The Power of Friends

Friends

“What’s wrong with you sending Atuuse to camp for play when he has school homework!” wondered Manyi,”“I have told my Ayite to forget attending those time-wasting camps when he has tests coming up!”

“But I told you I believe children learn more out of classroom than behind those walls,” Mutufu, crisply explained. Manyi and Mutufu were childhood friends. But after school, having married, once they started raising families, soon discovered they would never see eye to eye on how to raise children. Manyi expected her son Ayite to walk in her footsteps. She always recalled how she had made it to Engineering school through hard work. “If I had loused around in clueless games like those other failures where would I be!”

Meanwhile Mutufu held an opposing view. When she started looking for a school for her son Atuuse, one aspect she kept looking for was if the school had a huge play field, covering all sorts of games.

“What games do kids here play?” she pressed a principal in one famous school, she approached.

“Here children are always in class studying to pass exams and this is why we are ranked the best school,” reported the principal.  Almost immediately Mutufu got up and started looking elsewhere. However, when Manyi called on the same school and the principal showed her how many first grades they had in the last national exams, she was immediately sold on. “I want my son Ayite to end up at the top with his name mentioned in the newspaper.”

Ayite was promptly admitted. Being the youngest in class, he was cheeky, though, eager to spend time out playing in the field. At the end of the year he was graded at the bottom of class.

“You are not going to shame me boy!” Manyi screamed, once she got hold of his report card. “You will now be getting up at 4 am in the morning to cram letters and numbers!” Under this regime, Ayite, with the belt ever looming on top of his head, had his grades improved. Soon he was topping his class to Manyi’s joy. And when he reached P6, Manyi asked if the school could have him sit P7. “My boy is a genius and has no time to waste.”

Some of Ayite’s teachers thought it wouldn’t do him good to skip a class. “Yes, we have no doubt he will pass,” his maths teacher pleaded. “I fear he will lose his friends.”

“You want my child to stick behind with looser friends!” roared back Manyi, in disgust. “I will take him to another school.” She threatened. The private school feared losing kids because it would affect its profit margins. Ayite sat and excelled. Manyi took a picture with her son which she sent to the newspapers to plant on front page with a caption, “We made it!”

Thereafter Ayite joined one of the best secondary school in the country. Whenever he got back home Manyi would ask one question, “I want to see your grades, don’t tell me anything about games and stuff!” If Ayite had a poor showing, then she would explode. “It is because you were out playing and yet these poor grades will take you nowhere!”

Meanwhile, after Mutufu rejected a school without a playing field she came across one which impressed her. “Here every child must enroll in a club of some interest,” the principal reported. “For every lesson we arrange kids to go out in the field so that they can pick up real life lessons. We place strong emphasis on games because they help kids pick up social skills. We encourage kids to use their local languages since they will need them to get around the country. Every child is appointed to lead something. On weekday we hold debates and quizzes so as to help kids overcome shyness and learn articulate themselves before crowds. Ours are not traditional kids because they spend more time outside class, visiting zoos, parliament, plantations, factories, etc, to supplement their book knowledge.”

“This is exactly what I have been looking for,” Mutufu brightened, and immediately enrolled Atuuse. Almost with every single opportunity she was at school cheering Atuuse, through his many games. Once, Atuuse happened to be lumbering behind in a 200M dash, she cheered him to race faster. Encouraged, he speeded up and won. “Atuuse now I want you to go and lift up all those you raced with,” Mutufu counseled.

Maybe because he was so busy into games, for his P7 Atuuse didn’t score a first grade. A concerned friend approached Mutufu. “If you get me some money I know someone important to get him admitted to an elite school.”

Mutufu rejected the idea right away. “If my boy wants to get to that school let him repeat P7, work hard and earn his way up there,” she said. “Is he going to cheat his way through life whenever he comes across a road bloc?”

Having had him repeat, Atuuse suspended some of his game activities, worked hard and this time passed with flying colors. He ended up in the same school with Ayite. The two rarely crossed paths. Ayite was always locked up in the library cramming to pass exams. But Ayite was out playing or participating in a club activity.

For his hard work, Ayite excelled and made it to Engineering school, which Manyi had chosen for him. Atuuse also joined the same university but with average grades. He was offered to do a social sciences course that because it was less academically demanding had been baptized as “General happiness”. However, Atuuse enjoyed it thoroughly for it gave him as much time to meet people from all over the country whom he made fast friends. He really enjoyed his time at university for he was always up and about in some interesting activity, like going for cross country runs and acting in plays.

In fact, Atuuse merely scrapped through to get a Lower honors degree.  Soon after one of those friends he had met during cross country runs tapped on him that there was a vacancy for young graduates in a new telecommunications company. Atuuse promptly showed up for the interview. He found that he had already met a number of those interviewing him during his multiple games and extracurricular activities. “This is the kind of person we need here who can help our business expand contacts,” said the CEO, whom Atuuse already knew as a Rotarian, having once invited him to give his Rotaract club a talk, where he was then President.

Once he joined Atuuse was involved in most company activities, which he found exciting. Before long, he had been promoted to head an influential business expansion unit. Early one day he was invited to chair an interview panel. After interviewing several candidates, then whom does he see entering? In walked Ayite. He suddenly recalled that while at university Ayite had dropped out, preferring to pass hours fraternizing campus bars, where he would push off any who dared pull him back to class, insisting, “I am sick and tired of this school business. Let me chill.”

When Manyi called him, with a sudden alcohol-fueled boldness, he told her to give him a break. Eventually, after losing a couple of years, he came around, got back to university. But this time switched to a business degree course. And so here was looking for a job.

Throughout the interview, Atuuse pretended he had never met Ayite. But he gave him near perfect scores on all questions, strongly recommending his appointment. The committee agreed.

On day, soon after Ayite had reported to work, Atuuse, met him at the company cafeteria. “My old friend,” he pulled him aside. “I know back in school you were hardly out on the games field playing with us. But if you want to get ahead here my tip is get involved and make as many friends. You will need them all the way. Good luck!”

3 Comments

  1. Thanks Dr. This is powerful guiding, inspiring and empowering piece. Parents and our children need to learn, unlearn and relearn from this reality. It is a living piece. Thanks once again.

  2. This piece has been my eye opener about dynamics of this two worlds. The one with the contacts and the other with the qualifications. The conclusion puts it very well, to get involved. Thank you

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