BOXED-IN

Definitions, names, tags- they are all ways we try to fit in. To belong is part of our identity. This makes us feel normal. But what is normal and what isn’t? Normal can be limiting, like a box- a box that can get smaller with time or bigger depending on who is in charge of defining things. Big or small, it is still a box. Now, in the box, you can have no perspective and there’s little room for creativity and expression. In this follow up post, I’m sending out the same message: Be who you are and be the best version of you because there is only just one you.

The value of an educational system lies in its ability to create opportunity, capability and space for people to thrive in a society. Societies are dynamic- ever changing, evolving, developing and striving to meet new demands and challenges. Societies in the 21st Century are certainly different from those in the 19th Century. And what is relevant to me today may not have been even vaguely important to the generation before me and will not be relevant to the generation after me, thanks to technology and its gimmicks.

So when an entire society is relying on educational systems to temper problems, to birth solutions and direct society to a sustainable future, then boxing it up is a modern day catastrophe. It is tragic that some educational systems have not been as dynamic as change itself.

Basically, we are boxed-in in so many ways. In Ghana, by Junior Secondary School the system can label you a failure or not. Then in Senior Secondary School (SSS), you are expected to have the foresight to make intelligent decisions concerning the rest of your working life. And flexibility and mistakes are not things the system tolerates. So by SSS 1, you are either labeled a science, arts, business or technical student. I’ve probably left someone out, haven’t I? Scientists are forbidden to study French because somehow, somewhere, it was decided by a brilliant set of minds that mixing the two would give you a bad case of indigestion. Science apparently has no use for French words. Or is it that there are no French scientists? And God forbid that you wanted to know about the universe and how to breed rabbits at the same time.

I’ve often wondered how it would be if we had more political leaders that thought a bit like scientists. In my opinion, Political Science and Law are two of the worst combinations that have produced the most talkative but spineless brand of leaders for almost an entire half century put together. And how many wars would have been prevented if a leader somewhere understood the geo-politics of a region instead of looking narrowly through economic lenses?

By SS 1 I didn’t know what I wanted to be. If you like, I was an outlier on the normal bell curve. Intelligent, but still an outlier. So I studied Literature-in-English and French because I liked words and languages. I took up Technical Drawing because I thought, “Well, wouldn’t it be nice to be an architect or something?” I used to create 3D models of things and up till now, I still sketch 2D plans of things. (FYI, I ended up studying urban planning).

My father and grandfather were people of the soil so I guess that blood flowed strong in me. I loved all things earth and plants. So Agricultural Science was in. I didn’t understand why I needed Further Math to get far in life. And because it was so abstract, I abstained. Same with Chemistry.

But since I liked the why of things, I stuck with Physics. Christian Religious Knowledge was just a bonus. Geography was a no-brainer. So add that with English, Math and Biology- core subjects-, I was ready to have some fun!

By the end of the year, I’d decided to listen to some conventional wisdom. So in SSS 2 I dropped Technical Drawing and picked up Economics. I let Physics go all together because half the time the lessons didn’t answer my basic questions of why things worked the way they did. We were taught that it was just meant to be that way. Not very satisfactory.

At the end of SSS 3 when my grades came in, the system could not decide whether I was a science or arts students, perhaps social science. But I wasn’t bothered because I was still trying to create my own space.

Fast forward to now. Remember my original subject choices? I am a Geographer. So many people do not know what that means. I like it because hey, I know what I am. I still have no use for Economics even though I studied it up to the university level and it has certainly taught me a lot about how not to do things. I even had a row with my lecturer because I refused to Major in Economics. But I’ve done more with English and French than with Economics. I’ve taught English to both secondary and tertiary students. And I went to Alliance Française Accra where I had the time of my life and experienced love Francophone style. That was something.

I love my vegetable garden even though the weeds are driving me crazy. And I love to write. So go figure.

Hey, the system may have you trapped. Perhaps you don’t even have the slightest idea what I am talking about. But if you do, then you must be squirming, trying to get out of the box. Don’t be boxed-in. Create your own space. I thank my alma mater, BCA, for giving me the chance to be me. I seriously hope things haven’t changed there!

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5 thoughts on “BOXED-IN

  1. Boy! Is this the truth….didnt know there was anyone who had more subject curves than me!!! Secondary school science student who ended up in Management sciences at tertiary level 😀
    And to be honest, I didnt fully know which direction my ship was been steered in when I was taking (actually being guided through) all those decisions

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  2. Touche..brilliant!!! So very true. I was a science student who wanted to take French. I eventually got my way. I studied Chemical engineering in university but now I’m a fashion designer. I totally agree that young students should be exposed to options and be able to feel out as many areas so they can have fulfilling and balanced lives. The buck doesn’t stop with school management, parents should be more open-minded too. No talent or inclination should be ignored. Each should be harnessed and developed. You just never know…

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