During the long holiday that was punctuated with Christmas, Idd and New Year’s Day I had a lot of time to myself. I used some of this time to visit my former University.
I had a very interesting and nostalgic walk around the great East African University that is Makerere. Memories of my university days came alive as I used the same paths that I had walked some years back.
The only frustrating thing though was that I could hardly recognise any of the students since I had left the place a while ago like most of my contemporaries.
I could not leave the huge university campus without passing by my faculty. I therefore went to the Institute of Adult and Continuing Education.
It felt so nice peeping in the lecture rooms to see the person sitting in ‘my’ place. I met a few of my lecturers who were also happy to see me after a long time.
I also took time to read the numerous notices that had been pasted on the notice board. It was at this point that I read a notice that got my eyes welling with tears.
It was a newspaper cutting of a 68yr old man who had just acquired his bachelor’s degree. It was an emotional reading for me because I knew the man personally.
The old gentleman had joined Makerere for a Bachelor of Adult and Community Education at a time when I was in my final year.
This gentleman who we common referred to as Mzee Isabirye had children who were graduates. He was also employed before but decided to return to school to acquire a university qualification at the advanced age of 68.
I read that during the graduation ceremony he received a ground shaking applause from the fellow graduates simply because he was the oldest of them all.
He was also older that all his lecturers. None of these odd statistics kept him away from class though. After four years, he had achieved what many at his age can not dare do.
This man’s resilience is very encouraging. It is testimony that indeed, it is never too late to learn. And forget that adage of not teaching an old dog new tricks.
People are not animals and can indeed continue to learn as Mzee Isabirye proved. In my teaching career, I have seen students dropping out of school and failing to return even when the conditions that forced them out have ceased to exist.
But at the same time I have also seen students who are way older than their classmates struggling to make an effort to learn.
Many people whose education was interrupted by the 1994 war and genocide have returned to school and gone ahead to get university qualifications.
Kigali is abound with private candidates who are often of advanced age trying their best to pass their A levels so as to join the university.
The world we are living today favours the educated and is tough for the illiterates. It is against this background that anyone lacking an education should gather the courage and determination to return to school.
And this is not limited to the formal education set up only. One can return to school for basic adult education classes where he is taught basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills.
These adult literacy classes can also be in form of basic English or French which are official languages of Rwanda. Teachers must be prepared to assist the older learners to feel at ease while in an education setting.
Fellow classmates should not mock the older fellows as this may make them insecure. If someone has taken the trouble to give education a second or late chance then it is only fair if we teacher or fellow learners help him to achieve his goal. Its never too late.