Wednesday January 29 2014

Maybe the ‘useless’ schoolwork was not so useless after all


By Grace Kenganzi

There are times when the things we learnt in school seem so useless that we cannot help lamenting the time we “wasted” learning them. Kinematics is always the first on my list when this comes up. I think of that extra time I took to make sense of John travelling from point A to point B in half the time James did at speed X or was it velocity … dizzying, right? And think of the number of pages I would have read from whatever novel I had at the time.

Fast forward to the university and think of the research you carried out in order to write a good dissertation and graduate. That is if you are not among the people who raided the faculty book bank for past dissertations, and then tweaked them to make them your own. Was it relevant?

That is the question I kept asking myself until recently. See, my university research was on the future of free-to-air TV stations in the face of pay television. Half way through the research, I got a little frustrated when I couldn’t get as much information as I wanted.

Truthfully, I had picked the topic because I wanted all the hours I spend watching TV (and they are many) to come to something. But I had one of those supervisors you can’t give half-baked information because you wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye so I carried on.

The things I learnt
As I pored through books, I came across things like digital migration and specialised TV stations and how UBC, which was my free-to-air case study, was already venturing into that direction. That was 2010, when digital migration still seemed like something out of a futuristic movie. I was having fun with my topic at this point.
If memory serves me right, I concluded my research with something about free-to-air stations still being in the safe zone since only one pay TV service –DSTV (my Pay TV case study) — was going strong at the time. The other Pay TV service at the time, GTV, had just closed shop.

However, I pointed out that this could be short-lived if other countries were anything to go by. I handed in the dissertation, graduated and that was it.

Fast forward to today where you are wondering why I’m talking about my dissertation. I might not be applying my dissertation to the work I’m currently doing but at least my eyes don’t glaze over when digital migration is being discussed.

Instead, I nod along when something that I came across during my research is mentioned. Does it increase my bank balance? No. But at least I can keep up with this particular topic.

Just like whoever really loved Kinematics smiles when they understand how a train or person gets from one place to another in a lesser duration than expected (I’m assuming that’s how they apply it), there are things I learnt in school that make me smile even when they seemed so useless at the time. And smiling will keep me younger (at heart).