#UGBlogWeek Day Five – #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter really is #SchoolsMadeMeBetter…me, the chap that i am today

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter. Yes – me.

By doing what schools are supposed to do, all my schools combined made me better. See, I was lucky because I wasn’t sent to school just to get good examination grades. Of course, those were expected as part of the return package, but that package involved much, much, much more.

That’s why I was sent in at a young, tender age and expected to emerge as an adult ready to take on the world and make a mark on it, rather than have it mark me.

I went in with very little in my mind, meagre amounts of flesh on my bones, and no worries in my soul.

I had to change, through school. Not by way of the classrooms alone, but in the field, on the schoolyard, in the dormitories, the corridors, the staff room, and on the roads walking to and from the various schools, and in the cars when they carried me across.

Even as a very young child I was a Daydreamer and fantasized every chance I got, but learnt to bring my mind back to the real world and put my feet on the ground, my hand to the pen and my pen to paper.

I was an Inattentive child yet came out having learnt to identify when it was important to pay attention, and how to do so in order to turn that importance into useful action.

I was Easily Distracted, and still am to an extent, but learnt how to turn away from my distractions when I needed to, in order to achieve clear objectives – the importance of which I had learnt to prioritise through paying attention.

I was Immature yet found maturity in many ways, from the simple ones like stretching out meagre resources and learning to survive in relative hardship, to the complicated ones like dealing with feelings – mine and others.

I was Weak – VERY weak, yet developed strength and found how to be powerful or even appear powerful in spite of my weakness. The lessons still work to this day …

I was Shy, and believe I still am yet I developed ways of overcoming that shyness to speak in public, approach complete strangers with bold requests, and to hold my own in very unfamiliar circumstances, surrounded by people I have never met before in countries I have only just walked into for my first time ever.

I wasn’t born with sportsmanship, teamwork, humility, courage, diligence, and a long list of other attributes that I possibly wouldn’t have been able to spell, let alone develop, if I hadn’t gone to school.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because they took hold of my little infant self and moulded me into an acceptable adult with responsibilities that include raising several other infants into acceptable adults – with the help of schools.

So that they, in turn, one day turn up with the statement #SchoolsMadeMeBetter.

#UGBlogWeek Day Four – #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter really is #SchoolsMadeMeBetter otherwise where and how would I have made any friends?

I am better for my friends, which is why I can confidently say #SchoolsMadeMeBetter.

If I hadn’t gone to school at all – which was never an available option in my case, with my family background – then I would be a much less rounded character today because of the absence of friends.

I certainly wouldn’t be married to the superb mother of my children and the companion I am trying to keep by my side until we are really too old to walk unaided, and start to forget even the children’s names but recall each other’s nicknames.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because the experiences with children there helped guide the way I lived my life as a young, and now old, adult. Right from my primary school days when I grew very close and comfortable relationships with girls until some fellow young-uns convinced me that girls were generally irritating characters to be ignored, despised and deeply distrusted.

By the time I resumed talking to girls properly again I was bound to be as awkward as most of the other boys because that was who I had become. Hanging out with those boys, sharing jokes with them, telling and listening to stories, envying some of them and probably creating my own envy situations (I hope) changed me.

I picked up habits that I wouldn’t have found elsewhere. I learnt words we didn’t have at home. I saw pictures that didn’t exist in any of my relatives houses (in the open, at least). I watched movies that my parents would never have allowed my friends’ parents to watch.

Our days were different, man – we exchanged videotapes from house to house instead of downloading torrents. We didn’t have facebook, twitter and instagram to make friends with – we had to actually see people, walk up to them, and talk to them to establish whether we liked them or not and vice versa.

School was that place where you kicked around a plastic container in the absence of a ball, and after ten minutes found out who else liked soccer as much as you did. It was the place where you squatted in the dust to play dool with people whose names you didn’t know until the first time they beat you at the game, and then you asked them directly for their name.

We nicknamed our friends at school. We teased them mercilessly, many times bringing our closest friends to tears by ribbing and shelling them with abandon. But the tears rarely dropped (when everyone was watching) and before long we went back to laughter.

School was a great place to make friends because it put us together for hours on end with people whose character showed through quite clearly. There was no trolling, no loose ‘Likes’ and ‘Favourites’ and if somebody didn’t like you there was a specific place you went to punch things out.

And it also taught me that punching things out wasn’t always the best way of making friends or resolving issues between friends or even dropping friends.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter at these relationship techniques so much so that whenever people said those “Your network is your net worth” comments I laughed out loud (using #NN).

What would my network have been without school? Nothing.


#UGBlogWeek Day Three – seriously, #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter means #SchoolsMadeMeBetter because of my parents

THE one lesson I remember from my university Sociology classes was the one where the lecturer told us about normalisation. She told us how norms in society are formed and passed on, and I distinctly recall understanding that lesson alone and feeling quite happy that I had gone into a lecture theatre.

Children develop their norms by associating with different influences at different stages of their lives. When they’re born they get everything from their parents, then as they grow siblings and other relatives come into play. Their nannies or governesses (depending on how posh they are) also contribute along the way. When children start going to school their teachers become the main influences, and when the children develop friendships their friends take over.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter by being a major provider of my norms, but only after my Parents had deposited theirs, and most importantly BECAUSE my parents decided so.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because I got thrown into the arena alongside all sorts of children (and teachers) who made me realise how different I was from them, and in some cases made me appreciate how outstanding we were in our little, humble family. And even as those new norms came upon me, the ones I had left home with were deeply embedded, thank God!

And so, #SchoolsMadeMeBetter because they made me love my parents more and more as I saw their hard work and sacrifice first hand and got to compare it with many other parents’ attributes.

It was in school that I learnt that not all parents went home in the evenings to be with their children and help with homework or supervise cleanliness and other aspects of our lives that irritated and annoyed us.

It was because of school that I discovered how hard life really was for my parents, especially on the days we would get ‘circulars’ and ‘chits’ (those two words have disappeared from our lexicography (Google it – I won’t edit it out) and should return in fact as well as usage, even for the nostalgia alone. Those circulars and chits in many cases advised that we would have to be sent back home if our school fees were not fully paid up by a certain time ‘t’.

Learning that we were on the list of students whose fees were not paid up by the first day of term made it easier to accept not having pocket money by the envelope-load. We understood why we couldn’t have as much grub as the next student, who also happened to be part of the same clique you were in and therefore ‘Birds of a Feather’.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because my parents were revealed to me more and more in school even if they were not present their; the way my teachers spoke of them when they had the occasion to, and the attitude the other pupils and students took towards them often made me pause and think about who they really were.

And more, because the way these same pupils and students spoke of their own parents and the parents of others amongst us made me REALLY look up with pride and say the names of my parents with the confidence that I wrote them down as my own name.

Every time the name was said out loud I saw their faces, not mine, and prayed that I was making them proud. Each and every time. When I wasn’t making them proud I was anguished, and wept, and hurt, and prayed for repentance and the chance to make it good again.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because they all made me understand the importance of my identity, especially the importance that my parents would place upon the family name. At school I was an extension of who they were outside of school; I had to be careful, respectful, cautious, responsible and serious – all for the sake of the people who were working so hard to afford to keep me in school, and suffered great stress to do so successfully.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because they taught me about parental love, care, and sacrifice.


#UGBlogWeek Day Two – again, #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter isn’t quite right

See, #SchoolsMadeMeBetter, even if I didn’t pay enough attention to stay there long enough to earn the right to use letters such as Prof. and Dr. in front of my name.

By the time I earned my university degree I had had quite enough of the official part of ‘school’; and it was only years later that I worked out that the unofficial bits that I so enjoyed were a deliberate part of our time there.

The rules and procedures that we tip-toed around and dodged and broke and shattered were nothing compared to what we have going on in the real world, but thank God we went through that! All that close supervision and tight management by teachers and prefects was just practice runs for us to appreciate stuff like government authority and even the occasional askari.

The fun and games that we focussed so much of our time and energy on were sometimes the distraction that in real life exists with such ferocity that I really get amazed that we actually do stuff like work, take kids to school and even go to Church. That sensor underneath the skull that makes us do the right thing instead of the fun thing, a.k.a. responsibility, was inserted bit by bit every single day during all those schooling years.

The appreciation that not everybody out there thinks like my parents think, and their parents before them, only came to me when I got to school and met up with children whose parents did the one hundred and one things my parents did not do. Even the understanding that some families out there didn’t speak the same language as ours, only came to me when I got to school.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter in the sense that if I had picked the wrong pill that morning before I was first dispatched to Baby Class, Morpheus would certainly have sent me down the chute leading to a life trawling through garbage skips for cigarette ends and things to tie round my waist for the amusement of the general public as they drive or walk past me to their daily jobs.

I may have been good on my own, but I am sure #SchoolsMadeMeBetter because of all those teachers I sat in front of for so many hours, who seemed to be larger than life regardless of how fascinating, fantastic or even downright boring they were.

The fact that they got to stand up there in front of all of us made them “big people” with a difference. I knew back then and know that even now they were the lowest paid of all the professionals out there, but they still turned up (most of them) and did their jobs with a passion that confounded me.

They didn’t teach me only english, maths, science, geography and the more complicated subjects – I didn’t pay enough attention to that; they taught me patience, perseverance, diligence, a sense of duty, responsibility, resilience, respect, patriotism and heroism.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter in very many ways, and I’m not going to stop using #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter to relive those days and do this self-therapy.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter in very many ways.

#UGBlogWeek Day One – #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter

I WILL try to keep up here, but the # just doesn’t read right. #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter? No. #SchoolsMadeMeBetter.

(I’ve got to say this also because I have children and I don’t need the discussion that could arise from them mis-understanding that statement when said by me. Ironically, their education thus far should be so good that they can sneak the phrase “thus far” into a quick post such as this, or understand fully what #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter actually means when typed out by the person who pays their school fees, buys food and has his name on the title deed to the house they live in.)

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter because, for one thing, they made me loathe homework and the punishment that came with not meeting deadlines or handing in homework on time.

That’s why this #UGBlogWeek challenge is so difficult – I was afraid to commence because my schedule these days is so tight that I go entire days missing out on things I used to do buli daily with the same regularity I brush my teeth with in the mornings.

And I cannot stand the idea of missing a deadline or not meeting an expectation.

Which is one of the reasons why, even though I was not a good ‘student’ in the strict sense of the word, I appreciate the things I can say #SchoolsMadeMeBetter for or with or by or…<— what’s that stuff called again? It’s like the difference between pronoun and that other thing.

School was full of such words and definitions, and many other things like that which were important for some reason that I cannot explain without much thought and analysis.

#SchoolsMadeMeBetter versus #SchoolsMadeMeNoBetter. It’s obvious which one will win.