What Happened When I Repeated Class
When I went back home in 2008 after messing up at JKUAT where I was pursuing a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering, my family prevailed on me to return back to the university to continue with the course. I yielded to this pleas. So when the university re-opened in May 2009, I reported back to repeat my second year that I had failed to finish the previous year. And this was my first time in my life to repeat a class ever since I started schooling in 1993.
I regularly felt lonely when I reported back to JKUAT in 2009 because I was surrounded by new faces. And I missed my former classmates who had moved on to third-year. It made me regret why I had messed up the previous year which led me to repeat my second year.
Before messing up in 2008, I used to be an active and motivated student. I loved contributing in class discussions and chatting with some of my classmates. But when I returned to JKUAT in 2009, I lost my vitality. I am sure the feelings of loneliness and regret, plus the medication I was taking, played part in my loss of vitality.
As a repeating student, I found myself in the same class with a guy called Greg. He was a bit talkative and funny. Seeing him in that nature reminded me of how I was before I went astray the previous year because, as I have told you, I used to love taking part in class discussions and chatting with some of my classmates.
So demotivated was me when I repeated my second year in JKUAT that I sometimes used to doze in class. A certain lecturer who taught us Material Science was fond of asking me to wake up during class. And when we did our first CAT in the subject in which I got a mediocre score of 16 out of 40, the lecturer wrote "Wake Up!" next to where he had written the score.
Because of my lack of motivation and probably also because of the medication I was taking, I found it hard to understand and absorb the concepts we were learning in engineering. Somehow, I managed to get by in classes by copying assignments and cheating during some continuous assessment tests (CATs).
Well, during my second year in 2008 when I was still an active and motivated student, I had come to love Abraham Lincoln's letter to his son's teacher in which he said in school, it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat. But I found it difficult to follow that Lincoln's advice when I repeated my second year in 2009. I just assumed a don't-care attitude by copying assignments and cheating during some of the CATs.
When exams neared in that semester in 2009, it suddenly dawned on me that I would fail them badly. And because students at JKUAT were closely monitored during exams by strict invigilators, I saw the only way out was to seek help from the Dean of Students. So a few days before the exams commenced, I approached the Dean, an understanding gentleman called Dr. Mbogo, and informed him I was having suicidal thoughts.
To tell you the truth, I was an unhappy young man but I never at any one time contemplated suicide. I just told Dr. Mbogo I was having suicidal thoughts as a way of seeking sympathy. And the trick worked because I was referred to JKUAT hospital where the psychiatrist in charge had me admitted in the hospital for several weeks thus making me miss the exams I dreaded.
As I have told you, I was a very demotivated student when I repeated my second year at JKUAT in 2009. I felt lonely in my new class, missed my former classmates who had moved on third year and found it difficult to understand and absorb engineering concepts.
What I have found ironical is that even in that pitiable state I was in, some of my new classmates took notice of me and became good friends of mine. Among them were Patrick Weru, Jeremiah Nzioka and Francis Mwangi. They sometime used to check on me when I was late for class. And they visited me when I was admitted at JKUAT hospital after I presented myself to the Dean as a suicidal young man. I have always wondered what good the new classmates found in me that merited me to be their source of concern but I appreciated it nonetheless.
After I was discharged from JKUAT hospital, I went back home where I started thinking of what else to do with my life now that I had permanently dropped out of JKUAT. But that is a story for another day. Adieu!
RECOMMENDATION: If you have enjoyed this story of mine on what happened when I repeated class at JKUAT, you might also enjoy another one I wrote sometimes back on "What Freedom Entails". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.
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What I Didn't Understand
A few years ago, there was a time I loved visiting my neighbour Mama Kuria, an extremely likeable lady who loves the Lord. Whenever I felt excited in the evening, I would dash to her home where she always gave me something to drink or eat.
One evening, I found Mama Kuria had another visitor by the name Mrs. Dismas, an attractive lady I hadn't met before but who knew my family. As Mama Kuria went about her business in the house, I fell into a conversation with Mrs. Dismas during which she told me someone in my family had been at Starehe Boys' Centre. And when she asked me who, I told her it was me and my immediate elder brother Paddy.
"Did you meet [Dr.] Griffin?" she asked as soon as she learnt I was once a Starehe boy.
"Yes!" I replied, "He died in 2005 when I was in Fourth Form."
Then we proceeded to talk about my university education. Being the honest young man that I am, I informed her that I dropped out of JKUAT where I had been called to pursue a BSc. degree in Electronics & Computer Engineering.
As soon as I informed her that I dropped out of JKUAT, she interjected, "Some youngsters when they join university, they get so many ideas that make them lose focus."
"I think that's what happened to me at JKUAT," I replied thoughtfully.
Actually, that's what happened to me when I matriculated at JKUAT in May 2007. I was a very ambitious young man back then. Just before joining the university, I had tried to start a company which didn't materialize after the prominent people I approached for capital failed to buy into the idea. I had also tried looking for jobs I could be doing part-time during my stint at JKUAT. (I succeeded in getting a piano-teaching job which I did over the weekend during my first-semester in the university).
And when I joined JKUAT, I started re-applying to top American colleges, a rigorous process that entails filling out forms, writing essays, getting recommendation letters and sitting for the SAT exams. A very ambitious young man I was.
That kind of ambition made me lose focus in my university studies. Little wonder that I scored mediocre grades in my first semester exams and then failed a subject called Material Science in my second semester.
But it was not only my lack of focus that made me drop out of JKUAT in 2009 but also my inability to understand the course. Let me tell you about some of the concepts I didn't understand in the course.
First is the structure of the atom. In high school, we were taught a simplified pattern of the atom which I found easy to understand and relate to whatever else we were learning in Chemistry. But at JKUAT, we were taught a structure of the atom that turned out to be Greek to me. You can call me stupid if you like but I am telling you the truth.
Then there is this number called 'e' in engineering whose value is approximately 2.71828. That number is extensively used in the course. I tried to understand where it came from and why it is so important in engineering but the books I read didn't quench my curiosity. If only I had known the power of the internet back then! But then, I didn't own a laptop with which I could have reliable internet access.
And then there are these electrical circuit components called transistors. It is said that their invention revolutionized the hi-tech industry by making electronics gadgets smaller. Without transistors, computers would still be as big as university dorm rooms. Now, I tried to understand how transistors work and why they are so important. I even read a layman's book in the university library that explained the logic behind transistors by comparing electric current flowing through them with water flowing in pipes but I still couldn't get it.
Finally, there is the Einstein's Theory of Special Relativity. It is said that theory helped scientists to better understand the sub-atomic world. But for me, I just couldn't comprehend the theory. And when I turned to books in the university library, there seemed to be a conspiracy among the books' authors to prevent me from understanding the theory because they explained it using mathematical formulas I hadn't yet learnt.
That inability to understand engineering, coupled with my lack of focus by trying to accomplish other stuff, is what led me to drop out of JKUAT in 2009. And to tell you the truth, I don't regret having dropped out because I see no pride in having crammed my way through the course and end up being a mediocre Electronics & Computer Engineer.
From those experiences, I would advise youngsters about to join university to choose a course they have a natural aptitude for, and then focus on the course like a laser beam cutting through metal. Don't try to juggle many activities like I did when I was at JKUAT. That's all I am saying.
RECOMMENDATION: If you've enjoyed this story of mine on what I didn't understand in engineering, you might also enjoy another story I wrote sometimes back on "True Learning". Just click on that link in blue to dive straight into the story.