A FEW weeks ago our youngest surprised us in the car on the way to her new school, two days after joining; she burst into a declaration that made us laugh but also got us thinking.
Speaking loudly to herself, she declared, “You are the better than everyone, you can do anything and nothing can stop you!”
I was a little alarmed at what had motivated the outburst but my investigations didn’t come to much. The enquiries were brief, however, as my consultations with the other principal stakeholders in the matter arrived at the conclusion that it was healthy for everyone to be driven by a motivational slogan or statement.
In fact, we agreed, we would adopt the practice and daily pump up our souls with motivational slogans as we left home.
This week, while visiting some peri-urban and rural primary schools, I paid keen attention to one of my favourite features of these schools – those slogans that they paste all about the schools. For some reason, it is a feature that appears to exist only in ’those’ schools that most of us attended, but not in many of the city schools.
At one school on the shores of Lake Victoria at Katosi, where bilharzia and malaria are a serious problem, the signs I read included, ‘Sleep Under A Treated Mosquito Net Every Night’, ‘Avoid dodging taking bilharzia and other worm tablets’, ‘Drink Boiled Water Always’, ‘Sew Your Net When It Has Holes’, ‘Malaria Causes Poor Marks In Exams’, and ‘Daddy Please Get Me A Mosquito Net Today’.
The messaging was designed to re-inforce the lessons the children are taught, as well as to cause a behavioural change in their families.
At other schools, we saw signs like, ‘Say No To Bad Touches’, ‘Correct Don’t Criticise’, ‘Keep The Environment Clean’, ‘Girls Need Education Too’, ‘Girls Are As Capable As Boys In All Fields’, ‘Ky’osimbonaanya Ky’olyako Ettoke’, and, ‘Say No To Premature Sex’.
The signs were all neatly written and prominently displayed distributed all around the school compounds so the children wouldn’t miss them. There was even, at one school kitchen in a day school, ‘Always Use Energy Saving Cooking Stoves’.
I imagine that the children who spend their days surrounded by these messages, many of which they are made to recite as part of certain lessons, grow up with a clear understanding of why they are important. There should be a study somewhere about the drop in incidents of sexual molestation, or non-use of mosquito nets, or environments being kept dirty in certain places as a result of such messaging.
At the very least, none of the children would have an excuse to fall back on if they were found doing anything contrary to the messages they see on a daily basis.
In corporate offices around the world, inspirational posters and slogans have been used as a tool of management for years on end, and they have worked quite well in many instances. There are people running entire careers developing these simple one-line messages for companies, athletes and politicians…speaking of which:
This presents a challenge and an opportunity for our politicians!
Right now, the most publicly visible messaging in Uganda is the campaign posters that have began to cover the country, and our politicians would do well to take notes from our schoolchildren and their teachers.
Drop those open statements like, ‘For Peace and Stability’, ‘For Development’ and ‘A Man Of The People’, which really mean nothing when one thinks about them for two seconds.
Instead, come up with motivational statements that show us how you will deliver in your political role, that motivate and inspire you and your followers every single day in a way that will aid your campaign or delivery should you be elected.
The key thing, though, is to put it out there so it reminds you to act a certain way and because it is so public, it forces you to do so.
For the first three people who ask, I can ask my daughter to lend you this one: ‘I Am Better Than Anyone, I Can Do Anything and Nothing Can Stop Me!’ – provided you actually ensure that you ARE better than anyone, you WILL do anything, and that NOTHING stops you keeping the promises you make to the electorate.