What is 'Enough'
When It was time for me to go to high school, My parents spent an awful lot of time looking for good schools for me …we drove from Arusha to Moshi, Kibaha to Morogoro, Tanga to Bagamoyo. I did an awful lot of interviews. But I never got into any one of those ‘good gifted schools’ In my parents eyes I was smart and they, like every other African Parent, wanted their child in one of those ‘special’ schools one of those schools where kids speak in mathematics and dream in psychics.The schools my parents went to, They, unlike me, refused to admit that I was average and ordinary. Oh Mom and Dad. We went from school to school…but the answer was always the same, she’s not tall enough, she’s too young, she’s not quick enough, she’s not fast enough, she’s not smart enough, she does not know enough mathematics, she doesn’t know enough Kiswahili, she’s just not enough! She’s not good enough for commerce, she’s not good enough for science, I heard it over and over…and those words can break you as a child, because…what was ‘enough’ Of course they never said it to my face, they would say it in whispers in the school corridors as they walked my parents around. And I was too curious to sit around and wait so I would follow them, and I would hear over and over those words ‘not enough’. And I always wondered ‘What is enough?’ I honestly don’t like special schools, they made the rest of us feel like we were some sort of idiots.. my life goal was to make special schools for average kids, like us. Kids who who got 3 in the first try when they did 1 + 1, yes we’re special too. And no not 'crazy' kinda special (Geeees relax a lil bit)
I remember I went to a certain school in Arusha and did an interview, I was with my Mother only this time. And I thought I did pretty well, I did science subjects and the headmaster, pretty nice tall slim guy. He offered me juice after the interview and talked to me a little, unlike all the other schools I was interviewed in. I really thought I was in, the kids there were lovely and I loved it, in fact I had already made friends and picked a dorm room, chose a spot to hang out and made peace with the school cooks. yes I was fast like that…all that in 3 hours only, if they gave me 2 more days I swear I would’ve been president…, you betcha I know how to mingle. Until well, I overheard the conversation he had with my mother ‘She cant get in, she’s way too behind in her syllabus she wont be able catch up’ Its like heaven was falling over me.
I could see the devastation on my mothers face, the look in her eyes, her face dropped, I could see she was tired and it just broke me, I was tired of seeing her tired. So when he came to me to tell me how smart I was but there was no space I walked upto to him as he was leaving and pulled his coat. Pupils dilated you could almost pull a tear from my left eye. The words were sour in my chest and I felt a little pain in my chest as I uttered them…
‘ I’ll catch up, I will work really hard, I will show you, I learn fast if you can teach me, please let me in, I promise you I will pass well, you will see I promise’ I remember saying words close to those, practically begging him. My heart was beating so fast vultures could hear it from ten miles away. This was my only shot. This man, in my eyes, held my destiny, I felt like I was letting my parents down one more time and I wanted to fix it.
The smile on his face was gone and he was more serious now, He bent on one knee ( I was very short) to reach to my height and said right to my face, and I remember the sentence word by word….because they played in my head all through high school, all through university.
‘ I cannot teach you what you don’t already Know’
I stood there, I might have been young but I was not totally blank, what a way to tell a child that she was an idiot, I wasn’t gonna let him get away with it…
‘But I know more about Biology, Mathematics, Physics than I did in the test, I know more I can learn more’
He said the last words in a whisper almost had me in tears ‘ My Child, You don’t know enough’
Those words rang in my head throughout my whole childhood. Before every exam I ever did throughout my whole life, and I promised myself I will never use that word on a child, and If you’re a parent, please do not.
I stood there my eyes glared as my mother walked in, never lost her composure, bless her heart, smiled and talked a little with the headmaster and we left, off to board a bus and walk on home. I could tell she was sad, But she never uttered a word of it, ever. We stayed for a while before she announced we had to do another interview, I was devastated, Do I really need to go to those special schools, I always asked them, Cant I just go to an ordinary school, But they would always remind me that those schools had better teachers and better classes and better education. Better education. So weeks before I went to interview at this new school, I studied every book there was and did all past papers this country ever had, I wanted to know enough and because It was catholic school I read the bible too, page to page From the apple in garden of Eden to how we will burn in a certain river for our sins ..., you never know what enough meant down there. As soon as I arrived I was received by a nun who was the headmistress at the school, she was kind and patient with me she showed me the waiting room as she talked to my mother, and to my surprise, there was no interview test, there was no entrance exam. They just examine your old school’s results and you’re in, and my old school results were okay so I got in.
I had so many questions for the headmistress.
‘Aren’t you scared of children who don’t know enough messing up your perfect pass rate?’ I asked her as she held my hand to show me to the gate. She looked at me almost in disbelief that this question was coming from a child
‘What you know is an outcome of how much you’re willing to know’ The woman never spoke much. She said goodbye and I waved. I was just happy I finally got a school.
When I finally went to that school, it wasn’t fancy, but the plus side was they had so much books and I was so glad, I read every single book there was, from history of roman empires to engineering books that were way beyond me. I read readers digests from 1930s and magazines from the 60s, all for my need to know ‘enough’.
But that my friends is a quick history in my thirst and search for the feeling of ‘enough’
… I kept reading, indulging obsessing over everything and anything but never quite got the hang of the real meaning of knowing enough.
Fast forward my first year in college, I was sitting around with my 5 10 page assignments gazing outside into the trees daydreaming of getting married to a rich man with a house in 10 countries with butlers and maids delivering my breakfast from our other house in France because I like ‘french toast’ (don’t judge me like that, every girl has had this dream at some point of difficulty in her life, every girl!) The professor said something that woke me, in Economics, She said a quote from Thomas Sowell she said "The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it"
But What is enough? Enough for who?
Last week I went to a graduation ceremony and met some wonderful children. They were pre form kids,. they acted out a beautiful play and kept making errors in the dialogue I could tell their teacher was furious but the kids were so jolly …and it was so hard not to laugh at their errors they were laughing tooo..we all laughed, and one of the kids was so nervous she ran outside and hid. I asked their headmaster what criteria they use to advance them to Form 1 and he said none. We teach them all they need to know and advance them when we see they have passed well.
‘What happens if they don’t pass,?’
‘They keep studying until they do, eventually they do, we are patient’
I nodded. Glad they never got turned down. There was no pressure, to be Enough.
I met that ol headmaster last month he was older, white hair not young and built like the last time I saw him, we were undergoing training for a project we were doing and he was one of the trainers, he didn’t remember me, not that I expected him to, I Imagine he must have met at least a million children or more in his lifetime. In my heart I had hoped he would remember and see how I had progressed and see who I grew into and became, but something told me it would not make a difference. So I just passed him by like I didn’t know him. When it was time for one on One training he came to me and went through my work and was rather pleased. He called all the other trainers and it became a long pleasant conversation, from history to science to community to economics to everything you could think of and I could not stop myself from talking on and on…my mind was saying stop but every thing the old man would say I would jump in with a word or two. It was a very bad habit, and I was ashamed later on. And as I was leaving he said in a whisper, almost in the same voice I had heard years ago. ‘ My child, you know a little too much for your age, where did you go to school? Did you study abroad?’
‘In a little catholic school In some village you probably never heard of’
‘You should’ve gone to our school’ he said as he looked around to his fellows ‘ we schooled professors, engineers, businessmen, in our time, perfect grades’
‘ I would’ve, but back then I didn’t know enough….but thank you,’ I said, yes I was bitter and it was petty. It was 10 years ago maybe 12 and bringing it up wouldn’t make any difference but just a smirk of satisfaction as he looked somewhat puzzled. He probably never knew what I meant and will never understand what I meant, But it was better that way. So I kept it that way.
Am I angry, That I got turned down so many times. Bloody yeah!! But I'm also happy because we have to realize we dont always need what we think we need to excel...we only need ourselves and our hunger to learn. We are enough for ourselves.