This is an epistle to the young Kenyans who wrote their national examinations at the end of Primary School in 2019. My dear children, congratulations on completion of that stretch of your journey. Let me assure you that have done well to get there. This is regardless of the grade they have given you in the recently released results.
As a parent, I know just how important it is to have a child you can hold a decent conversation with. School is meant to prepare you for that. Sometimes it is not the grade A that counts. It is often the individual that the school has shaped you into. I look forward to meeting you a few years hence. I hope you will tell me that you read this epistle and that it made a difference in your life.
Yet, allow me first to speak to those who excelled in the exams. You deserve to be lauded for doing exceptionally well. If you are preparing to go to Form One next month, I wish you very well. It is the start of yet a fresh challenge, as you will find out soon. Perhaps it is a little patronising to tell you not to rest on your laurels. Nonetheless I must tell you so, as a matter of duty.
In my long and rich life, I have seen people arrive in High School with superb grades, only for them to leave empty handed. But that is just part of the story. Some leave in a vegetative state. For, they never recover from the initial euphoria of encounter with success. The thing goes to their head. They imagine that they know everything. They are even better than their teachers, they think – especially if they come from affluent homes. In the end, they are a liability to everyone. Do not become one of those. And remember just what a short period your four years in High School is. It will pass away like the wind. Yet it may very well shape the rest of your life. Focus, focus, focus, my child.
I have seen some of your parents lamenting that you have not been selected to join the school of your choice. I have watched some of you on TV, in utter disbelief. Your parents joined you in mourning how you had been “frustrated” by being placed in “inferior schools.” Really? Take this from me, my child, there are no such things as “inferior schools.”
I should have told you a little story about my first encounter with High School. It was a sorry story. But I leave it for some other day. Just understand that in the end it is about you and your focus. If you go to Form One throwing up tantrums and sulking that you are in the wrong school, then the super grades that you got mean nothing. You did not learn anything in Primary School.
Your father, who is encouraging you to think that you are going to “an inferior” school, is a burden to you and to your country. He should be telling you that what matters is what you are going to do with your time in that school. In the end, you should come out a sober and solid individual, who can make a contribution to your country. But I run ahead of myself.
Let me turn briefly to you who did not excel. Your country has not treated you well. While we have been running around and lifting your excellent colleagues on our broad shoulders, we have forgotten you. Forgive us for writing you off. Year after year, we have treated a majority of our children the same way. We forget that you are the majority. Where do we want you to go?
Mercifully, this time round, they have said you will all go to High School. Let nobody lie to you. You are not useless. Let nobody write you off. Your bulb could still blow into full light in High School. If you should find me in a quiet place, I should give you a personal testimony. I have walked that road. I know what it means to be called “useless, good for nothing.”
I know what it means to see teachers pampering their favourite grade A students. But I also know what it takes to jump from the bottom to the very top of the class. Believe you me, my child. I went through it many years ago. You can still excel. So, do not get there feeling inferior to anybody. Focus, focus, focus. And it does not matter what kind of school you will find yourself in. Provided that you find yourself in school, focus, focus, focus. Do not bother about “being transferred to a better school.” Only one thing counts, focus, focus, focus.
Finally, your focus should not just be on grade A. That is very important, of course. Regrettably, they no longer teach about common decency. Focus on it anyway. They no longer teach manners and about attitude and comportment. Focus on them anyway. They no longer lay emphasis on respect for yourself, your colleagues and your environment in total.
This sounds like a sermon from the Stone Age. Focus on it all the same. For, it will make all the difference on whom you shape up into and the role you will play in the future. My child, I have looked at the challenges in our country. I have concluded that they boil down to absence of values and manners.
I have sometimes thought that, maybe, we should just abolish everything they are teaching in school and just focus on training people in decorum and common decency. But – oh well? Let me wish you a Happy New Year and a decent and fulfilling tour of duty in High School. May God bless you.
The writer is a strategic public communications adviser. www.barrackmuluka.co.ke