Something has been nagging me for a couple of weeks now. It’s the main reason I decided to start the ‘Diary’ part of the blog as a way to share my thoughts without mixing it up with the book reviews.
A few months ago, my sister got into trouble for something I feel should not have been blown out of proportion the way it was. Anyone who has been in the Kenyan schools (not the international schools) knows that the teachers there love terrifying the students. They rule with an iron fist and thrive from that power. They are not to be questioned or challenged. Try them and it will be over for you. All the teachers will gang up against you and you’ll be branded the ‘bad seed’. But that’s a topic for another day.
Now to my story. My sister got into trouble a few months ago. It was the kind of trouble where she made it to the Principal’s office and was even put in the little black book of students who need to be watched. She doesn’t go to a public school, it’s a private school where you would expect them to approach the situation in a proper manner. Her name now stays in that book so that the Principal can watch whether she commits another ‘crime’.
Her crime? Writing.
She loves writing stories and you’ll find tiny pieces of paper all over her room where she scribbled something at a random time when the idea hit her. She wrote the stories and shared them with her friends. They became so popular among the classmates that they even asked her to put them up on Wattpad, which she hasn’t yet. Other people took up writing and the news got to the office. The Form Ones are being naughty.
The reason the news got to them, I totally understand. A girl had come with a photocopied version of Fifty Shades of Grey. Anyone who doesn’t know the book, I want to know how you have avoided that. The copy circulated in her class, which is different from my sister’s. They got caught when one of them was reading it to her classmates and they couldn’t stop their giggles. The girl who was caught said that her fellow students were writing stories and some were steamy. The teachers then decided to collect anything written by the girls in Form One to check whether her claim was true, rightfully so.
My sister was called to the office and asked to hand over her writings. She gives what she had as the rest had been circulating and she had no idea who had them. She had nothing to fear. Her stories were age appropriate, romance stories but appropriate for her age. The Deputy Principal read it and asked her to write an apology letter.
An apology for writing.
For the crime she had committed.
But I’ve got to love her. She did apologize in her letter but it was not for writing. She made sure to let her know that she was only sorry that she wrote at the wrong time. But was it the wrong time? She explained her love for writing and how it is her way of expressing herself. She did it in such confidence I was wholly impressed. I love that she didn’t let those words sway her. She stood by what she did.
Anyway, she was then called to the Principal’s office who wanted to deal with the problematic girls. While there, the principal read the story word for word underlining what she didn’t like at some point asking her if she goes to church. It’s assumed that if she goes to church she wouldn’t behave the way she was or write what she was writing. When the Principal was done she took out her ‘black book’ and put down her name.
They called some parents, those who were too explicit for their age. They are all about fourteen and fifteen years old. Her parents were not called but she had been warned. When we went to see her after the whole debacle, she gave us the story and we laughed. Corrected her where she needed correcting. After the event, her class teacher approaches my mum with something serious to talk about. She calls her aside and tells her the issue but my mum laughs to the teacher’s surprise. She was reporting a crime and my mum was laughing? She was laughing because my sister had already reported herself. My mum went on to tell her that we all read her stories and we encourage her to write.
My main problem with the whole scenario is the fact that they are shaming these girls for writing. They are making them feel like it’s irrelevant and a waste of their time. They could have guided them in building their writing skills or steered them towards a program that would help them grow as writers. She is only fifteen and showing an interest in something that she enjoys doing. It’s her form of expression and she love it. Instead, they chose to dim her fire. Sad to say, I have noticed she doesn’t write as much as she used to. I don’t find the discarded papers with her writings anymore. They managed to dim her fire just a bit because I know it’s not all out.
I wish they guided them better. There are so many other ways they could have approached the whole issue and dealt with it. I’m not saying the girl with the troublesome book wasn’t on the wrong, but ruling by fear doesn’t help the situation. It will just make them find sneakier ways to get the illegal books through. They will find ways to write mature content and hide them from their teachers. They have not solved the problem, they’ve only enabled them to get more creative.
Why is it that our education system refuses to recognize people have interests outside their mostly outdated system? Why is it that the teachers do not guide the students in the right way? By telling them not to do something because it’s punishable, does that really help the students?
This is something that has been going on for years and yet there is still no change. People used to be punished for choosing to focus on their artwork or music. They were told it was a waste of time. They were extremely talented people but the teachers put it in their heads that it was not worth spending your prep time on that. If they are done with their school work and assignments, why can’t they spend some time on something they are good at? Talents are seen as a waste, not worth building. Book smart is all that matters. But not everyone is book smart. Not everyone can get those A’s but they are good at other things.
I don’t know when the change will come, but it is necessary. The system in general should be reviewed.