Scholarly Rebellion (Day 5)

By on August 15, 2016

It is not very African to ask questions. In fact, stories are told of children who asked their parents questions and lost entire limbs in the ensuing beat down. Generally the moment you leave your mother’s womb there is a general understanding that you have left your ability to question anyone older than you.

When I went to school, it seemed almost natural that I would accept everything the teacher taught me without questioning. And that appeared to be the procedure until sometime around Primary 3 or 4 where at the end of a lesson a teacher strangely told us to ask questions.

At first I thought it was a trap of sorts. Ask a question and get your name added to the list of slow-to-understand pupils or worse, the list of pupils-who-did-not-understand-a-thing. That was not a risk I was willing to take.

And therefore when my bench-mate Mariam asked a question at the end of a Science lesson sometime in Primary Three, I swore to find out from her what sort of leaves she was smoking. Pupils were not supposed to ask questions. At least that is what we all knew.

Along the way, more and more teachers encouraged us to ask questions and more and more pupils gained confidence to begin questioning things here and there. One of my friends Kiwa took it a step too far and questioned our class teacher’s dress code. He even questioned the headmaster’s inability to hold down one wife.

We never heard from Kiwa the week after that.

Word got around that Kiwa was indeed expelled from the school – that was the first time I ever heard the word expulsion; a word I would later become more acquainted with as more and more of my friends fell under its curse.

At the back of my mind I knew that questioning the status quo was not necessarily the worst idea. After all, there is no sense in replying ‘YES’ in chorus when the teacher asks ‘Have you all understood?’ knowing full well that I had not understood.

Somehow, my parents realized that there was a sense of rebellion and mischief inside of me so they permitted me to ask questions mostly because they did not want to risk me becoming a run-away child owing to unasked / unanswered questions. And so the questioning phase of my life began.

I questioned almost everything my teachers taught. I questioned their spellings, questioned some of their accents, and occasionally questioned a few of their credentials. When I left the education system, I had so many questions I was wondering whether the system had given me more questions than answers. Throughout the three years I was at the University, I occasionally clashed with my lecturers because my level of questioning was becoming a little too overbearing.

I recall once when I read up on a topic unaware that it was what the lecturer was planning to teach that morning. And so when the don stood in-front of us and introduced the topic, I was excited. Thirty minutes into the lecture I noticed a number of gaping holes in the Don’s lecture. I attempted to question one or two things and by the time the lecture ended, it was clear I was going to fail that course unit because while the lecturer was teaching something, I knew something entirely different. I had read a little too much for my good – according to the Don.

You know after spending countless hours reading up on something that you are passionate about and then a lecturer begins to tell you his skewed version of the story, you cannot just sit back and let things slide.

Now that I am out of the system, it seems the education system in Uganda is not necessarily designed for rebels like myself. It is not designed for big headed and nosy folks who want to question everything because you end up slowing the progress of everyone else. Also, when you question things, you end up making the teacher / lecturer seem insufficient, which should be far from your plan especially since her or she can orchestrate your failing of their class.

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learnt from school was that no lesson you learn in school should not be questioned. Everything should and must be questioned – even if the system makes you appear like an overbearing and nagging little student with a shortage of parental love.

This is the fifth of seven blog posts under the theme ‘Schools Made Me No Better’ as part of the #UGBlogWeek Challenge – a brain child of the Uganda Blogging Community. Feel free to drop a comment, take part in the challenge or share your opinion(s) on the blog or anything you feel like.

“Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” ― Margaret Mead

a.k.a Beewol
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