Much Ado About Fruits and Vegetables

On Thursday night, I figured that I had hit an all-time low in my accommodation of how Nigerian education works. Especially the version available to the masses.
I had my 7-year old revising for examinations. One of her topics was on fruits and vegetables. She was struggling to recall what they do in our body, periodically missing out on words in sentences in her note.
I was fuming inside. But I just could not walk out of the experience. I had to sit through it.
In my head, I couldn’t stop wondering how a child who is so cerebral would struggle with her learning concepts.
For background, just a few weeks ago, I mentioned to my daughters that the program I was talking with Founders Institute was ending in December. And this same child asked me why it was ending. In her words, she said, “weren’t you taking this course for a reason”.
How can a child who can think like that still have a problem with recalling what she was taught?
The short answer is she was not taught. The teacher explained something in class, gave them notes, she copied the notes and now it’s time for examinations.
So the cycle is, it’s in your note, you memorize it and then you regurgitate it during examinations.
I like to imagine this lesson in a different way.

Children come into the class, and the teacher asked them how they usually feel at the end of each school day. They tell the teacher. (Expect fun stories)
She also shares her experience of how exhausted she too is after the end of each day. Then she connects it to the wears and tear that the body undergoes over time.
Then begins to ask children what they do when they feel really tired and perhaps what their parents do They are most likely to talk about sleep.
So she shares what sleep does to the body to help it heal. How the brain releases hormones and sends messages to the body.
She also talks about what happens when the body goes through wear and tear and what healing looks like. For example, when you have an injury, when you are I’ll, when you are very tired.
Then she begins to explore other things that help the body heal from wear and tear. Then teaches introduces vitamins and minerals.
They can play a game of hunting for vitamins and minerals within the classroom.
They can differentiate between fruits and vegetables. In exact ways other than one is cooked and the order isnt.
Then we can take their questions; like, what about when apple is cooked for jam, and carrots for fried rice. When they are cooked do they become vegetables? How do you know a vitamin or mineral is in a given fruit or vegetable etc.
At the point of asking these questions, they are thinking, they are reasoning, deep learning is taking place.
I dare say, a 7-year old will not need more than a few sentence notes for this lesson. It will become a part of their everyday conversation at home and in school.
In this lesson, children’s curiosity can be ignited on different things ranging from brain health to staying healthy, to food and well being.
A child that has experienced this, will not be struggling to capture word for word of what the teacher said, or provide superficial answers that will definitely earn them a good grade but not actual knowledge of the concept.
Learning means we are igniting interest, passions, curiosity and providing opportunities for thinking muscles to grow in our children.
Does this matter? Yes, education should help us create our future by empowering them with knowledge of what is and then the opportunity for them to think through what can be.
In every classroom, our posture should be to raise thinkers and solvers.
By Irene Bangwell |Co-founder, The KNOSK.
We are developing a solution that will provide deep learning at a rate that is first and foremost affordable to the poor and low income families at The KNOSK N100-a-day School and then afterwards to the lower wrung working class, who cannot afford millions in school fees but want to offer their children quality action learning education that positions them for better economic realities.

AY, Nigerian Ace Comedian Is Fundraising for KNOSK School…

Hello Friends,

Guess who is fundraising for The KNOSK N100-A-Day Secondary School this Valentine?

It is AY! Nigeria Ace Comedian and Celebrity!!

Thank you, AY for showing love to children at KNOSK N100 A-Day School this Valentine.

AY is calling on you to join him this Valentine to make a donation to The KNOSK N100-a-day Secondary School.

To join AY and make a donation, send an SMS with the text ‘AY CROWD’ to 08090459999 or 09033338510 to get the bank details.

What is KNOSK School?

The KNOSK N100-a-day Secondary School is a charity Secondary school designed for children from low-income families.

For N100-a-day, our school children get uniforms, books, lunch and the girls get sanitary pads monthly.

The actual fees are N66,000 but parents get to pay as low as N100 a day or N6,000 per term.

To cover the outstanding cost per child, we call on generous partners such as you to cosponsor a child or more by donating N100 a day per child (N3,000 per month) or any amount that is convenient for you.

Donations can be done one-off or periodic as you wish.

To donate with AY this Valentine month by texting “AY CROWD’ in an SMS to 09033338510 or 08090459999 to get bank details.

KNOSK N100-a-day school in Kuje is helping kids from low-income homes get quality education and break the cycle of poverty in the future…we would love you to help today!

The KNOSK School is an initiative Of the Youngstars Foundation.

To learn more visit

Oh Mum, I make everybody angry.

A few days ago, number two was feeling really low and I could see it.

Number one was all over me but she just laid beside me seemingly absent. Then I don’t recall if she asked for anything in particular what I can vividly remember was her getting up from my bed and heading to her bed saying “no worries”.

That was rather unusual.

Number two can hardly ever walk away at a “No”. She is the one to negotiate when you say “not now”.

She would typically say “okay when?”.

But that night she said “no worries”.

So, I knew something was off.

When I asked number one to retire to bed, her face changed but I knew that it wasn’t deep.

So, I called number two, to come sit with me and to my surprise she said “thank you” in a very deep reflective mode.

Then I asked her what was bothering her.

I asked her to speak up, so that we could solve whatever it was together.

Then she said “I am so sad because I make everyone angry”

“I make Ms Efe angry, I make Briona angry and I make you angry”.

My heart broke.

I have been there before. Perhaps when I was younger, though not as young as she was.

It appeared that all I did was make mistakes. I moved from one mistake to another. So I was corrected over and over and over again.

The only thing in my consciousness was the mistakes I had made, how the people I lived with felt and all that I could imagine was my next mistake.

It’s the typical case of working on egg shells. It’s crazy if you feel that way when relating with one person but it can be overwhelming when that is the summation of your entire life.

It’s overwhelming and emotionally exhausting.

You can get to a state of hopelessness and worthlessness.

The thing with number two is that she is the energetic one that has the need to keep moving. I can imagine what she is like in class, I can imagine her teacher wonder why she won’t sit still through the class. She is the one who easily uses her hands. So, her big sister has to make the list of people she makes angry. Because it is a reflex reaction to use her hands whether to push or hit.

A few weeks ago, I made her write “My hands are for helping, my hands are for caring” about 20 times.

We are all in the list of people that she is now having the burden to “not make us angry”.

I know by first hand experience that these kind of emotion is a joy stealer.

So, that night, I called her and told her to take the corrections but not to go around with the words in her head.

I told her it was as simple as remember what is right per time. And when there are mistakes, we should remember to not make them another time.

It is not possible to address all those emotions in one night. I realize that she didn’t make herself and she is truly doing her best for her age and per time.

She once told me “I wish I could be obedient all the time”.

It’s going to take a lot of talking, a kind of talking and a new kind of response to when she makes ’mistakes’.

Yes, ‘mistakes’ and ‘reflex’ follow a different kind of discipline than deliberate defiance.

With kinesthetics (kids who have the need to move), many times, excitement takes over their sense of caution. They just get up and move.

I am going to for the next few weeks give her what I once desperately needed.

I realize as parents, we can only give grace, if we remember a time we needed it.

This does not in anyway imply indulging indiscipline. My children know what standards I stand for and many parents will not hold their children to the kind of standards I hold my children to.

However, discipline has to be wholesome. It should not be done without consideration for a child’s mental well being. We have to at each time ensure that our children are hearing and thinking right after a conversation.

I really do care that they do because I also misunderstood my own parents and guardians as a young child and made very poor decisions as a result.

Today, life through parenting is giving me the opportunity to raise a generation that is wholesome.

Irene Bangwell | Co-founder KNOSK.

Your child’s failure can be a good thing.

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