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MID NINETIES LESSONS

About 20 years back (Grade 4, in 1995), I am reminded of my primary school days as a little boy at Manjolo Primary School (Binga). There are many lessons which I drew ranging from motivation; working together as a community; determination to achieve objectives and the priceless contribution made by others into our lives.

It is funny to recall how i began the long journey. My mum tricked me by indicating that i will be registered for Grade 1 if i take a bath (it was in Jan 1992) [Expectancy Theory applied in action]. I willingly took a bath and quickly went to bed; woke up early in the morning only to be told i was under age. I took that as a joke as i had to trick her back by crying non-stop till i get registered. The strategy helped me as it saved me – the registrar couldn’t help out as i even failed their entry test (raising one’s hand over the head, touching the shoulder). I was motivated to go to school as it was like that’s where all the other kids are at – nothing like pre-school was there in my village.

I never knew that going to school comes with a price of being early and life long learning starting with vowels; alphabetic letters; and own name. I was not shy to cry all the way to school every morning. Well, my sisters took turns daily, slowly running to school. Late or early, it didn’t make any difference. When left to walk on my own to school, i would clock even at 10am in class.

We used to go to school with plates in plastic bags and come lunch, we knew that our lunch will be freely provided (pap and beans, sometimes nutritious porridge or mahewu). As young kids, we were not shy to carry our plates around and pushing each other in the queue even making a second round. Villagers voluntarily took turns to cook at the school (Singwemu; Sikalenge; Damba; Chibondo; Manjolo; Keelameenda etc). Well, the efforts of our parents were sacrificial though we seemed to take it for granted. Honestly, I was motivated going to school every day though the six hours before lunch seemed to be like a full day.

Prize Giving ceremonies and sports competitions were conducted by the school which made no sense to me – they only translated as a day not to go to school. Not only because I never got any prize but because no one pumped sense into my head about them. I preferred to assist with cultivating in the garden or fields than going to watch others. Up to now, I have not been moved by this, I would rather read a short story than watching a movies (I translate it as helping others make money at the expense of my time).

I can say we had free education. Paying fees of Z$0.50 per term – at one time we had a two dollar note with two of my sisters and got back a Z$0.50 change. Books and pens were given freely. I am not sure if some would not call that free education.

I was motivated when my teacher would scribble a “Good” in any of the exercises – I measured success by the frequency of them in any exercise book (Grade 4). My favourite exercise book had been one with most “Good” remark comments. The most hectic thing was writing “Corrections” for any exercise. This meant that whatever you got wrong, have to be perfect this time around. The teacher seemed to be putting special attention when it comes to “Corrections” – we as learners observed that we were expected to master what we got wrong in the first place (not just copying from a colleague without a good understanding).

I have no words to describe our learning style. One day, as I was coming from the rest room, under a tree was a class with a frustrated lady teacher hitting students shouting “WHAT IS A VERB?” – From that moment, I had to master the definition of a verb. I slowed my pace until I heard her saying – “A VERB IS A DOING WORD” . . . . and she gave some examples.

Sometimes, we had afternoon classes till around 3pm. One day, our teacher taught us on how we should be prepared for uncertainty in life (that’s my own conclusion). Our Mathematics topic was “Multiplication” – a learner was expected to recall the multiples of any numbers from 1 to 12 (luckily, our exercise books had those tables at the back). So it went like this: the teacher set a condition that EVERY learner should recall multiples of any number from 1 to 12, however, the teacher randomly picks one. That was a FAIR play but not easy for every learner. Well, I had no strategy for tackling the challenge. I unfortunately had to master everything. When the student gets ready, they raise a hand and then everyone listens to them. It was one of those days when we went home individually (instead of walking as a group) as everyone could n’t wait longer for the stuck colleagues.

After recalling this, I now understand how privileged we were, not necessarily comparing with others. But, above all, we face many challenges which leverage our forward movement though we take them for granted at times. It takes no cost to to appreciate such positive contributions.

I wonder what a current Grade 4 student at the same school would recall in 20 years time (2035). Surely, that would be a different story.

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What an Easter Holiday!!

2013 Easter Holiday, turned to a “marathon-study-recovery-session” by a University Student

Easter holiday is a most common Christian holiday celebrated across the world. According to Wikipedia, it estimates a total of around 2.5 billion of people who celebrated the holiday: [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Christian_denominations_by_number_of_members].

The holiday is aligned with university holidays such as here in South Africa hence the students would be on a mini vacation [10 days Easter inclusive]. Most of the students take it as the time to take a real break on their studies as student life is not the best with some courses. On the other hand some students remain preparing themselves in terms of assignments and further understanding on the material they would have covered. It is rare to note how other students remain cluttered to their books when everyone is taking a break to refresh. Globally, most companies have a break and students have locked their books in their trunks only to wait for the opening of university over the Easter holiday. This is typical to students, however, a historical scientific theorist Douglas McGregor refer to such students falling under the Theory X category. Is n’t it difficult to understand where some students get the zeal to maximise output when almost everyone is relaxed? Or perhaps it can be said that the student would have been playing throughout the term and only . . . .

Anyway, that is my case as I write this article. My first term was characterised by a couple of challenges which drew my attention away from schoolwork. I barely got the motivation to concentrate on my studies and as a result, I only saw the accumulation of chapters which need my precious time. This is one of the moments when I easily related my scenario to another theorist Clayton Alderfer on his ERG Theory of motivation. Just because other needs required immediate attention, my focus easily got distracted from my studies. I later found that my Easter Holiday would be turned into a “Marathon Study Recovery” and it turned to be a reality.

On a Good Friday, I quickly woke up at 3am and managed to draft a 10-day recovery plan. It took me 2 and 1/2 hours to complete a plan which required me to generate 80 hours to complete 30 chapters for my 5 subjects. Surprisingly, refreshment breaks were not included on this plan. To cover up for this, I made a target of creating “12 productive hours” per day which saw me generating between 96 to a maximum of 120 productive hours over my 10-day vacation to cater for some variations due to uncertainties. This translated to about a minimum of 90 minutes of accumulated breaks per day. Now, this seems not to be enough for a 12 hour productive day hence I ensured that I complete some chapters in less that the allocated 2-hour sessions. I made sure that I write down every hour spent and on where it has been spent. The plan seemed to be perfect and I quickly took a 2-hour nap which saw me embarking on my new project at 5:30am. For my Easter days, my plan worked perfectly as I worked in line with my schedule. During the period, I learnt that the most important aspect in life is implementation of plans as that’s where the line between the rich and the poor lies according to my opinion. Unfortunately, I got distracted by some other interesting learning experiences as I ended up taking some “coding” lessons online which completely affected my plan as I remember I once spent a continuous 15 hours in front of my laptop. Therefore, implementation is very important.

My door remained locked mostly throughout the marathon session, with my phone on an “offline-vacation” mode. My friends were not happy about it but I was content with it as I clearly knew what I wanted to achieve. Life without friends is unpleasant but life taught me that I meet friends in various stages of it and have to be careful not to regret due to their influences. With that in mind, I always put my studies first before friends. This is simply that the investment I am making towards my education will help not myself alone but my family too, and even my friends. I always see it as an opportunity cost to spend time meant for studies with friends. This becomes a burning issue when I think of millions of people who never get the chance to achieve basic education not mentioning tertiary level.

In short, while people may be busy relaxing globally, one can get self motivation to work beyond a normal schedule and I admit that it pays in the long run. You are the best person to motivate yourself – by knowing your weaknesses and strength gives room to maximise performance in your strong areas.