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Opinions of Friday, 24 November 2017

Columnist: Simon Aikins

Real issues of secondary school education

Most prospective secondary school students are gripped with fear when BECE results are released. Even the most intelligent ones whose confidence levels are akin to Chairman Rawlings' confidence he exudes when delivering a speech, also experience some level of fear. This is because your dream of becoming a lawyer, doctor, nurse, teacher etc will come to fruition depending on the outcome of the results.

The facial expression of your Headmaster/Headmistress sometimes tells you whether you did justice to the papers or otherwise. The worst scenario is when you are handed your results and it dawns on you that, even the public toilet attendant in your area would not serve his/her customers with your results slip to do justice with it because it is a weapon of mass destruction. This is the time, your juniors want to know grade. Depending on the life you lived in school before you exited, you either leave the school using the main gate or the rear gate just to avoid curious juniors who want to feast their eyes on your "chemical weapon".

Those who didn't do well then begin to reminisce advice or threats by their guardians even before they stepped foot into the examination hall. There is a playback of what was told them in their minds. It is either good results or to be sentenced to three years in hard labour at the available mechanic, carpentry shop or hairdressing salon. That is when you begin to sweat like a pregnant fish.

Admission into secondary school used to be fairly competitive in the past. You could make aggregate six and still not be admitted by your preferred school because you didn't make the required ones. Again, many schools did not have time for students with bad grades except those bad nuts of Headmasters/Headmistresses who allegedly took brown envelopes and admitted the not so good. Today, students are attending certain prestigious schools they never dreamt of. This is as a result of computer placement. Though I disagree a bit with this system, I think it is a good policy because it will provide a level playing field for all and sundry, i.e. the poor dog chain seller's ward can also attend the so called prestigious school.

The real problems rear their ugly heads when you start school. Most of us chose certain schools because of one reason or the other. It is either the whole family attended the said school, an influential person in the community is a product of the school or we chose it due to its proximity. These people tell us fairy tales about their alma mata. We become so happy that we begin to have sleepless nights like a boy whose love proposal has been accepted by his dream girl. Reality dawns on us when we step into our pet schools only to realize that, secondary school education is not a bed of roses.

Seniors will always make their presence felt. The mere sight of certain seniors and their nicknames sent shivers down your spine. They will bully you from dawn to dusk. If you are lucky to be in the good books of seniors, you escaped punishment. Some seniors made it a habit to be a thorn in your flesh even when you stayed clear off their path.

During JSS days, you are advised by teachers, friends and parents to read certain courses in secondary school just because you could do some maths, write some few good essays or draw. You realise you are not meant for the course you chose when you enter secondary school. After two chemistry classes at St. Thomas Aquinas Secondary School, I got to know Science was not my calling. Some of my friends who were reading other courses were in the same dilemma. I hated the course with passion. My seat was always empty during chemistry lessons. I wasn't surprised I didn't do well in the final examination.

Attending a boys school can sometimes be heart wrenching. This because, it is very difficult to contribute effectively during discussions with friends from mixed schools during vacation when the discussion is about girls. Entertainment hours in boys school are sometimes boring. There are no girls to smooch or to shake what their mothers gave them. We become over excited like travellers who have seen water in the dessert when girls schools or mixed schools visit our schools.

Inter colleges competitions (INTERCO) is one event students would not miss for anything. This offers opportunities to single sex schools to try their luck, especially the boys if they could land any daughter of Eve. Students make sure they look their best to outwit their potential competitors in the race for the most beautiful girl. This they do by buying the latest snickers, and wearing a new uniform. Students who do not have problems with their eyes even put on spectacles because it is believed they are intelligent and this attracts girls. I always didn't like my sports guys. This is because they had all the girls. Their modus operandi was to give their sports jackets to the girls. This act endeared them to the girls.

Your popularity soared in school if you were able to receive more letters from girls. Boys who couldn't stand the humiliation for not receiving letters from loved ones,wrote and posted letters to themselves.

The school experiences a deafening silence when examination is in progress. This is when notes, calculators and other learning materials find their way into unscrupulous hands. You also see all the ghost students in school. The lost items resurfaced after examination.

The only moment most students regret entering secondary school is when you have to depart the school after your final exams. There are friends you won't see again, missing crazy teachers who made the school tick. Some students even shed tears.

If you didn't enjoy your secondary school days, I must say, you have missed an integral part of your life.