Reality check: Awards vs Success.

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This morning I received a message on my WhatsApp that got me thinking. It was a quotation from Prof. Abletor Sedofia of the University of Ghana.

“Academic excellence is overrated! I said it. Being top of your class does not necessarily guarantee that you will be at the top of life. You could graduate as the best student in Finance but it doesn’t mean you will make more money than everybody else.” He says.

It took me back to the different levels of learning and the most recent, the university graduation. There were different awards, academic and non-academic. Moments of glory that made hearts proud of associating with the crème of the academic crop. And the creativity award goes to… Drum rolls… yours truly.

All through my different academic encounters, I have been an exceptional student. A top performer, you know the kind that gets depressed with a C grade- grades that dirty my transcript. That has been my reality.

I have come to the realization that education and academic excellence is good, but one should at the same time be an all rounded person.

Most of my classmates who were not as ‘serious’ in class are now making it big in the marketplace. Some own companies that employ graduates. This is not to discourage academic excellence or to encourage sluggishness when it comes to books.

Prof. Sedofia’s advice,

“School rewards people for their memory.
Life rewards people for their imagination.
School rewards caution, life rewards daring.
School hails those who live by the rules. Life exalts those who break the rules and set new ones. So do I mean people shouldn’t study hard in school?
Oh, no, you should. But don’t sacrifice every other thing on the altar of First Class.”

This coming from a university don is advice that everyone especially in our education system needs. Our system churns out people who trans-night cramming to Ace an exam. Ask what they learnt in class a few days from the exam and you would be amazed at how quickly information evaporates.

Someone even joked that there are different categories of students. We can joke about it and come up with several theories but we still have to face reality. Sticking to book knowledge limits our creativity. Though a cliché phrase, please allow me to use it, we need to throw the box rather than think out of the box. This seems to be the secret that my classmates grasped.

Finally, Prof. Sedofia wraps up the nugget of wisdom by saying, “Think less of becoming an excellent student but think more of becoming an excellent person. Make the world your classroom!”


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