I remember, dimly, the excitement of first going to grade one; those were heady days. Everything in life seemed new and exciting. I learnt how to draw those coloured patterns, proudly taking them home to show parents. The prerequisites to learning to write I guess now; no one told us then why but we drew them anyway, numerous times. No one ever told me why I was going to school, you see, I just went; it was fortunate I got to do quite well.
Yes Sir/Ma’am, three bags full
I smile as I remember coming first a couple of times, crying when I didn’t’, even if I was in the top 3. I became quite competitive actually, and even skipped a grade (no wonder there are gaps in my knowledge)! I just did as I was told, yes sir/ma’am three bags full, no questions asked. And as I progressed through primary school I started using school as my sanctuary to escape a difficult home life, and so developed a love for it that has remained with me to this day. When things were hard I looked forward to escaping to school, learning and reading books, thus escaping into another world, but then that is another story altogether.
I remember the pain of first going to secondary school, and those who know me now may not believe this but I was the smallest in that boarding school; my black trunk may have been bigger than me! Neighbours asked my mother where she thought she was taking me. Other students would take one look at me and break out in mirth. ‘What form have you come to take?’, they would ask, to which I replied, ‘form 1’. They would proceed to point out the form one block and ask if I was able to take it, small as I was.
The hate list
There was a lot of meanness around us form ones but I persevered, as did others with me, for we wanted to get an education. What for, you could have asked us and I bet you most had no intelligent answer. Moving on, in secondary school my love for reading overtook all else, and that’s how I started choosing what subjects to like and which ones to hate. Maths (what were logarithm tables for) was first on my hate list, actually, it was the teacher I disliked with a passion (he was so mean). And then anything with lots of numbers, so Physics, Chemistry, part of Geography joined the queue (trigonometrical beacons, contour lines and those little books we were to use for the physical section of geography tests which I have never seen in my adult life). I had no idea why I was learning them, nor could I have told you clearly why I hated them. They just tortured my brain, yet I am sure it all was music to others’ ears.
But I loved Shakespeare, Jane Austen (and still do if I am to be honest), Achebe, Ngugi, Hardy, Dickens, the Bronte sisters; so English (especially literature, but don’t talk to me about Chaucer), History (Bismarck’s foreign policy), Bible Knowledge and that lot were high on my like list. Why, you may ask? I am not sure, maybe I enjoyed them more than others, or I had an aptitude for them seeing as I loved to read; did I need a reason anyway? Thus, when I finished school I went on to become a secondary school teacher, because I would forever live with my favourite subject, English. And there were holidays in teaching. My two reasons for going into my chosen career. By the way when in primary school I wanted to become a policewoman; because I loved the uniform then (of course it was blue). And towards the end of high school I wanted to be a news caster and presenter at ZBC. But I became a teacher; and this was a decision I made after collecting my results, literally on the same day.
And when I burnt out, became a careers adviser. Some were lucky enough to get some guidance and so thrived. The rest, to this day, tend to cruise, gravitate, or flow with the current (what is available or easy to get into or what parents say).
I have a keen interest in people’s memories of going to school and gaining an interest/aptitude in subjects? Secondly, I am notorious for asking how people entered the world of careers (I confess I ask third degree questions). Would you recommend your journey for the younger generation? You have gained a little peek into mine here, which is not intended to bash other subjects or career choices; it is to provoke thought into why we learn what we learn, or choose the careers we do.
If I knew then what I know now
Those of us who are parents, biological or otherwise, have already had to deal with the question ‘Why dad/mum/aunt/uncle?’ from our children (and I thought they were cheeky little things asking my why, I am your mother and I say so), and where we have not given satisfactory answers they respond by defying us where their education/schooling choices are concerned. You see, I still wonder, as many others do, why I learnt what I learnt in school. If I knew then what I know now after 30+ years in the labour market, could that have altered my all-round performance in school? Sometimes I think it may have made those of us who hated subjects due to our dislike for the teachers change our approach (I don’t like you sir/miss or I find this difficult to assimilate but I need it for my future so will try my best). May be having purpose to the education might have taken us in a different direction.
It is time to do something about it
The purpose of my little write is to get us reflecting on the path the education/career journey for the next generation should follow, in case we fall into the trap of maintaining the status quo, whether it is beneficial or no, or even fit for purpose; just because it is what we know. If it is not broken, why fix it you say, but then honestly if it is flawed, it is time we do something about it. None but ourselves. And reflecting on it is as good a starting point as any I know. MT