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ELECTION 2022

Teachers should factor in needs of Grade One left-handers as new academic year kicks off

OPINION
By Jason Nyantino | Aug 13th 2021 | 3 min read
The text "I am a lefty" written in the palm of a left-handed man [Courtesy]

Today is the International Left-Handers Day marked globally to celebrate the uniqueness and differences of left-handers.

The day, first observed on August 13, 1976, also promotes awareness of the inconveniences faced by left-handers in a predominantly right-handed world.

Research shows that about seven to 10 per cent of the world’s population is left-handed. Many of the left-handed people in today’s society have to adapt to use right-handed tools and objects and the day’s objective is to spread awareness about the special needs of left-handed children. 

Two weeks ago, more than one million Kenyan children joined Grade One. These children are joining the education system as the country introduces the new competency-based curriculum (CBC) which not only emphasises the significance of developing skills and knowledge, but also how to apply those competencies to real life situations.

This means that the new system is modelled to give learners a practical experience and relevant technical skills in a specific field. The implementation of the CBC curriculum has given rise to several questions: Are our teachers equipped to handle left-handed pupils who are joining Grade One? Does left-handedness affect how learners acquire skills and knowledge especially during the CBC era where more emphasis is on competencies as opposed to mere knowledge of the skills and attitudes? Is there a correlation between left-handedness and a person’s intelligence quotient (IQ)?

In many parts of the world, there are still strong cultural stigmas against left-handedness. In some cultures, the use of the left hand is deemed to be disrespectful and insulting to the person one is communicating with and stories are told of parents forcing their left-handed children to become right-handed. Such sanctions and stigma have led to some left-handed people being able to use both hands.

In many Muslim parts of the world, in parts of Africa as well as in India and China, the left hand is considered the ‘dirty’ hand and it is considered offensive to offer that hand to anyone, even to help.

This discrimination against lefties goes back thousands of years in many cultures including the West, and Kenya may not be an exception. For this reason, left-handedness remains a critical question that might affect our learners in many of our schools, especially if teachers discriminate against left-handed children. 

Left-handedness has continued to draw humanity’s attention for centuries. Experts concur that when a child is forced to change from being left-handed to right-handed, their mental and physical development is affected, which is why our teachers and educational experts need to factor in this group in their strategy as we reform our education system.

However, despite these cultural biases against left-handedness, some of the most talented and influential people through history share this one trait that has given them incredible abilities in other ways. In the past few decades, the US presidency, for instance, has veered more and more to the left – not in policy, but in handedness, with five of the last seven presidents being left-handed.

They were John F Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, George W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. Closer home, our own President Uhuru Kenyatta is left-handed.

Other amazing high achieving left-handers include Aristotle, Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, John Pele, Sir Bobby Charlton and Oprah Winfrey. Others include big names such as Isaac Newton, Julius Caesar, Queen Victoria, Prince William, Bill Gates, Steve Forbes, Henry Ford, David Rockefeller and former UK Prime Minister David Cameron. 

The above list demonstrates that lefties seem to make exceptional leaders, inventors, artists, musicians and communicators. Left-handers have achieved greatness in many walks of life, but particularly in creative, sporting and artistic fields, where their natural talent for lateral thinking and ingenuity have made a huge contribution to humanity.

Let our teachers unleash the power and genius in our left-handed children by knocking down the mental boundaries that cast left-handedness in negative light. Happy Left-Handers Day!

Jason Nyantino, The writer, a lef-thander, is a communications consultant.  

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