What does an exam grade say about your destiny? Absolutely Nothing!

Dear Student,

You’ve been sold a bill of goods. You’ve been deceived. Your grade does not define you.

Yes, I know, your teachers, parents, relatives and all those grown-ups you look up to may have told you otherwise, and I understand why you believe them. They are your support structure. Surely, they know better. In many other aspects they may, but in this one they are wrong. I repeat: your grade does not define you!

Today’s post spares a thought for the student who’s receiving his KCSE results today. Share it with any you know.

Many parents define a school from its performance in KCPE or KCSE (respectively, national, high school and university, entry level exams in Kenya). Yet, this is as misleading a yardstick to the purpose of education as is student position in class. Position 1 in one school could be last in another school! What is the meaning of position 1 if the student still struggles to read or write? Equally, the worst performing school most probably has a student who will make it to university while the best performing has others that will not. Stakeholders  in the education system ((your support structure)are still struggling to wean themselves out of education being for examination and employment to embracing education for empowerment and life.

As they do so, know this, your A in school does not stand for Amazing in life, nor does the F mean Failure in life either! The grade does not define you.

It is difficult to see beyond a year when you are barely 20. Yet, in the same way that you are much more factually knowledgeable now than your support structure was at your age, you must open your eyes wider and look around you at examples you admire (and don’t) and engage them. Chances are that those you admire weren’t necessarily A students just as those you don’t, F. You may even be shocked to find it’s the opposite!

Don’t believe the hype! You are not a failure in life simply because of an event. You simply failed an exam-it is not oxygen that you failed to breath and therefore will die. It is merely level one in the computer game of life that trumped you; so you try again and again until you go past level 2 to the ultimate win. That zeal, zest and zap that gets you through a game is also what will get you through the computer game of life, and is what should define you. Not the grade. Even if you have an A!

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Kimani Maruge went to Class One at 84 and achieved more in 5 years before his death than many of us will in 50 years. Last year NTV featured the story of the “Oldest Mono”; the 54 year old lady from Pokot who had sat (and passed) her Class 8 (KCPE) exam. Many examples abound that prove one thing-education is for empowerment and infinite; embracing it for examination and finite places undue pressure on yourself. You can pursue higher and tertiary education at your behest when you are in your 20’s, 30’s even 80’s! You are not a tree. You are not stuck with who you are simply because of a grade.

It does not sound cool to be going to school in your 30’s and 50’s. Yet, look at the glowing Facebook comments passed by your very support structure on those who have done so. The comments are inspired by the knowledge that despite the obsession with grades, parents still know better. Coolness in life is about excelling, reaching out, succeeding; it’s about thriving, not just surviving. And to be cool in life means empowering yourself over and over again. There are those who voluntarily repeat a class because they believe they can perform better; others, who do bridging courses towards a degree; others still, like MacDonald Mariga (and Cristiano Ronaldo) refused the D grade definition and pursued their talent, and others, like the lady from Pokot, defining themselves as a leader, are going to high school at 54. Meantime what are you doing? Grumping over the grade you got!

This post is inspired by a 21 year old girl I interacted with and who did her KCSE in 2014. She knows firsthand what sleeping hungry and depending on well wishers in an ocean of ill-wishers is; she missed school intermittently, twice for a full year, and all for lack of school fees, despite excelling in her KCPE. Free Primary Education was Godsend; at least then, all her mum had to do was strive to raise the 5,000shs ($50) annually for fees. Today, she does odd-jobs to raise funds for her education. Yet, in spite of this, she is determined to get a tertiary education and make something out of her life. In her words, “I have seen the worst; it can only get better.” She may not know it yet, but all these experiences (and not her grade) are defining her resilience in life.

Grades don’t define you. You do. How are you defining you?

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