I wonder how many this year, have been to the Post Office in Kigali. I am pretty sure the numbers are shocking or worse still non existent.
Some people don’t even know where the main post office is located since the old one that was opposite Ecobank’s main branch was demolished to make way for a new building.
For those who need to know, it is now located at Kacyiru, adjacent to Top Tower Hotel. When I visited the post office sometime in November—I was only there to send a success card to my niece who was going to sit her final exams—I must admit I was really taken aback by the sheer absence of life at this place.
Although it offers Western Union services, internet services and several postal facilities, I found only two people being attended to. The silence I encountered at the place could be likened to visiting a cemetery. That is when it became quite clear to me that the days of the post office are surely behind us. The emergence of mobile phones and e-mail has clearly dealt the post office a lasting death blow.
However, we must not look at the decline of the post office only at face value. Like a big tree that has been cut in the middle of the forest, the post office is taking down with it more than we ever imagined. The fact that I was lucky enough to see the post office during its better days as a central part of our lives, I am able to see how its fall has impacted on education.
The biggest problem is the fact that people and students, in particular, no longer write letters to each other or to their parents. These days, students simply call (more often beeping) their parents or friends when the need for communication arises.
I think I started writing letters when I was in my primary two. My mother even gave me stamps and envelopes to take to school at the beginning of each term. Later on in secondary school, during my adolescent years, I wrote several letters to female friends in other schools. Those were the days when words like aerogramme were still part of modern vocabulary.
Apart from keeping relationships and communicating to important people, letter writing was a very important way of improving ones writing skills. For instance I had to make sure that I could convince my mother to come and visit me at school without sounding like a spoilt child.
On the part of females, one was compelled to come up with the most fascinating vocabulary to get a girl’s attention. You knew for a fact that the girl would show your letter to her friends and so you had to make sure that it carried no embarrassing details or lousy grammar.
More importantly, the handwriting had to be very legible if you were to stand a chance of winning over her heart. Those days are definitely nostalgia jerking for some of us. On the flip side, one had to be able to read and understand what their parents or girlfriends wrote back.
A student may not have loved English language lessons back then especially when it was composition writing time, but while writing a letter to a father, mother or girlfriends, all stops were pulled out so as to make an impression.
Now that letter writing has been relegated to only a topic in class, students are missing out on something that offered many of us the necessary language practice that SMS, emails or phone calls simply do not provide.
These new developments are seriously killing grammar practice and taking abbreviation or short hand to undesirable levels. Reading and writing skills have become rarer as the role of the post office declines. It is nothing but a pity.