About 26years ago……after my third term exam in JSS 1 (7th grade) and it was time to collect our report…..

For those of us in JSS 1 (Junior Secondary School 1), this was the time to know our cumulative performance for the first year in Secondary School (high school).

As the usual practice, end of session report was always marked, graded, collated and given to students few days after the 3rd term examination.

Our results are always presented in form of a ‘dossier’- which was the only form of communicating student’s result back then (unlike now when you can comfortably download result from the comfort of your home). The implication of dossier was that you need to be physically present to collect it and if you were unavoidably absent, a known relative can receive the result on your behalf, but not before appending his/her signature on a white paper provided by the class teacher, and clearly stating ‘Original copy received by me’ in bold letters with appropriate date.

Report-collection time used to be the most dreaded period in every student’s life. Some even termed it ‘the judgement day’.

Why it’s called the judgement day.

End of session report is a make or mar period in every student journey.

Before the review of Academic grading System for Primary & Secondary schools in Nigeria, 3rd semester results used to have three possible outcomes.

There was always a corresponding recommendation accompanying every result based on student’s performance. Every student will have 1 of these unsolicited advice… Promote to the next class or Repeat the class or Advise to withdraw.

1. Promote to the next class– My interpretations. You have performed beyond average and you are therefore qualified for the next class. OR

2. Repeat the class– My interpretations… your performance is poor and it falls below the average requirement for the next class. You are therefore given a second-chance to repeat the class and try again for a whole year. OR

3. Advise to withdraw- My interpretations…your performance is ‘beyond’ poor that we cannot savage the situation. You are therefore urged to drop out of school or give up. (This was usually a recommendation given to students who have spent more than 2 years in the same grade/class).

Thankfully, points 2 & 3 are no more in practice in Nigeria! Before this, a lot of promising minds have been damaged by the same system that swore to provide the enabling environment to help each child discover his/her uniqueness and potentials in life.

Back to my story…

The ‘judgement day’ was not only feared by students, it was also a ‘reality check’ day for parents- who take pride in seeing the academic performance of their wards/children for the year. Let’s just say, every parent or guardian secretly want to evaluate their ROI- (Return-on-Investment), and as a child, you dare not come home with a ‘less than average’ result.

Moreover, the education system has been structured in such a way that students’ performances will not only be graded based on percentages, but each student will be assigned a position or rank in comparison with his peer group or class mates.

In those days, parents pay little or no attention to your percentage score, they are only interested in knowing your position or ‘rank’ among your peers.

So, on this crucial ‘judgement’ day, I wasn’t physically present for my report card. However, one of my sisters (who happened to be a Senior in the same school) was appointed by my parents to collect it on my behalf.

I remembered that I was quite nervous (as expected) and I stayed glued to the door awaiting her arrival. Fortunately, or unfortunately, it was not the time of mobile phones or social media- there was no way I could communicate with my sister until she gets back home.

After what seemed like an eternity, my sister came back with my report card (the dossier). Luckily, my parents were not at home and that was a great relief.

As soon as she entered, I looked into her eyes and tried so hard to read her countenance, looking for a clue. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t place her mood.

She sat down with me and started saying…

‘I know this wasn’t what you were expecting, you have worked so hard and you won’t be happy to receive this type of result’

She told me how she felt so bad that I had this result, how she was expecting a better performance, how she thought there must be an explanation for this disappointing output and she went on and on and on…

I was scared. I couldn’t summon up the courage to ask. I was just muttering under my breath,

Please, just tell me the result already.

She handed the result to me, I flipped through the pages and my heart sank when I saw 1 or 2 red inks (red ink on report sheet was an indication that you didn’t score up to the required mark in a particular subject).

I looked further down and saw my position clearly written…



Lo and behold I came ‘3rd’ out of over 50 students!

3rd Position?!!!!!

I checked the result again and I still couldn’t believe my eyes. I was surprised, I was shocked and got teary-eyed. It was just a lot of emotions at the same time.

I looked at my sister and couldn’t understand her initial consolation speech.

Was she joking? Was she trying to pull my legs?

She now went further to say that she was so sure that I was expecting a ‘1st’ position and this result would have been devastating.

I looked at her and chuckled.

Which 1st position? who? Me that I’m so happy that I got the 3rd position?. This result was the best thing that could ever happen to me. This was a huge surprise.

At this point, my other siblings joined in on the conversation and they all shared the same opinion about me. I wondered what they all saw that I didn’t see.

My Background

This was my first year in Secondary school, not just that, I was coming from a Government Primary School and being in the same class with people from private ‘rich kids’ school was not only intimidating but scary.

I felt unworthy to compete with their level of exposure, their good command of grammar, their composure, eloquence, finesse and more. There was just no way to keep up!

How could I contend with girls that could speak the Queen’s English better than I am. Students that in my opinion ‘came better prepared than I am for Secondary School’. I felt unworthy to compete. I had a low self-esteem. I struggled and almost gave up at some point.

This position was, therefore, such a big deal to me. A position I totally wasn’t expecting. How would I have been ranked 3rd among girls from the best primary schools in the country?

I kept on staring at the dossier as if it was an Olympic Gold Medal. I was that happy….

However, my sister didn’t really understand my excitement. Though she was happy that I was happy but she was shocked that I would be that happy.

She kept on saying that she knew I have the capacity to do more, even at that young age…

That fateful day marked the beginning of my journey to self-discovery. I realized, I have been functioning below my capacity and that I have a potential that can be fully maximized.

Though all have not been smooth sailing ever since, there have been times of little failure here and a major win there, yet I have built my self-confidence over the years. Every experience has shaped me into who I am today.

The Moral

My story is not about the 1st or 3rd position. It’s about the fact that someone could look through me and see potentials I greatly downplayed.

Here people rooting for me, someone that knew I could compete with everyone and anyone. My entire family clearly saw what I didn’t see in myself. They believed in me!

The worst thing you can do to yourself is to stop believing in your potential or ability to be all you can be!

Don’t feel threatened or scared to express your skills and potentials. Don’t ever lose your self-esteem.

Don’t allow the feeling of unworthiness to hold you back from being who you are. You are made for more.

Discover your uniqueness and live up to it.

Even if you have failed or felt disappointed at one time or the other, you can still get back up and be all you can be!

Believe in your ability!

Don’t be a coward!

Build your courage and confidence!

You have what it takes.

Look critically and you will be amazed at the potentials that lie within.

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