In celebration of Children’s day in Nigeria, I’m sharing a story from my childhood. I hope that both parents and adults who are students can learn from it.
I was born in Makurdi, Benue state. The school my parents enrolled me in had a playgroup (which we now call crèche), Kinder 1-3 and Primary 1-6. Each season had three terms. During the first term of my Kinder 3, my dad, sisters and I travelled to Germany to join my mum who had earlier gone there for her post doctorate degree. The educational system there is quite different from the Nigerian educational system. A child has to be up to a certain age before he/she can be admitted into Grade school (what we call Primary school in Nigeria).
I was enrolled in a kindergarten based on my age. The official language in Germany is German and that’s the language that was used to teach in schools. There were few people who could speak English and fortunately for me, one of my teachers in kindergarten could speak English. But generally, we had to learn how to communicate in German.
My family and I returned to Nigeria a few years after and my parents decided to enrol us in the same school we had been before we travelled abroad. We had to write entrance exams to be re-admitted into the school. By this time, it was third term and I was to enter primary one. Unfortunately, I didn’t pass the entrance exams because I wasn’t fluent in English and could barely read sentences that I was expected to know at my age and class. Since I didn’t pass the entrance exams into primary one, I was admitted into Kinder 3 (that is a class below the class I was originally meant to be in). My mates became a class ahead of me while I had a new set of classmates. Let’s just say I had to repeat Kinder 3.
My English and reading skills was so bad such that when I was asked what they call a man who controls traffic, I said water man instead of traffic warden. That’s how bad my English was. My parents employed a private home tutor for me. I hated attending the home lessons. I remember that one day, my parents were not at home when my lesson teacher came and my sisters and I refused to answer when she kept knocking as we wanted her to think no one was home. But she heard our voices and that was what gave us away.
I passed my terminal exams in Kinder 3 and was promoted to Primary one. In primary one, I began to excel in my academics, coming out top in my class. Two years after we had returned to Nigeria, my sisters and I moved to Uyo to join my dad who had earlier relocated from Makurdi. My elder sister who had completed her primary school in Makurdi was enrolled in a secondary school in Uyo.
My dad enrolled me and my younger sister in a primary school in Uyo but we soon found out that they had a different system from that of our former school in Markurdi. I was to enter Primary 3 and was admitted into Grade 3 (because we thought Primary 3 was the same as Grade 3), but later realized that I was given Primary 4 textbooks meaning that I was in Grade 3 but learning things meant for Grade 4. That’s how unintentionally both my younger sister and I skipped a class.
Fortunately, skipping a class didn’t affect my academic performance. When I was in Grade 4, due to my outstanding academic performance, the my primary school gave me the privilege to write entrance exams with Grade 5 which was the final class in the school. So from Grade 4, I wrote my First School Leaving Certificate, other entrance exams and got admission into secondary school.
From primary one (in Makurdi) till I graduated from secondary school (in Uyo), I always had an outstanding academic result, most times being the best in my class. 15 years after I repeated a class, I obtained a B.Sc in Economics.
From my experience, here are the lessons I will like to share with you:
- We all have different intellectual capacities. It is important for parents and teachers to know each child’s intellectual capacity so as to guide and help them accordingly.
2. There’s no harm in a child repeating a class if he/she isn’t performing excellently. The most important thing is that the child gets the required knowledge.
There’s nothing wrong in repeating a class or moving at a slower pace than your peers. However, this is not an excuse to be lazy.
3. Some children may have a high intellectual capacity but due to external factors perform poorly. For example; sexual abuse, child abuse, conflicts in the home, moving from one state/country to another, change of school, skipping classes, financial crisis of the parents, etc. can negatively affect a child’s academic performance.
4. Some parents feel that their children will be more intelligent if they start school early. Some make their children skip classes unnecessarily probably because they want their children to graduate early.
There’s no need to rush a child’s learning process. A child starting school early does not automatically make that child intelligent and skipping classes can negatively affect a child’s academic performance.
We all have different intellectual capacities. A 4-year old maybe more intelligent than a 6-year old. While some 5 year olds can read, some are still learning to pronounce 2-lettered words. Don’t compare your child to other children who may be learning faster or in a higher class at a young age. Study your child to know how to offer support.
5. The year you get admission or graduate from school is not really important. What matters is that you acquire the required knowledge needed for your success in your career. If you are still trying to get admission into the university, I encourage you to keep trying, keep studying and working hard. Stop comparing yourself to your mates that are ahead of you in class. If need be, enrol for tutorials or extra lessons. Reading on your own may not be helpful. You may need extra help.
6. Don’t feel bad if you have to enrol for tutorials or extra lessons to excel academically. Some people read on their own and excel; others need extra help to excel. Identify which category you fall into and if you fall into the category that needs extra help, be bold enough to ask for it.
7. Don’t compare yourself to anyone. If you read that someone got admission into the university at age 14 and you are above 20 but still trying to get admission, be inspired by the story but don’t compare yourself. Run your own race of life.
8. You can still become successful even after repeating a class.
9. Don’t write off yourself if you are performing poorly academically. You can still rise up and shine. You can become successful.
10. Don’t write off or look down on anyone who is not performing excellently academically. This life is like a ladder. Those at the bottom can climb to the top and those at the top can fall to the bottom.
11. Finally, it doesn’t matter at what age you got admission or graduated from school. What matters is that you obtained the required knowledge and are able to apply it to achieve success in life.