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Part 1: Why I Am Glad I Disobeyed My School Teachers

My former secondary school was once ranked among the best in terms of academic results.  Then, the school produced some of the most intellig...

My former secondary school was once ranked among the best in terms of academic results. 

Then, the school produced some of the most intelligent students who were accepted at the best colleges. 

Yearly, students from the school enrolled at respected local and international universities, to study as doctors, lawyers, and engineers. 


By @Comic24Derick

Our school's academic excellence record was not a coincidence. Our school motto said: hard work yields good results. The motto encouraged students to study hard. Our success was, however, mainly confined to academic excellence.  


From the first year, we became part of the system that molded and churned students with high grades.

Again, in sports, we fared well against other agile, athletic competitors from other gifted schools. On the field, we were average performers because our school invested more to attain a higher pass rate.  


Saved by the bell


Our daily schedule started at 6 am, with a plate of watery porridge for breakfast. The allocation was barely adequate to feed a toddler. 

The meals served in the H-shaped dining hall, it seems were designed to make us survive, only – but could not satisfy our hungry stomachs.  


After the early meal, we cleaned our dormitories together with the ablution blocks. After the detested tasks, we went for classes. From 7 am sharp, our lessons commenced. 


Altogether, I did 8 subjects, divided into 40 minutes per session, with intervals for break and lunchtime, in that order.   

My Former School Was Known For Its Academic Excellence  

 On other days, our timetable overlapped until 2 pm. Mathematics and English were taught daily. This setup benefited some, but from the onset, I struggled with mathematics. 

For me, it was like I was studying hieroglyphics. Or Greek.    


Even though I studied hard, memorized, or crammed, I always recorded poor grades in all science subjects. Whether it was indices, Pythagoras theorem, or quadratic equations, you name it, I was hopeless.  


Despite these apparent setbacks, the school motto urged me on. All in all, I spent four hours a week in the math class, plus an extra hour doing my daily assignments. 

Or studying the subject to improve my grades. Sadly, I never got any better even after investing extra hours. 


On the other hand, I loved English. I was not a master of the language, but each time I grabbed a novel, I read it until it was finished. 

This has been my pastime since my primary school days, which was cultivated by my father who bought me books.   


With a novel in front of me, I was at ease. The adventure of being buried in the imaginative world, transported into the make-belief world by creative words made me bluff, always. 


In secondary school, I was glad to rediscover my passion for English in time to love school once again. My late friend, Emerson alias Dostoevsky fueled my love for the queen’s language, availing novels for me to read. 

During my first two years, I was hooked on literature. Slowly, I was discovering myself, whether it was African or classic literature. 


During my reading sessions, I found comfort in Charles Dickens’ writing. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn or The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, both texts by Mark Twain made me feel at home. 


Sciences versus humanities 


Before we proceeded to Form 3, students went through a prerequisite screening process to determine which class one was placed into. 


The placement was determined by the Form 2 midterm examination results. For the examinations, I had performed relatively well compared to the previous terms. 


When the results came, I was convinced I would be placed in a respectable class that suited my abilities. 

Though I yearned to be in a better class, I was not sure why I wanted to be there. 


Further, I was yet to decide which profession I wanted to pursue after school. All the same, I wanted to be placed in a respectable class, alongside other brainy pupils in the school.  


On our first day as Form 3’s, we were summoned to the school’s multipurpose hall. Inside the hall, the stout senior teacher called out names from a long scroll of paper in alphabetical order, starting with the girls. 


The class placements had no sequence though, it was random. From Form 3B, he moved to 3D, back and forth, in that haphazard fashion. 

As the list unfolded, most of my friends were placed into Form 3C, widely considered as a class for the least performing students.  


I waited patiently for my name. Towards the end, it was announced. I was in Form 3D, one of the two science classes. This was a dream come true. I had attained my dream to learn together with the best minds in the school. 


Suddenly, I imagined myself as a medical doctor or even a researcher. Maybe, I could fill the quota of students destined for top universities. Just maybe.  


I wanted to serve my country as a doctor, with the number of healthcare officials always dwindling in the country, and many more relocating to foreign countries in search of better jobs.  


More professionals were departing in their thousands destined for the UK, South Africa, and other nations to seek better remuneration and improved lifestyles. 


But I was convinced that my country needed me more. Yes, I convinced myself I would study hard and become one of the loyal professionals. 


Also, I sought to prove that everything was possible. I had to slay the education goliath that was in front of me. With that in mind, I was dispatched into my new class wearing a wide smile. 


Meanwhile, my unfortunate friends were frustrated. Some even avoided the class altogether. Edward, for example, was devastated. He could not imagine himself in that class. 


I cannot recall the exact conversation we had back then, but he was considering transferring to another school. 


This, Edward thought could elevate his chances of pursuing science subjects which could enhance his chances to become an architect. Or something closer to science subjects. 


At that moment, he was convinced his future was ruined. The subjects he was forced to study were irrelevant to his dream of becoming an architect. 


When life gives you lemons…


Now if you thought Edward was bluffing, you need to understand how other frustrated students convinced their parents to relocate them. That way, they were convinced they could enhance their future professions.  


When some of the disgruntled students left, newcomers came. The replacements fitted well, some were saddened by the subjects they were allocated, dejectedly, it was too late to turn back.


Gladly, for me, Edwin grudgingly remained, thanks to his parents who resisted his transfer request. 


“Your teachers know what is best for you,” both his parents reasoned. 


“I will prove that they were wrong in giving me these arts subjects,” Edward swore to me after he received a letter from his parents denying his transfer demand.


From that episode onwards, I trusted my teachers to guide me towards a prosperous future. After all, they had groomed other students to succeed in life, too. 


For once, Edward rebelled against his parents’ desires, defying their guidance. He decided to study science subjects independently. 

More students, who felt betrayed by the system joined him. Together, they became the school renegades. 


On the first day, teachers came to our class to introduce their respective subjects. The biology teachers’ pitch impressed most pupils. 


He was an imposing man, who was educated in Havana, Cuba – and eloquent in Spanish, too. To add an appeal to his pitch, he wrote the date in Spanish, too. 


“Impressive,” we all gushed. 


“There is no limit to education,” he educated us. We all believed him. We had few options to doubt his intentions. We all nodded childishly. 


Next, was the core science teacher, a man who warned us not to follow the crowd and study what we were capable of.  


My juvenile mind, however, contradicted his. 


The English literature teacher walked in. And when he spoke, he was appealing, proving why he was one of the best teachers in the school. 


Before the first term was concluded, the literature teacher who had introduced The Merchant of Venice to the class. 

Soon after, he resigned to pursue other interests. Without him, the study of William Shakespeare became meaningless.  


When he left, the whole class missed him dearly because of the first impression he had transplanted in us. His replacement was a true Shakespeare tragedy. The majority of the boys in my class to drop the subject. 

By now, fortunately, my love of the English language had been activated. But still, it was too early to know what I wanted to study after school. Like the rest of the students, I relied on the teachers for advice.  


I remember one student who carried his physics, chemistry, and biology textbooks on his head because they could not fit in his satchel. Oher non-science students marveled at his extreme showboating.  


The struggle continues 


My struggle was not limited to carrying the books, it overlapped in failing to understand the science subjects. In the second term, the formulas tormented me. Now, I wondered why I had accepted the subjects in the first place. 


Gladly, I was not alone in this predicament. A sizeable number in my class were also struggling. Together, we became the lowest performers in the science classes. For me, especially, it was too late to withdraw from the science class.


I had to push more, though I knew I had reached my limit. For the midterm exams, as I anticipated, I failed, again. My art subjects’ grades were quite impressive. There was some relief. I knew where my strength was, but the sciences were still part of me. 


If I had dropped them, I would have been the laughing stock. A song could have been composed in my name. forgive my naivety, but my soul was too fragile for torment by my fellow students, so I soldiered on.  


In the English language class, though, I felt contented. I at least rekindled the hope that had been lost inside the science lessons, mainly physics and chemistry. 

From my desk, situated at the back, I could sense pockets of regret from some of my counterparts. They, like myself however continued to struggle in a bid to fit in. 


My friends who were independently studying science subjects were performing much better than me. After a prolonged negotiation, Edward’s plea to sit for the examination was finally granted. 


To prove his ability, he attained a better grade than mine in his midterm exam assessments. 


On my part, my science subject marks were below the 50 percent mark, even though I had put 100 percent in studying. In my humanity subjects, including English, I attained respectable marks, with less effort. 


My poor streak continued into the fourth form. To me, there was no hope. But for my integrity, I promised myself to do better the next school term.  

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