There is an assumed path which Nigerians must follow to achieve their life goals-one must attend Primary school, then Secondary School and finally move on to University or any other higher institution. Education, we’ve been told, holds the keys to success. Of course, there have been lessons learned along the way which go beyond studying and writing exams.
Primary school was a breeze for me; I did well with very little effort. In Primary 6, I was short-listed along with another girl for the position of Head Girl. The Headmistress at the time however said that I wasn’t suited for the position, so I should be the Assistant Head Girl instead. She helpfully explained to me that I seemed like someone who ‘pretended’ a lot. I had no idea what she was talking about, but I assumed she meant that I was too quiet. Still, it was my first lesson in learning that good grades weren’t a guarantee that you would get to the top. I was made the Assistant Head Girl. Luckily, I left for secondary school after one term in Primary 6, so I didn’t have to figure out what the Headmistress meant by ‘pretending’.
I learned valuable lessons in secondary school as well. Boarding house in Nigeria turned me into a kind of secret agent. I lost the set of keys to my suitcase but somehow managed never to get robbed, because I didn’t announce to everyone that my keys were missing-for about three years. I learned about friendships, and that some people will choose to dislike you just because you exist, and you just have to accept it as a fact of life (this knowledge also comes in handy at the workplace!). I learned how to manage resources like water and provisions, and did more ironing than I had ever done in my life at that time.
I was an average student, not because I wasn’t intelligent, but because I was not confident enough in my abilities. I did well enough in subjects that were interesting to me (English, Government, Christian Religious Studies, and for some reason, Biology) and struggled with others which I found tedious (Mathematics) and downright baffling (Economics-zero elasticity of something or the other). Teachers tended to favour and give more attention to outstanding students, the rest of us were ignored or branded as ‘difficult’ and left to muddle through in our own way. At this stage, I learned about favourtism and got the understanding that success wasn’t only about being book-smart; knowing the right people was important as well.
When it was time to write the WAEC exams, I already knew what my result would look like: lop-sided, like it was a combination of two different students’ results.