Sunday, 9 September 2012

Something on my mind

Technical drawing (TD) was one of those subjects I thoroughly enjoyed in secondary school. Carrying around my TD board I prided myself as being one of ‘those TD students’. On this very day I was probably very enthustiastic about the 40 minute class we were going to have at our TD lab. We had already started learning how to draw the plans of storey buildings and how to draw staircases in the plan of a building, so I was hoping for more of that. Setting my white paper on the board, putting masking tape at the corners, I waited for the teacher to tell us what to do. Just then she brought out some pipes connected in different ways, the types you see around houses as part of the plumbing.

"Today, we are learning how to draw sections of pipes", she announced.

Huh?. Okay that didn’t sound interesting to me, but I was willing to be patient. In a matter of time we were drawing, but I was befuddled. What was the point of learning how to draw sections of pipes. I totally understood drawing plans of buildings etc and why it was important before building a house (that’s why we have architects, right?) and so I needed more clarification oh this pipe thingy. I called the attention of my teacher.

With a sort of pained look on my face I said, “Excuse me ma, but what’s the importance of this in real life. As in, why are we learning it exactly”

It was only natural that I’d ask. That’s why I was in school learning.

She stared at me like I had just said dodo was sushi, then she frowned her face.

“You are learning it so that you will pass your WAEC very well” and then she walked away, I suppose, angered.

I bent my head back to my work, amazed by what she had just told me and then anger started boiling in me too. I didn’t like the idea of not being able to apply my theoritical knowledge in real life or knowing how it helped in real life.

I lost all respect for that teacher that day, what with the realisation that she didn’t even understand what she was teaching us.

It was from then I started questioning why I was even doing technical drawing or even going along the Engineering path at all. However that did not in anyway inform my decision to switch careers to Pharmacy.. Pharmacy just called

I illustated the above, just so you get a feel of what I’m about to go on about...

Learning to pass exams, as against learning to gain knowledge, apply it in real life and contribute to development in our country.

Right from when a child is born he/she is brainwashed into thinking all knowledge gained is for the sole purpose of passing exams. I remember at the Farafina literary evening I attended, when the question was asked by a member of the audience, “Why do you think Nigerians don’t read literature enough, especially our own up-coming writers”, Binyavanga, the kenyan author answered by saying it’s probably because people see reading as for only academic purposes, like just to pass an exam in literature.People don’t see reading as an opportunity to recreate and most importantly expand ones worldview. He said from when a child is very little if the parent wants to give him a book to read at all, it’s probably because the book will help him to pass some major exams 17 years from  “Take this book. Read it. It will help you to pass your exams”.  I laughed at that and yet it’s so true.

I remember sometime 2 years ago when I was reading Chimamanda’s ‘Thing around your neck’ while waiting for a lecturer to come in, in my class. Someone passes by me, turns the book to one side to better view the cover and says, "Ay, you and all this secondary school literature books you like reading; those days". I don’t know which one angered me more; the fact that she didn’t know who Chimamanda was or the fact that she saw my reading the book as weird, especially as it was from a Nigerian author. She didn’t think I could enjoy a Nigerian novel, just as any foreign novel and that I could read it just for leisure, not necessarily to pass an exam (considering the fact that most literature books we read in primary and secondary school were by Nigerian authors).

I know I’m jumping here and there with this post, but it’s just that many things are paining me at the same time. Why do people always think going to school is about getting good grades as against getting an education. And not just any education, total education that should involve the chosen area of discipline and other areas that help to ensure that one is an educated person.

I'm currently writing my final pharmacy exams and it is during this period I always wonder what’s even the purpose of exams. Because quite frankly what I see all around is people doing a lot of CRAMMING!! They say la cram la pour la pass. But me I say, la cram la pour la pass la not have any knowledge or be able to hold intelligent conversation and be able to make a real impact in the real world.

The one that pains me most is when some of the really good crammers turn out the best in class. If you corner some of these people and try to engage them in intelligent conversation they’ll be blank. These are people that don’t know jack about what they are studying, people that don’t lift a hand to do anything in lab practicals, but at the end of the day they miraculously turn up with results of the experiment from wherever and dub past lab notes  (gotten from people who have most likely graduated) word for word and even beg for references. Now that’s the annoying part, begging for references. How do you cite references you didn’t make use of. I do all the hardwork, research on the topic, make a good lab report and cite my references and there you are begging me to allow you cite my references. But I thought you had a brain; we have the internet, google the topic and download the PDF file, then reference it...Mscheww

Okay now, this is begining to sound like a rant. Well that’s how it’s paining me sha. I just feel in nigeria we celebrate crammers; people who cram their way through school and who graduate in some cases, yeah with First Class Degrees, but really are First Class clueless Homo Sapiens.. Okay oh, I’m not saying all First Class graduates are crammers and  I’m not saying it isn’t good to do well; I want to do extremely well oh, but compare most of our graduates from here and the ones in obodoyibo. I feel our curriculum, especially for science-based courses should include mostly practicals. I’m so in support of oral exams and independently carried out lab experiments and a practice based approach to learning. That way we can fish the really brilliant ones from the robots.

Reminds me of the Indian movie, 3 idiots. I love that movie. Chatur was a crammer ehn and graduated well, but what did he know. Ranchos on the other hand sought knowledge, KNOWLEDGE, and still did very well, in fact the best in the class!! Years later he was a great scientist with so many patents, while Chatur held a white collar job, signed cheques and lived expensively. But at the end he had to run after Ranchos for a simple signature.

That’s why in the movie they said, “Follow excellence and success will chase you pants down” very true. 

In Nigeria, most people are about my certificate, my certificate, trying to do better than others and even along the line breaking a few hearts. But we should be all about the knowledge, that way our country will benefit. I just hate competition. I’m in school to learn and no other. I hust hate when people think you’re trying to compete with them. My own goal is not to be a jegbe jegbe Pharmacist, but to be the type that people will be looking for- as in a 'hot cake', to come and supply well grounded drug knowledge. Not the type that will graduate with ‘the certificate’ finish and go and sell it to Igbo boys (sorry) for them to hang in their shop or the type that a patient will see coming and run away from.

In the future no one will be talking about how well you did in school, but how much impact you’ve made with the KNOWLEDGE gained.

I remember during my externship (IT) last year, a lady pharmacist I worked with who was a major hot cake. As in, people will come into the pharmacy and start asking for her. She was really knowlegeable and loved her job and with that she had helped a lot of people. But you won’t believe this same lady repeated a year in school and graduated with a 3.04 or so CGPA on a 5.0 scale. I’m in no way encouraging the getting of bad grades, because even I know this lady had her regrets about her final result, I’m just trying to show how little results say.

Exams/results are not a true evaluation of intelligence. People go through challenges during the exam period; loss of a loved one or heartbreak, an unfavourable exam time table (two 4 unit courses on the same day!!), sudden blankness in the exam hall, unavoidable time wasters etc.

Like one of my lecturers used to say, “Don’t worry yourself about getting good grades, just listen, learn and absorb, that way you relieve yourself of a lot of pressure and you still do well”

That said I think I have made my point!!!

“Follow excellence and success will chase you pants down!!!”


I think Okechukwu Ofili mentioned something about grades and knowledge in his latest book “How laziness saved my life”.. I saw the book in my house recently. Apparently my brother bought it behind my But I didn’t read the whole book sha, but I saw a scanned a few of the pages. I’ll still read it, but now got exams on my mind..

Feels good to be here again..:)

Phew!! What a long post... I think.