Short & Sweet


I’m going to keep it short and sweet.

You know like that jam by Sauti Sol? The one that features that chic whose dancing makes you get an adrenaline rush so that you want to enroll for dancing lessons only for your insanity to wear off when you remember that you have two extreme left feet? Yeah, that’s the one. I am going to keep it short because, well, I think sometimes short is better. Also because I just feel like being brief and I am allowed to feel a certain typa way whenever I can. So please let me be, sawa? Thanks.

He dragged his feet lazily into my office.

He looked downcast and upset with himself. I could tell from his countenance that he wasn’t feeling very good about himself. I could guess why, but I decided not to guess. I wanted him to talk about it mostly because it helps when one is able to talk about what’s bothering them. So I offered him a seat. He sat, head still bowed as though he was getting ready to lead us in a prayer of sorts.

“Hi! How have you been Pete?” I ask.

“I am okay, I guess.” He said shifting in his seat.

“But you don’t look okay.” I probe.

“Well, maybe I am not. I don’t know.” Pete says.

“We always know. Maybe we don’t know how to say it or we just don’t want to say it but we do know, ” I say to him. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”

“It’s my grade,” He mutters through his breath. “It’s not what I expected. I don’t like it.”

Pete sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) earlier in the year and hoped like everyone else, that he’d post good grades and make it to university. But things didn’t go his way. Things don’t always go our way. Life is riddled with pitfalls that we mostly never anticipate. We don’t always get what we want.

So Pete was disappointed.

He got so disappointed that he didn’t leave the house since he got word of his results. He didn’t find any joy in anything anymore so he just sat in his room pondering over what would have been.

“What grade did you score?” I ask Pete.

Pete slouches, sinking deeper into his seat. He puts his head in his palms and rubs his face almost violently. He’s struggling to say the grade. He doesn’t want to say it even.

“Is it that hard to say Pete?” I ask. “You know, you have to start by accepting whatever it is that you scored. Then maybe we can talk. It’s hard to find a solution when you won’t even mention your grade.”

“I failed!” Pete says. “I literally failed.”

“And who told you that you failed?” I ask. “Go ahead and tell me what grade you scored. Take your time. As much time as you need, I’ll wait.”

Pete finally masters some courage even though he still doesn’t want to tell me what grade it is. He tells me a grade that’s what he should have scored but he scored the grade lower than that. To be fair, the grade isn’t flattering at all.

So I ask him what he wants to do now. Now that he won’t make it to university. Now what? Does he give up? Does he throw in the towel? Now what?

Pete says he doesn’t know and this gets me thinking. I wonder how many dreams are killed and buried at the graveyard that’s the KCSE grading system. How many people brand themselves a failure because they got a lesser grade than they thought they would. How many of them decide that their dreams can’t materialize because of what the system says?

So I tell Pete to forget about his grade for a minute. I ask him to dream. To dream like a person who didn’t need a certificate or paper to become anything. I ask him to go back to being a kid again. I ask him to tell me what he would be if it didn’t depend on his grades.

He thinks intently for a minute. Then for the first time he looks up, his eyes lit up like an ignited flame.

He says, “I’d be a fashion designer!”

I laugh! Not sarcastically. I laugh out of amusement.

“What bit of being a fashion designer requires a certificate Pete?” I ask.

Pete ponders about it for a while, struggles to find an answer before realizing that there isn’t any.

“I don’t think there is!” He says.

“Exactly!” I tell him. “What you need to become a fashion designer is your creativity and passion. A certificate is a good addition to these two but not a determinant.”

See, there are many a Pete who might be reading this today. Young people who have given up on life because they didn’t make a certain grade or didn’t get into university. Here’s the thing good people; success in life is much bigger than your high school grade or your university degree or diploma. We will be well advised to teach our kids that there’s more to life than the grade they get in class. That no one should ever brand them a failure because they scored the grade “D-“ and that scoring an “A” doesn’t guarantee success in life.

There are those who scored good grades in high school, graduated university magna cum laude but ended up being miserable in life or even working for the people they saw as failures years before. Yet, there are those whom the education system classified as failures but out of the understanding of their passion, skills and gifting ended up becoming huge successes in life. It behooves every guardian and parent to help their kid understand that they should never be defined by a grade.

Short and sweet, right?

  1. This is really encouraging. Its true, young people are very discouraged by their grades and its important to remember that grades arent everything.
    Excellent piece.

  2. It’s soo encouraging, sometimes papers doesn’t matter but you may have a talent that can make your life better than any person who had good grades.

  3. Amazing
    There’s more to life than school grades
    Glad we’ll soon have a great fashion designer.. Go Pete!!

  4. I wonder why one exam should determine one’s success or failure..No one should ever be defined by a grade..Young people should know hapa kwa ground vitu ni different..The story is so encouraging

  5. For real no one should be defined by a grade..Young people should know that hapa kwa ground vitu ni different

  6. CBC is here to sort this issue. How many young people have taken their lives because they didn’t meet their parents expectations in their exams? Many right! I pray that CBC turns out well.

  7. I actually want to take this opportunity to thank you for encouraging me to go after my dreams.
    I didn’t get the grade I wanted to and I know first hand how it felt to be rated a failure/success depending on how you performed.
    Asante sana

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