Sunday March 16 2014

Academic pressure should be controlled

Ms Mariam Kamwaka, a student of Trinity College Nabbingo, was on Thursday found hanging from the ceiling of her dormitory in a case of suspected suicide. According to the police and the school authorities, it appears the 16-year-old girl was depressed and decided to end her life after she was prevented from sitting Senior Four tests and instead asked to repeat Senior Three.

This is a very unfortunate and depressing incident that should prompt educationists and parents to do some soul searching in the direction of our education system that emphasises academic excellence above all else and generates cut-throat competition not necessarily to learn but simply to pass with A grades.

As a result, students study under enormous pressure to pass exams with “A” grades and schools are reluctant to let “C” and “D” students sit national exams because they fear their anticipated poor performance will lower the percentage of the school’s passes and therefore affect the overall school ranking against other schools. The schools, therefore, tend to register only those they think will perform well so that they register 99 per cent pass in Division One!

Our education system needs to recognise student’s individual capabilities and nurture individual talents rather than treat all students as one uniform species that can move at the same pace in the same direction. If this were the case, then Kamwaka, would not have been judged only on her performance in school exams, rather her individual strength of character or talent would have been considered and she would have been helped to develop and grow in her unique direction. The she would not have felt so frustrated to end her young and promising life.

Indeed, we cannot run away from the pressure of academic excellence and competition because this is a factor of life. However, even when we push our children to excel, our education system should provide safety valves so it does not come off as a do-or-die matter and parents and teachers have a great responsibility to play here.
Rest in peace, little Kamwaka.