This is a continuation of the last post with the same title.
It was scary to me. In spite of not gaining much from lectures, I still attended. In the first year, most courses were faculty courses and so students from various departments attended lectures together. An entire auditorium does not serve the number of students some of which sat on the floor or stood outside. I went in and the heat made me uncomfortable. Learning under such a condition constituted a challenge of its own.
Going back to the hall of residence, there was another challenge – over congestion. Angola was the hall in which majority of the first year male students resided. Fifteen people could live in a room. Through a secondary school colleague of mine who gained admission before me, I met Chuks who put me up in Fajuyi hall the first day I arrived. Waiting for admission (my name had to show up in a list) which happened after a lot of first year students had done their hall registration lowered my chances of securing an accommodation especially in Angola. We were ten in Chuks’ room.
With registration and accommodation taken care of I started reading. I did not understand much of what I read. Since I also did not gain much from lectures, fear crept into me. I doubted I would make it through the university. I enrolled in a tutorial class organized by Catholic students. The fear in me did not make me understand what was taught. I felt I was finished. What would people say when I go back home after they heard that I have been to the university but failed? How would my parents feel? These questions were depressing to me. I lacked the confidence to face my academic challenges. My roommates did not sense this. They had their workload. I was not happy. Looking back now I am sure I needed counseling for I was actually depressed. The only place I had a feeling of joy was in the church. I attended Mass on Sundays and wished it would not end. From Friday I anticipated Sunday’s Mass. I kept trying to read but understood little. My first test result to be out was Physics. I scored four out of twenty.
Matriculation came in the middle of the semester. My father was very happy that his first child and son was matriculating. Within me I was thinking I was on my way back home. I look at one of the pictures I took on that day and I see a sad person who felt he was about disappointing his parents.
In the course of the semester, the Academic Staff Union of Universities, ASUU, went on strike. Students went home. It lasted three months. I heaved a sigh of relief and was happy to be back with my family. I got two text books on Maths and Physics. Understanding came in trickles in the courses that seemed difficult to understand. My mind was in a relaxed state. I was able to grab a few concepts in both courses. Looking back now, I suppose that if I had continued in the state of mind I was in school, prior to the strike, into the exam, I would have failed every course. It might sound selfish but the strike was positive for me. I went back to school when the strike was called off. Exam came and I wrote. I had an “F” in a practical which I really did not expect to fail and escaped failure in the rest of the courses. The first semester of my first year was the poorest throughout my years in the university.
In second year, I faced my academic challenges squarely. If I had not, a course like Mathematical Methods would have frustrated me as soon “as x tends to infinity”. The lectures did not benefit me so I paid for a tutorial together with a good number of students who saw the calculations and methods of Mathematical Methods terrorizing. A third year student who was excellent at the course was the tutor. He delivered me from the claws of the course. There was no way I would have had a “C” in that course were it not for the tutorial and the work I did. Gaining understanding of that course boosted my confidence in my ability to tackle other courses which at this stage was more advanced than what I did in first year. I decided to get past questions for all courses. I formed the pattern of attempting questions from past questions on a particular topic after I had finished reading the topic. This helped. Cutting it short, my grades got better although my poor first year grades left its permanent effect in my Cumulative Grade Point Average.
Your formal education experience may be different. We have different approaches to learning. While some are more of visual learners, others are more of auditory learners. Many schools from primary to tertiary do not pay attention to the kind of learning method that suits you. Teachers just pour the curriculum on you through classes and leave you to sort yourself. Some students find their ways, others do not. At the end of my first year in the university, a good number of students went back home due to poor academic performance. I do not believe that they were academically incompetent. Some may have needed counseling. Others may not have realized the method of learning effective for them. A society that sees university education as a means of securing a high paying job may consider them failures. But is that what education is really about? It goes beyond that. I know that now but not during my university days. Many students at the university level do not know how to think outside the box. They want to get a degree in order to get a job. Afterwards, they get married and procreate. They are eager to join the rat race. Rather than seeing tertiary education as a means to an end they see it as an end itself. This becomes the origin of an entitlement mentality. Most of our schools are actually killing creativity and producing a set of close-minded individuals!
Education, not just schooling, opens the mind. It broadens your horizon. True education teaches you how to learn. You are basically responsible for your education. Teachers are there to guide. There is no teacher that will teach you everything about a course in a semester. It is left for you as a student to go back and increase your knowledge. What obtains is that students end their learning of a course where the lecturer stops in a semester. They resort to cramming. They go as far as asking for AOC (Areas of Concentration) for the exam so as to know which areas to cram. I also crammed. I used it to pass exams. But cramming is not education. It defies critical thinking and kills creativity.
This write-up continues in the next post.
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