Passing Or Failing An Exam Is An Event, Not The Destination In Life

“Whoever glorifies A’s is a devil that needs to be dealt with. You don’t need an A to get on with your life. Once you get over 50 per cent, you can do anything including medicine…”

Dear Student,

You’ve been sold a bill of goods. You’ve been lied to that the A in school stands for Amazing in Life and the F, Failure. And yet, “We should not worry about the A’s craze — it’s a big industry. Whoever glorifies A’s is a devil that needs to be dealt with. Exam is only worth five per cent of learning —the child needs to be all-round. There are lawyers who cannot speak English or argue…”

Take heed. These words are not empty talk from just another ‘analog’ mzee who’s not ‘with it’. They are from a surgeon, immediate past Vice-Chancellor of University of Nairobi and current Chairman of Kenya National Examination Council, Prof. George Magoha.  He’s seen both worlds-academia and industry. And he’s right; and your parents and every responsible adult you interact with knows this. So if you did not get an A, or B or the grade you wanted, it’s ok to ‘feel bad’. Just don’t dwell there. You’ll soon discover you’re still a student because education hasn’t ended; it has just begun.

And what if your irresponsible parents ‘stole’ the exam for you? Well, that’s another con. The A  (or ‘degree’) was theirs-not yours. If it was yours it would be a blessing and not the curse it becomes.  Magoha,  explains, “We admit over 500 students into the school of medicine and half of them drop out because they are fake. This nonsense has to stop.” Besides, you will always have a chip on your shoulder. As Education Secretary Matiang’i observed, “Why must anyone got to court to prove they have a degree?” You may cheat the examiner but you won’t cheat life- unless of course, when you grow up you want to be a conman.


You see, education is for life, not examination. And life is in your face like Wi-Fi. You ‘lived’ in school for twelve years but you will dwell in life for seventy- borrowing from the world’s oldest student. The late Kimani Maruge went to Class One at 84 and achieved more in five years thereafter than most adults do in fifty! And, I once read that, “Life is the most difficult exam. Many people fail because they try to copy others, not realizing that everyone has a different question paper.” When we embrace education for examination and not empowerment, the resulting rot carries itself through life. Empowerment means that you are sufficiently literate to sit your own exam of life. And trust me! Only you can sit it. An education for examination, limits even adults to doing another’s question paper by struggling to keep up with the Joneses.

“You don’t need an A to get on with your life. Once you get over 50 per cent, you can do anything including medicine,” says Magoha. And he’s right. Even if you got less than 50%, you can still be a super salesman, successful businessman, world-class chef, renowned cloud services specialist, iconic footballer, accomplished digital marketer, famous blogger, millionaire marathoner, prominent app developer, celebrated journalist, innovative interior designer, notable news anchor and a myriad other careers because you are empowered. Technical institutes, colleges and polytechnics (on-, and off line) abound to empower you. Lupita Nyong’o was right: “You’re dreams are (still) valid.” Plus, university can still happen later in life as the late Professor Ali Mazrui, former Chancellor JKUAT who didn’t make the cut-off grade to University, demonstrated. Incidentally, simply because you got an A does not mean you must do medicine either. Or, that life won’t ‘happen’ to you-it will; the A won’t work if you don’t.  Hopefully, the on-going education sector reforms will correct the misleading institutionalised definition of success through academic parameters. Until then, take heed: Unlike schooling, life is not a straight line-it’s a convoluted trajectory. Only the empowered thrive. Passing or failing an exam is an event, not the journey, and certainly not the destination.

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