“Comment se fait-il que ta soeur soit plus intelligente que toi?”, asked one of my high school teachers in the fall of 2005. That one phrase, among so many other demeaning ones that I have heard, still stings. As I travel down memory lane, I still feel the pain of always being compared to better students, the agony of failing to rise to the expectations of those who felt that I had the potential to excel, the anguish of being part of an education system which breeds rote learners and parrots instead of producing knowledgeable all-rounded human beings. My story is that of the struggle of a wounded heart, a late bloomer who managed to make her way out amidst all uncertainties and bitterness.
Being a late bloomer and not being judged is similar to seeing rainbows without expecting the rains; well, it never happens. You will get judged, no matter what. Our education system, to me, is quasi equivalent to the market system where the fierce competition allows the fittest to survive and the rest to perish.
If my crystalized memory serves me well, I was not deprived of anything, be it physically, financially; indeed, I had the most exceptional and caring parents. The only thing that went wrong was my lack of strong ambition. As young as eight years old, I was taking tuitions because I was an above average student and at that time there was the craze of going to ‘star colleges’, where the pressure to excel was tremendous, which meant nothing to me. When I was sitting for the Certificate of Primary Education examinations, the education system changed and instead, there was the process of regionalization, to which most of us can relate. To the surprise of many, I performed well and was accepted to the college of my choice.
However, that competitive tsunami lingered at high school as well and I quickly felt submerged by it. People did not hesitate to put me down, humiliate me or laugh at me. I still have goose bumps when I think of the fear that always engulfed me and the tears which I would shed before going to school and tuitions because I could not understand Mathematics properly, even though I loved numbers. It was disheartening to be in a class where most students were extremely bright and would never fail. The trend continued until I was sixteen, when most of my friends excelled at their School Certificate (SC) examinations and left for the ‘star colleges’, while I only did well and therefore, my fate was settled: status quo.
Borrowing a line from Nicholas Sparks’ famous “A Walk to Remember”, when I was seventeen my life changed completely and forever. My friends leaving for ‘star colleges’ and my chance encounter with two angels in the form of my high school teachers were the catalyst for change. I started performing beyond expectations in my studies and I outperformed in extra-curricular activities such as the Mauritius Model United Nations (MUN) Conference. As I climbed the ladder of success, people’s opinions of me changed drastically and suddenly I emerged as a hero, winning several awards one after the other.
That was my first encounter with the harsh reality of life. People will know you when you are at the peak of success and will constantly reject you if you are not on the high achievers list. Truth be told, the world has known so many late bloomers, in the likes of Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison to name a few. I am by nowhere near those great souls. However, we shared a common struggle. It takes a strong, witty and humoristic heart as well as hard work to defy all the odds. If something has changed my life, it is probably my participation at the Model UN where I have developed a strange love for foreign affairs, a field that I have chosen to further during my higher studies. My journey so far gives me hope that the tide is changing, that a new era is about to dawn where people are recognized by their abilities and skills rather than their intellectual capacities.
Today I am twenty-two years old and I still have a long way to go; however, the lesson that life has taught me is to never judge and undermine the potential of others, because nobody’s fate is set in stone, and certainly not at the age of sixteen, anxiously waiting for the SC results. I was lucky enough to have found my way. However, what about those who are being constantly undermined by our education system? What about those without a healthy environment and family life to support them? What about those who have been told, over and over again, that they are worthless and will never go to university? What about them? I scratch my head, trying to conclude this article but there is no ending because this is just the beginning…
15 Jul. 14