So, I will wrap up the “embrace your fears” series today with a story or more.

I began two weeks ago, writing about fear as the underlying monster behind examination malpractice and why people need to embrace this fear in order to address what the triggers were. I have addressed parents and schools as primary perpetrators of examination malpractice. Today, I want to enjoy the pleasure of sharing with us three personal stories of two friends of mine and I. Through these stories, I hope to show you what we could be missing out in allowing our children experience failure.

My friend and I finished from Federal Government Girls College Calabar. While we schooled in Calabar, we both lived in Port Harcourt. When we finished our WASSCE IN 1999, we both did not have the needed credits to advance into the universities. I like to think that because we were both Efiks, our parents shipped us back to Calabar to rewrite the examinations. We could have rewritten our examinations in Port Harcourt for crying out loud but no. I had no idea that my friend, whom I will love to call Nene, had been shipped too at the time. Everyone was just mourning their own results.

After arriving Calabar, a cousin requested for us to go visit another cousin who was in Edgerley Memorial Girls School. The missionaries had just taken over again and so if you ask me, it was way more upbeat than the school I was registered in. While admiring the school’s physical structure and some unique staircase design they had, I heard someone call my name and behold it was Nene. Her parents had brought her there. We both shared pleasantries and talked about how we had to both come to schools where we assumed that our old school was a lot better than. As part of that conversation, we talked about our determination to write the examinations once.

Three or so years later, while hanging out with my friends who I always read together with at the University, I heard them talk endlessly about this girl in their class who always aced her courses even Physics. They said she was a steady A. I was not in their faculty but I understood the pressures they had in the Faculty of Sciences and it was impressive to hear that it was a girl. Then, one day after school, I went over to their faculty so that we could all head home together. Then I ran into Nene again. We were so excited to see each other. Then one of my friends asked me, why I never mentioned that I knew her. They went on to tell me she was the lady that always had As. You see, they always called her surname and I did not have the inkling she could be the one.

Nene graduated with an outstanding grade from University of Calabar and has gone ahead to be an academic giant currently doing her Doctorates in Canada.

Sounds like what we all want for our children, right? What if her parents paid for a “micro-chip” for her?

I recall another story, so vividly well. We had a young woman who repeated SS 1 and we caught up with her. I would like to call her Praise. It was something we knew shook the core of her being. Prior to this time, she was just a lively bunch and a senior we kind of were a bit careful with. When she repeated, it was devastating. Howbeit, by the time we were moving to SS 2, she was first in my class for the entire three terms. What I am saying, a repeat, topped the class. Someone that the school system will naturally not expect much from, held us, spell bound. Every time, I think about Praise, I think of her as a diva.

Failure is not such a monster after all. And I will show you how.

Failure can mature a child/teenager faster than you can imagine. It strips you off every sense of sentiments and helps you confidently articulate what truly matters. Children/teenagers who have experienced failure develop a sense of determination, grit and discipline. They now read for themselves and not for you. Failure can help teens set goals and know what it is they want for themselves and what they don’t. A child/teen who has experienced failure is the least likely to be swept off their feet by peer pressure. This is because they are grounded by the stark reality of where they are.

The truth is that, their failure is not the problem. It is what parents do after their children experience failure that truly matters. First, parents need to clearly spell out to their children what the expected standard is. They have to point them to it BUT they have to assure their children that they believe they can come through with it. My Uncle Bobby steadily told me that I could make my results in a single sitting and that the name of the school did not matter. He assured me that I could do it.

Parents also have to enforce standards without sounding off like punishment. Nene did not look hungry or deprived in that school. For me, when I was asked to cut off my long hair, as it was the standard in the new school, my uncle assured me that it was nothing, that within a period of several months, I would begin growing my hair again. In fact, this came back to me when I was starting my organization. Cutting my hair was one way to frugally raise money for some of my projects. It was easy for me, because in a time of failure, I had learned how to focus on what really mattered.

Thirdly, with every sense of respect to my friend Nene and I, we were not five star pupils at FGGC but when we stepped into West African People’s Institute, Calabar and Edgerley Memorial Girls and subsequently University of Calabar, we rocked. We rocked the courses we read. We became who we were created to be. We had found strength, understood our potentials and were ready to maximize it.

Failure is a time of personal reflection and with the right kind of support, children can arise like a phoenix doing way more than passing their examination but becoming focused, determined, confident individuals ready to accomplish amazing feats. So, whether it is with examination failure or moral failures, point your children to the standard, enforce the standards, provide an enabling environment by supporting them through the journey and watch them do you proud in ways you could never imagine.

First Published May 2018 on Linkedin by Essienanwan Irene Bangwell