Trust humans to latch onto anything that makes them feel better than the rest. Unlike misery, which finds comfort in sharing predicaments; vanity revels in being seen to be doing much better.
That is how adults have been shouting themselves hoarse at every opportunity, trying to prove that theirs was the better or cooler secondary school. That those who were not in Maseno School or Alliance or Lenana or the other so-called blue chip schools, with them are lesser humans. Oh please!
Beyond a swankier learning environment, the value of sorority way after exiting, some imaginary status and perhaps encountering knives and forks earlier, it does not bestow much else. At the end of those years, all get an education and the capacity to interrogate, create and innovate.
Whether it is that prestigious national school that counts the high and mighty amongst its alumni or the makeshift secondary school crammed on one corner of the local primary school, it does not matter much. Heck, it means nothing if it was just a section of a commercial storied building, converted into classrooms, sometimes sitting atop bars and night clubs. The most important thing is how one turned out and the impact they deliver to society. It is in contributing meaningfully to existential challenges we face as a people – sorting out economic challenges, shining a light through public health mazes, and becoming better role models.
At some point though, where one schooled was indeed a thing. Those were the days when just having gone to some secondary school was more important than the grades one took out and what they did with the education they got.
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Once upon a time, this had every parent with a learner in primary school secretly praying and wishing that their offspring would deliver top grades in the final examination. Of course, entrepreneurs rode this wave. They had these desperate parents pay through the nose in exchange for boosted chances at being amongst the top one hundred in national rankings.
The parents’ fervent prayers and efforts were meant to do more than just guaranteeing the pupils a spot in the so-called top secondary schools effortlessly, without relying on knowing someone who knew someone who knew the principal or board member and could beg for admission. It was also about family pride that came with being seen listed amongst top students in the newspapers and being hounded by newsmen for the thirty-seconds of fame on the bulletin, being lifted shoulder-high and mouthing lofty career ambitions. Isn’t a good brain hereditary? Not living up to this pushed many students over the edge.
The same went for the final examinations in secondary school. It earned the top student a place in public university through the front door to study the supposed prestigious courses, besides becoming a national celebrity rubbing shoulders with politicians on the bulletin and newspaper pages. Good grades also saved the family the hustle of putting together a fundraiser to ship one to India for further studies.
Nowadays, the ground has been leveled, to some extent, in delivering an education. There are more than a handful national high schools and many other decent ones that can deliver an education that is good enough to prepare any average student for the world. Every urban center and hamlet has a public tertiary institution not too far off with even more private options.
Surely, under these current circumstances, bragging where one went to school is so ancient thinking. Besides, there being many top schools to choose from, chances of getting reasonable enough grades even from a basic village institution have been boosted. Isn’t it the same curriculum delivered by teachers who hold the same qualifications?
Not to forget that school is a means to an end. It is what we do with what we get from that cool school that matters. Even if you went to the same school as corporate titans and politicians or had a la carte meals, it is not sufficient.
This is, however, not to downplay the need for pride in where one studied. School plays a key role in moulding who we eventually become and for this deserve pride and unwavering support. It just should not be demonstrated by making it look like going to a particular school makes one a better human while those who did not are children of a lesser god.
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