Change, NYSC

10 Hours to Failure

“Uncle, I use (sic) to sleep from 7 o’clock to 5 o’clock”. As the young student uttered this statement, I looked aghast at her. Good sleep is important for proper development and good health, but sleeping for ten hours tells a lot about one’s priorities.

The meeting was triggered by dismal tests’ performance by the student. After five tests in Maths and Physics, she had not gone beyond 6.5/20 marks. To her credit, she asked for the meeting. That showed that I wasn’t the only one concerned about her test scores.

With my classes’ average test scores very discouraging, I had begun to doubt myself. “Can I teach?” Before now, I had the notion that if a majority of students failed, the blame most likely rested with the teacher. Now that my students were failing, I wondered whether the problem was my teaching ability, or what I see as below-average students in an environment where diligence in formal education is not encouraged.

As I met with this student, my first question required her to compare me with her prior teachers from primary school to JSS3. I asked her to compare my teaching style and depth of explanation with others. She said, “You explain very well”. “What then is the problem?”, I asked. “I don’t use (sic) to understand maths”, she replied. Further discussion showed that her aversion for maths had escorted her from previous classes.

One thing I have noticed about people who dislike maths or feel the subject is difficult to comprehend, is their lack of practice. The lack of practice yields poor results, which further worsens their dislike, trapping them in a convoluted loop. I decided to test this observation.

Asking about her daily schedule led to the opening line in this article. Whereas some of her peers had to help in their parents’ shops, some up to 10pm, she was privileged to be free. That freedom, the free time, instead of being channeled to productive activities, was being expended on daily intercontinental stationary journeys. Even the 6-8 hours of sleep recommended by many doctors is still being debated. Here was a senior secondary school student basking in ten hours of bliss.

Seeing the source of her failures, I proceeded to proffer some much-needed advice. I explained the importance of productive time usage, and then, we agreed on a new sleep regime. Since she has a mind to improve, I’ll help her with assignments—practice questions that would demand a slice of her sleep time, and institute a long overdue reading culture. The incentive for her is guaranteed academic improvement. However, if she breaks our agreement, those ten hours would entrench her in failure.

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