Rude welcome for high school finalists to rough, tough world 

 St Peters Mumias

Cabinet Assistant Secretary for Education CBC Dr Sarah Ruto (in red) supervising the start of 2020 KCSE Mathematics paper at St Peters Mumias High School in Kakamega County on March 29, 2021.

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Be confident in making mistakes and learning from failure.
  • There is a big gap between what school teaches and what life presents.

This year’s Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exam candidates had a taste of the real meaning of “it’s tough out there”, even before they had made it “out there”.

Many had a tough time getting to their homes due to lockdown and curfew restrictions in the “Disease Infected Zone” counties of Nairobi, Machakos, Kajiado, Kiambu and Nakuru.

They got stranded on the roads and media reports say some spent an entire night at Uhuru Park in Nairobi.

While this experience was unfortunate and traumatic, to me it serves as an eye-opener for the Form Four finalists on what to expect after high school. The world is full of upsets and the one important question that is never asked is what one should unlearn after school.

There is a yawning chasm between what school teaches and what real life presents. As Alvin Toffler famously wrote: “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, relearn, and unlearn.”

One of the things that you need to unlearn is that “copying is bad”. School punishes copying but the world rewards imitators who innovate.

Independent thinker

Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, was the best at copying. When Sam was starting Walmart, he would visit other retailers and study what was working for them and later apply their styles in his retail stores.

Walmart went on to be the biggest retailer in the world while Sam Walton became the richest man in the world from 1982 to 1988. Walton was good at copying his competitors.

“Almost everything that I have done, I have copied from someone else,” he  famously said.

Another bad thing that school does a bad job at is punishing mistakes and failure, two things that have nurtured world-beaters. Take Thomas Edison, for example. He carried out 1,000 failed experiments and the 1001st was the light bulb.

As AI researcher Eliezer Yudkowsky famously wrote: “If you never fail, you aren’t trying to do difficult enough things.”  

Learn to be an independent thinker. In school, you had to follow all the rules, even the absurd.

You have to learn to evaluate facts for yourself. Even the most obvious ones. Never get tired of learning. As Mark Twain famously said, “never let schooling interfere with your education.”

Steve, 19, studies Mechanical Engineering at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. 

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