Beyond quotes, there’s much to learn from authors

Monday, December 9th, 2019 00:00 | By
Education Principal secretary Belio Kipsang. PHOTO/Courtesy

The right quote can inspire people to change their ways—Zig Ziglar.

A while back, Kisii High School had lined up its paths with engravings of pithy statements or expressions.

Paths leading to classrooms, administration blocks and dormitories bear similar engravings, each having a statement touching on aspects of human life.

The statements are meant to inspire, encourage and lift up the spirits of readers.

I have visited many other schools since, especially when I accompanied Education Principal secretary Belio Kipsang to monitor the just-concluded KCSE exams.

Most of the schools have engravings of such statements dotting pathways within their compounds. All statements stress a value, a trait, a perspective.

The schools have done an educational service of immeasurable value to students.

A statement such as “education is the passport to the future; for tomorrow belongs to those who prepare for it today,” can, if well understood, change the life of a child still groping in the dark, torn between two appeals—the appeal for education and siren songs. Siren songs is used an appeal of something that is alluring but also potentially harmful or dangerous.

For those who have no knowledge of siren songs in Greek mythology, best illustrated in Homer’s epic The Odyssey,  sirens were  the half bird, half woman creatures who lured passing sailors to their death with an irresistible song.

The inspiring statements acts as a buffer, as a reality check to the students against the allurements of sirens or distractions such as peer pressure, drugs and substance abuse, dysfunctional family or poor social economic backgrounds.

I commend the school administrations that discerned the educational or inspirational value of such statements and brought them to the attention of students through engravings.

However, the trouble I have with the statements in all the schools I have visited during educational functions is that they are not attributed to anybody. They are left hanging.

These statements or expressions are actually quotations. They are utterances of great people—statesmen and stateswomen and philosophers. The statements were first uttered either in a speech or written in a book.

The schools could help the students if they indicated who was behind the statement (s).

This is important because a highly motivated student will look for the speech, novel, poem and the play of the author and read more about the ideas, and thoughts of the originator of the quotation.

Serious schools could go even further. They could for example, download  from the internet a speech or an extract from which a quote came from for students to understand the context of a particular statement.

The schools could also stock the school’s library with books by such authors and create time for students to read them in the library.

Exposing students to the sources of the expressions has immense benefits of incalculable educational value.

First students’ mental horizons will be expanded by extensive reading of some of the greatest thoughts ever thought up by great men and women.

They will in time come to appreciate not just life, but will come to embrace higher purposes of life beyond examinations, beyond grades and beyond materialism.

 The books will help shape the next generation of leaderswho will reshape our institutions. They will also develop excellent writing and thinking skills—thanks to exposure to the finest models of writing and thinking that the creators of these quotations symbolised. - The writer is Communications Officer, Ministry of Education

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