The recent MSCE results produced much consternation concerning the quality of the grades as well as the general pass rate attained by the students across the country. It is not our intention to engage in that debate (better qualified minds are available for that purpose). However, we would like to encourage each other on our responsibility as parents when our children or wards experience such academic setbacks in their lives.
As anybody who has undertaken any important project in life would appreciate, failure can be quite devastating, especially when so much seems to ride on the outcome of that undertaking. In the life of a young person, doing MSCE exams represents such a life-changing project. Failure, whether in the sense of not getting a certificate at all or obtaining grades below what one expected is a major setback in their minds (and even those of parents). Coupled with the reality that for most parents and guardians the expense of putting a child through school is quite burdensome, the situation becomes more depressing.
Therefore, we need to recognize that as parents we have a unique role to play in assisting these disillusioned kids to navigate their way out of the emotional quagmire such an experience can create in their youthful minds. In the first place, without diminishing the seriousness of the problem, we have to give our children a proper sense of perspective: like all problems in life, there is always a way out (it might not be always easy and obvious, but it can be worked out). Flunking exams need not spell the end of their academic career.
One is reminded of several friends and family who have bounced back from academic setbacks to pursue fulfilling careers in their lives. Sometimes people have been withdrawn from university programs but pursued alternative avenues to attain even PhDs. In some instances, poor MSCE grades have resulted in pursuit of different trades or courses (which were better suited to be the potential and interests of the person, as opposed to the ‘popular careers’ parents might have desired at first).
In my own journey I had a serious set back at the end of my first year in Law (I failed one course and had been invited to sit supplementary exams). Thankfully for me, I had an elder brother who cared enough and understood the gravity of the situation that he took time to thoroughly discuss the experience with me at home. At the end of the day, he challenged me to change my lifestyle and focus on my studies more seriously. Of course, it took longer for me to fully internalize the wise counsel of my elder brother (who in that moment assumed a critical parental function in my moment of personal crisis).
Some of the lessons I learnt from that experience (and intervention) include the reality that failing exams can be a very embarrassing experience in life (please do not rub it in, your child knows that already!). However, when dealt with in an empathetic and supportive manner one can see beyond the embarrassment and gain a fresh perspective to begin afresh and forge ahead in life.
Generally, as a young person, one lacks the emotional and intellectual capacity to process failure (one is prone to magnify the problem). Parental support should aim to diminish such sense of despondency or hopelessness. Instead aim to instill a sense of resilience (or bouncing back). In my case, the experience provided the occasion to genuinely reconsider my priorities in life; in the end I recommitted my life to The Lord and begun to learn how to trust Him with my life goals and aspirations (it is an ongoing journey, but it has all been worthwhile this far). I realized that sometimes academic failure may result from a lack of self-discipline and focus as a student. Indeed, one may have fallen under the influence of bad company (which undermines your focus as a student). In order to avoid future failure, young people should therefore be challenged to reflect and take stock of their own lives as they plan to move on from the ash-heap of academic disillusionment.
Sometimes failure occurs because of factors beyond the student’s control; such as attending a school which lacks facilities for conducting scientific experiments (resulting in poor grades in the affected subjects) or even disruption of the academic calendar because of public health concerns and other unforeseeable incidents. These are not mere excuses, but provide the context within which performance should be assessed (and the whole episode could offer a good template for real life, where so much happens that we do not control, yet we have to pursue our life goals diligently). We should be prepared to support and even encourage our kids to consider retaking the MSCE exams (if possible).