Personal Finance

Passing or failing an exam is an event, not destination in life

Unlike schooling, life is not a straight line—it’s a convoluted trajectory. PHOTO | FILE
Unlike schooling, life is not a straight line—it’s a convoluted trajectory. PHOTO | FILE 

Dear Student, you’ve been sold a bill of goods. You’ve been lied to that the A in school stands for ‘Amazing in Life’ and the F, ‘Failure’. And yet, “We should not worry about the As craze — it’s a big industry. Whoever glorifies As is a devil that needs to be dealt with. An exam is only worth five per cent of learning —the child needs to be all-round. There are lawyers who cannot speak English or argue...”

Take heed. These words are not empty talk from just another “analogue” old man. They are from a surgeon, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Nairobi and current chairman of the Kenya National Examinations Council, Prof George Magoha.

He’s seen both worlds—academia and industry. And he’s right; and your parents and every responsible adult you interact with knows this.

So if you did not get an A, or B or the grade you wanted, it is okay to “feel bad”. Just don’t dwell there. You’ll soon discover you’re still a student because education has not ended; it has just begun.

And what if your irresponsible parents “stole” the exam for you? Well, that’s another con. The A (or degree) was theirs—not yours. If it was yours it would be a blessing and not the curse it becomes.

Prof Magoha, explains: “We admit over 500 students into the School of Medicine and half of them drop out because they are fake. ” Besides, you will always have a chip on your shoulder.

As Education secretary Fred Matiang’i observed, “Why must anyone go to court to prove they have a degree?” You may cheat the examiner, but you won’t cheat life; unless of course, when you grow up you want to be a conman.

You see, education is for life, not examinations. And life is in your face like Wi-Fi. You “lived” in school for 12 years but you will dwell in life for 70— borrowing from the world’s oldest student. The late Kimani Maruge went to Class One at 84 and achieved more in five years thereafter than most adults do in 50! I once read that, “Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realising that everyone has a different question paper.”

When we embrace education for examinations and not empowerment, the resulting rot carries itself through life. Empowerment means that you are sufficiently literate to sit your own exam of life. And trust me! Only you can sit it. An education for examination, limits even adults to doing another’s question paper by struggling to keep up with the Joneses.

“You don’t need an A to get on with your life. Once you get over 50 per cent, you can do anything including Medicine,” said Prof Magoha. And he’s right. Even if you got less than 50 per cent, you can still be a super salesman, successful businessman, world-class chef, renowned cloud services specialist, iconic footballer, accomplished digital marketer, famous blogger, millionaire marathoner, prominent app developer, celebrated journalist, innovative interior designer, notable news anchor and a myriad other careers because you are empowered.

Technical institutes, colleges and polytechnics (on and off line) abound to empower you.

Actress Lupita Nyong’o was right when she said: “Your dreams are (still) valid.” Plus, university can still happen later in life as the late Prof Ali Mazrui, former Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology chancellorwho didn’t make the cut-off grade to university, demonstrated. Incidentally, simply because you got an A does not mean you must do Medicine either. Or, that life won’t “happen” to you—it will; the A won’t work if you don’t. Hopefully, the ongoing education sector reforms will correct the misleading institutionalised definition of success through academic parameters.

Until then, take heed: Unlike schooling, life is not a straight line—it’s a convoluted trajectory. Only the empowered thrive. Passing or failing an exam is an event, not the journey, and certainly not the destination.

Mr Kageche is facilitator, coach and educator, Lend Me Your Ears: