me off at my drop-off point, and he agreed. When I entered the house, Denise had been worried sick. She’d tried to reach me, but my phone was dead many hours earlier.

I had a shower, got into bed, and cried myself to sleep. The next morning, I told Denise everything that had happened, and she advised me to email Greater Anglia train management to inform them of the incident.

After many back-and-forth email exchanges and phone calls, Greater Anglia did not check the CCTV camera at Liverpool Street station; they did nothing to the staff that treated me inhumanely at the Harlow train station; instead, they reminded me that ignorance of my transport routes and the law is my problem, and there were consequences.I was less than a week in Queen Elizabeth’s country and already in trouble with the law.

Against the advice of my partner, who knew the English law better, I vehemently refused to pay the penalty. And by English law, I had 21 days to pay, after which everything escalated very quickly.

Unfortunately for me, I was ignorant of the seriousness of not settling the bill within the period allowed by law, and I simply ignored it and moved on with my student life.

After a month, I told my partner that I couldn’t cope with the hectic trips from Harlow to school and back every single day. I told him that I wanted to move closer to school, so we found a place in north London.

One day, Denise, who had maintained her room in Harlow, messaged me to tell me an urgent message had come in for me. It was a court date..

I jumped out of my skin. A court date, for what?

She said after I left Harlow, the train company had been sending reminder letters to my address to pay the invoice, but because I was no longer living there, the mail was getting stacked on a corner and was all handed over to her that day by our landlord.

By this time, the £21 invoice was now £198. Read that again!

I was fuming and scared at the same time. They said in one of the correspondences that if I don’t pay, I risk jail time if the judge finds me guilty.

There was no more time left for ego-tripping or blaming. I didn’t want to appear before a judge or go to prison. I had left my newborn to travel to England to get my MBA, not to parade in front of judges. So I paid the full amount of the invoice, and the nightmare was now behind me. However, it left me scared, and taught me a great lesson, which is that “Ignorance is not bliss; it is foolishness’.

Because of my ignorance, here are the two very dangerous things that could potentially have gone wrong that day.

  1. I could have fallen very ill from the exposure to weather that my body wasn’t accustomed to.
  2. I could have been raped by or killed by hoodlums while walking in the dark streets that night (and if you think this is exaggerated, google the story of Sarah Everard).

But I am grateful to God for his mercy and for the opportunity to learn a great lesson.


So here are my five reasons why you should treat ignorance like the plague

1. Personal Safety

Ignorance in matters of personal safety can put individuals at significant risk. Understanding basic self-defence techniques, emergency procedures, and personal security measures can empower individuals to navigate potentially dangerous situations with confidence. By educating ourselves about potential threats, we can take proactive steps to mitigate risks and safeguard our well-being.

When I first arrived in the UK, I had a false sense of security. I felt protected by the cameras in the streets and the police sirens. However, I got a rude awakening a few months after my arrival while I was standing at the bus stop on a busy street. Another man was standing close to me with his phone in his hand, staring into the screen, when a man on an electric scooter snatched it away from him and made away with it.

This happened in front of everyone, and no one did anything. The cameras were there, and police sirens could be heard from afar, but his phone was gone!

After that incident, I bought a pepper spray that I carry with me in my bag at all times. It is my supplementary defence option in the absence of a black karate belt.

2. Health and Wellness

Neglecting to educate oneself about health-related matters can have severe consequences. Ignorance about proper nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle choices can lead to long-term health issues such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. Educating ourselves about healthy practises and seeking accurate medical information empowers us to make informed decisions, prioritise self-care, and maintain overall well-being.

In this day and age where plastic surgery has become common among women, with breast enlargement being the most popular, did you know that many women who undergo these procedures do so ignorantly?

I came across a story of a 27-year-old woman who had regrets about her procedure among hundreds on the BBC. She went to Turkey, where she spent £6,000 for a tummy tuck and breast implants. The surgery did not go as planned. She says she has had “ongoing problems” since the surgery and is now looking to spend another £10,000 for reconstructive surgery in the UK.

 3. Financial Literacy

Lack of knowledge about personal finances can lead to financial instability and debt. Understanding concepts such as budgeting, saving, investing, and managing debt equips individuals with the necessary skills to make sound financial decisions. By educating ourselves about personal finance, we can avoid financial pitfalls, secure our financial future, and make informed choices that align with our goals and aspirations.

As I type this, I am currently sitting on a $20,000 loss on the stock market. When I started investing in stocks back in 2020, I didn’t take the time to educate myself on the subject matter.

I used shortcuts, watched a few YouTubers who had absolutely no idea what they were talking about, took their advice, and bought a bunch of penny stocks. Most of them have since fallen to less than 99%, and I am hanging on by a thread, hoping for a miracle for me to ever get my money back.

That money is definitely worth a deposit on a home and could have come in very handy; however, I face the potential of losing all of it.

4. Cultural and Social Awareness

Living in an interconnected world requires us to be culturally and socially aware. Ignorance about different cultures, perspectives, and societal issues can contribute to misunderstandings, discrimination, and the perpetuation of stereotypes.

While reading a blog article about inappropriate and culturally sensitive gifts, I came across something rather strange.

I found out that besides the fact that Sharp objects, such as knives, often evoke a sense of danger due to their cutting ability, in Chinese culture, they carry a deeper symbolism. An ancient Chinese saying, “一刀两断” (yì dāo liǎng duàn), translates to “one knife, two halves” in English.

Which means giving a sharp object such as a knife to your Chinese friend or business partner might unknowingly convey a message of wanting to sever the relationship. For a Chinese, this would be perceived as saying, I no longer want to be your friend or business partner any longer; let’s cut ties and go our separate ways.

Understanding cultural nuances and symbols is crucial to avoid inadvertently causing misunderstandings or discomfort when exchanging gifts or gestures with individuals from different backgrounds. It is always beneficial to respect and consider the cultural perspectives and beliefs of others to foster positive and harmonious relationships.

 5. Lifelong Learning

Education should not be confined to formal schooling. Embracing a mindset of lifelong learning is crucial for personal growth and adaptability in a rapidly changing world. Staying curious, seeking new knowledge, and engaging in continuous learning broadens our horizons, enhances our critical thinking skills, and allows us to stay ahead in our personal and professional lives.

As a serial personal developer, one of the things I never want to be called is ignorant. Which is why I believe in and rely so much on these four unorthodox friends.

  • Books
  • Online search engines
  • Audio recordings(podcasts)
  • Videos(YouTube especially)

Over the years, these friends have catapulted me to a level of growth I never imagined possible, and I keep growing. I see every new day as an opportunity to learn about my world and the things that could potentially impact it.

To conclude this lesson, I’d like to reiterate that, in a world where information is easily accessible, remaining ignorant is a choice that can have significant consequences. By taking responsibility for our own education, we can equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate life’s challenges effectively.

Ignorance not only puts our safety and well-being at risk but also limits our personal growth and potential. Let us embrace the power of education, remain open-minded, and commit to lifelong learning. Remember, ignorance is NOT bliss; it is our responsibility to educate ourselves for a fulfilling and successful life.

Lesson 1: Embrace Independence: No One Will Be in Your Life Forever
Lesson 2: The Impact of an Absent Father: Nurturing Awareness and Sensitivity
Lesson 3: The Power of Resilience: Your Response to Adversity Makes or Breaks You
Lesson 4: Navigating Relationships: The Art Of Dealing With Manipulative Family and Friends
Lesson 5: Embracing the Reality of Family Disloyalty and Lack Of Support

Lesson 6: Embrace Healthy Scepticism: Trust, but verify.



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