Secrets of Academic Success: Passion
Chinua Achebe started school at St Philips Central School, Apkakaogwe Ogidi in 1936. She was asked to move to the religious class where the pupils sang and sometimes danced the catechism, sang English rhymes and generally entertained. After spending a week in religion class, his teacher Rev. Nelson Ezekwesili sent him to the junior high school because the boy showed signs of intelligence. Achebe became the best English reader and during dictation lessons, he usually got excellent grades. He had the best handwriting in the class and performed well in recitations, especially when he recited a poem or essay on stage. In these years, his academic work in elementary school was consistently excellent.
At the end of 1942, Chinua Achebe proceeded to Nekede Central School because her older brother, John, took Chinua to live with him in Nekede, Owerri. Before his departure, the headmaster of St Phillips Central School opposed Achebe’s departure from his school. He objected because Achebe was the type of student who made him proud of the school.
In 1944 Achebe was admitted to Government College, Umuahia. Some 3,000 boys used to apply for the 30 available places. And all the candidates took the entrance exam at centers in Nigeria and western Cameroon. Only the best candidates are accepted.
It wasn’t long before William Simpson, the school’s principal, singled out Chinua Achebe as one of the most promising students. Achebe was promoted from Class One to Class Two in his first year at Government College, Umuahia. That same year he was awarded a scholarship for his knowledge and character. Achebe wrote the best English in his class and was the editor of the school magazine. He won a poetry prize because his brilliant academic performance was unthinkable. The final exam taken by Achebe’s class at Government College became the pinnacle of his distinguished high school career. His results were impressive. ‘A’s’ in History, Physics/Chemistry, Biology, Geography, Biblical Knowledge and Mathematics; high ‘Cs’ in English language and English literature.
Achebe wrote an exam to enter the new University College, Ibadan. In those days, fashion courses in college were engineering and medicine and John Achebe, his tutor and official patron, made the decision for Chinua to study medicine. Achebe accepted his older brother’s decision and was admitted as one of the recipients of a major scholarship to study medicine.
Achebe’s freshman academic work in college was not commendable. He couldn’t handle the rigorous demands of the medical department. The workload was intense, and in that first year it became clear to him that the grueling work in physics and ultimately medicine required a different interest than the one he had brought from high school. For the first time in his life, Achebe passed without performing very well. It became very obvious that he would never do well as a medical student. At this point, he lost interest in science and medicine.
Achebe now made a decisive decision for the first time regarding his career and academic interest. He went to the Dean of Science towards the end of that first year and informed him of his intention to change his course of study. His interest was now in the arts. Fortunately, he was accepted into the Faculty of Arts. Unfortunately, he lost his scholarship, as the basis on which he had awarded it to him no longer existed. Losing his scholarship was a huge setback, but he was determined to pursue his passion.
Achebe became a member of the Faculty of Arts and selected English, Geography, and History as his subjects. Thus, his studies at University College, Ibadan began in earnest at the Faculty of Arts. Achebe soon became one of the best on his faculty.
He got alphas in most of his subjects. By 1950, Chinua Achebe was established enough as a student at the Faculty of Arts to express himself as a writer. He began to write many essays and short stories including; ‘Polar Student Graduate’, ‘In A Village Church’, ‘The Old Order In Conflict With New Year’, ‘Mr. Okafor Versus Arts Students’, ‘Dead Man’s Path’, etc. It was in this faculty that some of the seeds of creative and critical work at Chinua Achebe were planted.
His book ‘Things Fall Apart’, published on June 17, 1958, became one of the most important books in African literature. Selling over 8 million copies worldwide, it was translated into 50 languages, making Achebe the most translated African writer of all time.
Affectionately called the “grandfather of Nigerian literature,” Achebe has received more than 30 honorary degrees from universities in England, Scotland, Canada, South Africa, Nigeria, and the United States, including Dartmouth College, Harvard, and Brown University.
Put a lizard in a river, it will fight to survive. A fish will not survive long on land. The Creator of all things has designed each man for a particular discipline. In other words, we were created to solve a specific problem or to satisfy a particular need. The problem you are programmed to solve is not the problem I am designed to solve because God has put in us everything we need to solve our assigned problems. Therefore, you cannot solve my own problem and I cannot solve yours. Our brains are designed to adapt to the problem we are meant to solve. Bill Gate is known for software, Michael Faraday for electricity, the Wright brothers for the airplane, Henry Ford for motorized vehicles, Tiger Wood for golf, Chinua Achebe for writing, etc.
Therefore, not everyone should be a doctor, lawyer or engineer because these are not the only problems we have on earth. It is not reasonable to choose to become a lawyer because your father or uncle is successful in the legal field, or because you like the legal profession. A father told his son that he should be a lawyer because the former had spent a fortune paying lawyers for a bunch of court cases he had.
Nobody should force you to study any course that does not interest you. People don’t follow their passion because they want to look for name and money. That’s why there are quack construction engineers, killing thousands every year because their buildings aren’t solid. We have doctors who carelessly kill their patients because they are not called to the medical profession. We see lawyers who send innocent clients to prison because their brains are not adapted to discipline. Your wealth and your fame are in your purpose.
I hear some student say: “I am studying a professional course”. We have been disappointed that there are specific courses that are professional. There is no professional course or main course anywhere. The day you become very skilled in your area you have become a professional and you have become a professional field. Every field is professional. Anything you are a master at is your profession; therefore, any occupation can be a professional field.
That’s why we have professional footballers. Soccer is a professional career. Therefore, shoemaking is a professional course, a horticulturist is a professional, and sports is a professional field. You don’t have to be a doctor, engineer or lawyer to be a professional; every field is professional.
The day you know your purpose or area of interest is the day your study begins in earnest, that is the day you become a student. Until you have passion for a course, not ambition, you will never succeed. No one should force you to study any course that doesn’t interest you. Pursue your passion and own your vision.
Neglect your passion and suffer a malfunction. If you locate your area of interest, you will become a master overnight. Allowing someone else to choose a field for you is suicidal; You can seek the advice of professionals. Learning becomes cheap and interesting when you are in your place of interest. Ben Carson said, “If we recognize our talents and use them appropriately, and choose a field that uses those talents, we will rise to the top of our field.”
How can I know my area of interest?
Ask God: He is the producer who knows the functions and capabilities of His product.
Wide reading: There are some fields or courses of study that you do not know. Read biographies, autobiographies, professional journals, in fact, read any good book or publication.
Know your passion: There is something you do with joy, without stress and without payment.
Seek the advice of a professional or experienced person.
Be original: Do not wish to be like anyone else. You are unique; there can never be another you. You can have a mentor in your field when you have located the field but be yourself.
Resist all pressure from any angle to force yourself into any area that doesn’t interest you, because only you will suffer or regret later.
Take all school subjects seriously. You may not know the area you are passionate about.
Achebe would have failed as a doctor.