Day Three of the #UgBlogWeek is here and we continue write under the theme: School made me no better.

I remember the first time I ever got caned for poor performance. Or should I say for not hitting the pass Mark. It was the most awful thing I ever experienced. It was humiliating and debasing. hellishly painful too.

There was a tree in the school compound shaped like a giant Y. We called it the Jacaranda. In order for punishment to be efficiently executed, the offender would be shoved through the giant branches, with the strongest boys holding their hands on the other side to ensure they were still as the kiboko was administered.

With the average number of canes being five, even for the serial offenders, overzealous teachers often got lost in it. I once watched a classmate receive 32 canes in one go. Because he had a few pages missing in his book.

That is something I didn’t care to experience. Right in that moment, I vowed never to be caned again. I would do anything and everything possible to never have to scream like he did. To cry for help that never came, despite the magnitudes of people that surrounded him.

I made sure to miss no classes, to have neat and organised books. I resisted the urge to speak vernacular, Or offend any authority figures in any way. I diligently did my homework and coerced my parents into paying for coaching in math, to completely eliminate the possibility.

My plan worked quite nicely Until Mr. Sadat, the best math teacher I had ever known introduced the excellence policy.

He succeded in teaching me the concepts of elevation and HCF, that I’d failed to grasp. He was a gifted teacher. As a result, our maths scores shot up. But this wasnt enough. Better wasnt good enough. He divided the class into two groups. The best performers, and the struggling pupils. He considered the latter a lost cause and focussed on his A students. In his excellence policy, If you could score 78%, only laziness kept you from 100%.

We got caned for scoring less than 100%. But never for scoring below 60%. I had never desired failure more in my life!

I had known fear of failure. I didn’t think there’d be a day I would have to fear excellence.

We set to singing notes, reciting formulae and cramming tenses. Failure was an abomination.

Thankfully, primary school came to an end and so did the reign of terror that was Mr. Sadat.  We moved on to secondary school with a promise of freedom from kiboko and cramming to pass papers. Alas! My literature teacher once told me she’d wanted the essay to look exaclty like she’d written hers in the notes when I asked about what I could do differently for a better mark.

I can safely attribute my PLE certificate to cramming, reciting and singing contents of MK textbooks. And where I couldn’t cram, or forgot a letter in the song, some of my failure.

I guess the canes were motivation, spare the rod and spoil the child yeah?

What did we learn though? Where failing exams, tests and quizzes guaranteed punishment, we learnt not to fail.  We learnt to pass exams so we did not fail, and get punnished. Where we got stuck, we cheated while hoping we didn’t get caught, so we didn’t fail. We learnt to go to bed late and wake freakishly early so we could read, And not fail.

We learnt not to ask questions in class, because it only evidenced our lack of concentration. And if we got lucky at the end of the day, we did not fail.

No thanks to school for the fear of failure. In this contemporary society where failure is proof of trial, where mistakes are an opportuinty to get better and learn something new, where every set back is a stepping stone towards success, fear can only serve to stall and paralyze our ambition.

No thanks to Mr. Sadat for making his star pupils feel anything but pride for their excellence.

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