Way back while studying for my ‘A’ levels, I briefly joined a vacation class where a tutor used some dramatic methods to influence his students. He used to say repeatedly that there was no stupid student, just lazy and indolent ones. He said that unless a child was born with mental handicaps, there was no conceivable reason why that child should not be the best in class … and he put his money where his mouth was.

His strategy was to dramatically reward and celebrate students that passed his class tests while totally ignoring the ones that failed.  So, after each test which was twice every week, he would call out the names of the students who scored over 85% and tell us to sit majestically on our seats. He had some colourful sashes with GOOD STUDENT written on them and he would decorate each of us with one and the overall best scorer would wear a slightly different sash with TOP STUDENT stylishly written on it. Being the top student came with some benefits; recognition among all the students attending the vacation classes, extra snacks and exemption from any form of chore in the school for that period. No need to say that it was a highly coveted sash.

The rest of the class, the ones that scored below the desired mark would file out to the front of the classroom and stand watching us as we ate our snacks and dazzled in our sashes. The tutor never yelled at them nor punished them, but he would leave them standing while he would decorate us and shower praises on us. He would tell us the importance of putting in a little more effort while studying; he would paint a picture of a great future and counsel us about personal comportment that should go with our successful future.

After they had stood for a while, he would look pitifully at the low scoring students and ask them to go back to their seats. He always made them look as if they were lazy and lacking in ambition. He made it look as if they could have been the ones sitting down if only they’d made a little effort. No need to say that no student wanted to stand in front of the class in that manner.

Initially, I didn’t fully grasp the common sense behind the tutor’s words and action; I thought he was just being intolerant. As a boy growing up, I was taught to be compassionate to the less privileged and for me, that stretched to include those who were less fortunate in exam success. I felt the tutor had it all wrong. I had classmates in my school that studied more than I did; they spent most nights prior to examinations or tests, with their feet soaked in basins filled with cold water in order to stay awake and read. Some people chewed coffee granules as though they were eating peanuts, while they pored over textbooks and notes. I respected their commitment, admired it even. So it did not quite sit down well with me to think of students like those bookworms as lazy and incompetent.

However, as the vacation progressed, I got a better understanding. There was a massive transformation of the students in the class. More and more students scored 85% and above with each successive test. Infact, one week, only one student scored below 85% and he missed it by a tiny margin. The tutor celebrated the entire class including the last boy; he didn’t wear a sash but he ate the snacks with us. Before the end of the vacation, the Top Student sash was worn by at least 5 students per time and the class was more lively and competitive.  Without using a cane, without any form of punishment, merely by celebrating accomplishments, the tutor succeeded in making the students move past the grip of failure into sustained success. I still see a few of those classmates and as the tutor had predicted, many of us made strides in our fields and are still doing quite well.

I have realised that indeed the full value weight of success if properly envisioned and desired can catapult someone from failure to success, deficit to profit and from a non-entity to a VIP. Failure as they say is an event, an occurrence, not an identity. Failure can be changed to success, you just have to find what success means to you and know whether you want it badly enough to work extra hard for it.

I always engage that tutor’s style in my companies. I celebrate departments that are consistent in producing desired results and I celebrate the most improved staff. I believe that recognising something good and celebrating it makes it more desirable and therefore makes the person involved to work hard to maintain and even surpass that mark.

Do you imagine what it took Thomas Edison to keep going despite repeated failures as he struggled to invent the light bulb? As each method failed, he could have been greatly discouraged. He could easily have abandoned the project. But I believe that there was a vision in his mind of what his success would be like. He must have thought of what humanity would benefit from his invention and how satisfying it would be to be instrumental to the discovery of something so epic and life enhancing. That is what must have encouraged him to push further.

My encouragement to every reader is to enlarge the picture of your desired success in your mind; make it bold and colourful so that it outshines the doubts and fears of failure. Strive towards that achievement by equipping yourself with the needed information and skills. If you don’t despair, if you don’t allow the circumstances and obstacles in your environment to strangle you, you will definitely strike gold.

Let’s rub minds again next publication when I look at ways to use failure as a springboard for success.


Fatherhood with Ibe


When my older kids were still very young, I remember that the summer holidays was something we planned for months in advance. We always tried to include a few weeks of vacation in another country, sometimes with a summer camp thrown in for good measure. The children loved to travel and would later have favourite cities and sights they loved to re-visit. However, making this happen for them involved a lot of joggling for my wife and I because at that particular period, our careers were quite demanding and taking a few weeks off at a stretch at summer time was almost impossible. We managed somehow, mostly by using the ‘shift style’ where one parent would travel out with the kids and the other parent would come over later to take over the supervision and care.

It was good. There were also quite a few holiday programmes organised by their schools then that provided great avenues for engagement and learning.

I saw a casual comment online about how long vacation periods force parents to appreciate the efforts of teachers and it took me down memory lane. How I spent my vacations as a kid was quite different from how my children did. In those days, the highlight of a holiday period could be a lone trip to an event or a visit to your favourite aunt’s house where you would be pampered a little. Other than that, it was to accompany my father for a visit to the village or play football for longer hours in the neighbourhood. Basic holiday pattern was hooking up with old friends in your environment and exchanging stories about schools. It was vastly different for my children. They wanted to do things other than study or hang out with the same buddies they had been with all session. You could hear my first daughter say with a hint of irritation that she didn’t want to travel to countries A, B or C and her reason would be that the place ‘is boring’ or she’d been there many times. I used to laugh at her because what she took for granted was totally unimaginable to me at her age.

After reading that comment, I began to wonder how parents now engage their kids during these long holiday periods. With the constantly escalating cost of trips abroad and the hassle of getting visas, is the option of vacation abroad still easy for families? What are parents doing to make these vacations memorable for children? Are excursions still an option now especially as children’s safety in schools and environs have been compromised a few times?

I got verbal feedback from two ladies and a gentleman who shared their experiences as parents. I hope you will pick up a few ideas and if you have some unique experiences, please share with me.

Banji (38 years old, male)

I am a banker and that in itself is talking late hours and fully booked weekdays. I look forward to the long vacation mostly because it is a sort of breather for me from the three-monthly cycle of school fees. My wife runs her own business so I like to think that it is her own responsibility to think of entertaining and engaging the children during the holidays. I try to utilise my Sundays by taking the family to restaurants, movie theatres, games parks and anywhere of their choice within reasonable distance. The children love it, they look out for the next place to visit and talk excitably about the places to their friends.

I have two children, both boys, aged seven and nine.

Ifunanya (42 years old, female)

I have three teenagers and finding a common thing that pleases all of them is kind of rare and this is even more pronounced during long vacations. My boys are into IT so we mostly enrol them into a coding camp. With this, they pretty much don’t care about any other thing. They will stay at home after their classes and practise their coding. We have done this for three years straight and I guarantee that it works. My daughter is 15 years old and a different matter. She does not like the things her brothers like, down to food. Fortunately, I recently discovered a drama club that organises classes during the long vacation. My daughter was happy to join up and is currently enjoying the experience; in fact, she’s almost like an ambassador because she has invited many other children to join the programme. When the children are not involved in these programmes, they are usually busy with assignments and practicals.

I have discovered that there are many such activities and programmes that are organised to help children enjoy their vacation while they remain busy and supervised. Some are purely academic while several are a mixture of vocation and arts. Let parents choose the programmes that align with their children’s interests. There are programmes for kids interested in sports. I take my sons for tennis lessons twice a week in the evenings. They enjoy it too. My sister takes her eight years old sons to a summer football academy. The kids kick ball to their hearts content and they are beginning to learn some good techniques.

Parents should check their budget and find something great for the kids in their environment.

Simone (40 years old, female)

For over 10 years, our routine has been watertight; a week after schools close for the long vacation, I send my children off to the USA to join my sister and her family for the vacation. She takes direct charge of their activities and I get to enjoy a lazy period. All the same, I am aware that schools, churches and other religious and philanthropic bodies try to organise activities to engage children here in Nigeria. Most of them are also very safety-conscious. Rather than leaving the children all day with their nannies or housekeepers, it is better to enrol them into one of these programmes.

No matter what programme or plan you made for the vacation, invest your time too. Take up activities that you do together with the children. Some kids might resist it because they would rather get lost in their phones but remain persistent. Years later, some of those activities would form the most unique memories they have of you as parents.

So long!