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Secrets of Academic Success: Passion
Chinua Achebe started school in 1936 at St Philip’s Central School, Apkakaogwe Ogidi. They were asked to attend religious classes where students engaged in singing and sometimes dancing, chanting English rhymes and general entertainment. After he spent a week in religious class, his teacher, Rev. Nelson Ezekwesili sent him to a high infant school because the boy showed signs of intelligence. Achebe became a good English reader and during dictation lessons, he usually got excellent marks. He had excellent handwriting in class and did well in reading, especially when reciting poems or essays on stage. During these years, his academic performance in primary school was consistently excellent.
In late 1942, Chinua Achebe attended Nekede Central School as his elder brother John took Chinua to live with him in Nekede, Owerri. Before they left, the principal of St. Philips Central School opposed Achebe’s exit from their school. He objected because Achebe was the kind of student who made the school proud.
In 1944, Achebe was admitted to the Government College in Umuahia. Approximately 3,000 children applied for the 30 available places. And all candidates sat for the entrance exam at centers in Nigeria and Western Cameroon. Only the best candidates are admitted.
Not long after William Simpson, the headmaster of the school chose Chinua Achebe as one of the most promising students. Achebe was promoted from class one to class two in his first year at the government college in Umuahia. In the same year he was awarded a scholarship due to his studies and character. Achebe wrote good English in his class and was the editor of the school magazine. He won the poetry prize because his brilliant academic performance was unimaginable. The final examination of Achebe’s class at a government college marked the pinnacle of his brilliant secondary school career. The results were impressive. ‘like’ in history, physics/chemistry, biology, geography, Bible knowledge and mathematics; High ‘Cs’ in English Language and English Literature.
Achebe wrote the examination for admission to New University College, Ibadan. In those days, the fashionable courses at the university were engineering and medicine, and John Achebe, his official guardian and sponsor, decided that Chinua wanted to study medicine. Achebe accepted his elder brother’s decision and was admitted as one of the recipients of major scholarships for medical studies.
Achebe’s academic performance in his first year at university was not commendable. He could not handle the rigorous demands of the medical department. The workload was intense, and it became clear to him in that first year that the grinding work of physics and eventually medicine required a different interest than the work he had brought from secondary school. For the first time in his life, Achebe passed without performing very well. It became very clear that he would never do well as a medical student. At this point he lost interest in science and medicine.
Achebe now for the first time made a decisive decision regarding his career and academic interests. At the end of the first year he approached the Dean of Science and announced his intention to change his studies. His interest was now in the field of art. Fortunately, he got admission in arts department. Unfortunately, he lost his scholarship, as the basis on which it was awarded no longer exists. Losing his scholarship was a big blow but he was determined to pursue his passion.
Achebe became a member of the Faculty of Arts and chose English, Geography and History. Thus, his studies in Arts at the University College, Ibadan began with enthusiasm. Achebe soon became one of the best in his field.
He was scoring Alphas in most of his subjects. By the 1950s, Chinua Achebe had settled down enough as an art student to express himself as a writer. He started writing many essays and stories which include; ‘Polar Undergraduate’, ‘In a Village Church’, ‘The Old Order in Conflict with New Year’, ‘Mr Okafor vs Arts Students’, ‘Dead Man’s Path’ and so on. It was in this faculty that some seeds of creative and critical work were planted in Chinua Achebe.
His book ‘Things Fall Apart’, published on 17 June 1958, became one of the most important books in African literature. It sold 8 million copies worldwide, was translated into 50 languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.
Dubbed the “grandfather of Nigerian literature”, Achebe is the recipient of more than 30 honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria and the United States, including Dartmouth College, Harvard and Brown University.
Put a lizard in a river and it will struggle to survive. Fish do not last long on land. The Creator of all things has designed every human being for a certain discipline. Put differently, we were created to solve a specific problem or meet a specific need. I am not designed to solve the problem you are programmed to solve because God has given us everything we need to solve the problem He has assigned us. So, you cannot solve my own problem and I cannot solve your problem. Our brains are designed to fit the problem we want to solve. Bill Gate is known for software, Michael Faraday for electricity, Wright brothers for airplane, Henry Ford for motor vehicle, Tiger Wood for golf, Chinua Achebe for writing.
So, not everyone should become a doctor, lawyer or engineer because this is not the only problem on earth. It is unrealistic to become a solicitor because your father or uncle was successful in the legal field or because you like the legal profession. A father told his son that he must be a lawyer because he had previously spent money paying lawyers for several court cases he had.
No one should force you to study any course in which you are not interested. People don’t follow their passion because they want to get name and money. That’s why there are quack building engineers, killing thousands every year because their buildings are unsound. We have doctors who carelessly take the lives of their patients because they are not called to the medical profession. We see lawyers sending innocent clients to prison because their brains are not up to the task. Your wealth and fame are in your purpose.
I hear some student say: “I’m taking a vocational course.” We have been tricked into thinking that certain courses are professional. No professional course or major course anywhere. The day you become very proficient in your field, you become a professional and you become a professional field. Every field is professional. What you are a master of is your profession; Therefore, any business can be a business sector.
So we have professional footballers. Football is a professional career. So, shoemaking is a vocational course, horticulturist is a vocational and sports is a vocational field. You don’t have to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer to be a professional; Every field is professional.
The day you know your purpose or field of interest is the day you start your studies in earnest, the day you become a student. Unless you have passion for the course and not ambition, you will never succeed. No one should force you to study any course in which you are not interested. Pursue your passion and pursue your vision.
Ignore your passion and suffer failure. If you find your field of interest, you will become a master overnight. Allowing someone to choose an area for you is suicidal; You can consult a professional. Learning becomes cheap and fun when you are in a place you love. Ben Carson said, “If we recognize our talents and use them properly and choose fields that utilize those talents, we will rise to the top in our fields.”
How do I know my field of interest?
Ask God: The manufacturer knows the functions and capabilities of his product.
Read Wide: There are some fields or courses of study that you are not aware of. Read biographies, autobiographies, professional journals, in fact every good book or publication.
Find your passion: Something you do with pleasure, without stress and without paying.
Consult a professional or experienced person.
Be original: Don’t be like anyone else. You are unique; You can never be another. When you explore the field you can have a mentor in your field but be yourself.
Resist every pressure from any angle to force you into any field you are not interested in, as you will only suffer or regret later.
Take every subject in school seriously. You may not know the field you are interested in.
Achebe would have failed as a medical doctor.
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