Your exam grade does not define you; you do


Your grade is just that-a grade. It’s not an identity. It does not define you. It can, however, refine you

Dear student

It’s not the end of the world that you failed KCPE (Kenya Certificate of Primary Education). Peers, parents, relatives, the media, and society at large won’t let you think otherwise. The recent announcement of Form One admissions has not helped matters. Likely you have already been labelled a failure. So, yes; you have every right to ‘feel bad’. Just know this: it’s something to think about, not dwell upon.  Education was meant for empowerment, never examination. You are literate. You can read, write, add and subtract. You can be taught a new skill, and you can always redo KCPE if you feel you had an off day during the exam. Hundreds of people have made something of themselves despite failing KCPE. They did something about it. What will you do about it?

You see, you are not just undergoing an academic challenge you are also undergoing a formative one. As a budding teenager you are still yet to understand yourself and are in the process of doing so across your seven teenage years. You are just exiting childhood for crying out loud! In fact, traditionally, this is when you would be undergoing your rites of passage and learning how to be a man or woman. And even that is not a summative event but on-going process. The late Nelson Mandela by his own admission winced in the hands of his circumciser. (You can ‘YouTube’ that) Was he less of a man? Was he a failure? How then are you a failure when you are still at the starting line? Did you fail an exam? Yes. Did you fail in life, absolutely not! You’ve just started that exam. And here’s the good news-your exam grade has zero bearing to your results in life. Your grade is just that-a grade. It’s not an identity. It does not define you.

It can however refine you. It can refine you to do better, to become better; to set an example for others.  The world record for oldest student is held by Kimani Maruge. Yes; a Kenyan who went to class one at, wait for it, 84! That’s about seven times your age. Inspired by him there are on record more than 40 Kenyans, over 30 years old who’ve gone to school for the first time in their lives!

Being called a failure doesn’t make you one. Just as being called rich, doesn’t make you so. The stigma of failure can be overwhelming. So detoxify.  Change your physical and digital environment until the wind blows over. Move to a relative’s house. And because it is painful seeing your peers ‘Instagramming’ about which school they’ve been admitted to, take a break from social media.  Reframe your thinking.  From ‘I’m a failure’ to ‘I only failed an exam’. If you choose to repeat, it is OK. Trust me. Your peers are not ‘leaving’ you. In life that year difference won’t mater. Ask any adult you admire.

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