Lemme tell you about this thing that happened to me in my second year of med school less than two decades ago. I hadn’t failed any exam ever in my life before then, but that year I had become very active in an adolescents and young people advocacy group, which I had joined late into my first year in med school. Our work of advocacy had to do with the reproductive health and rights of adolescents and young persons, and took us to various places within Lagos and out of it. Not Surprisingly, all of that impacted on my academics, such that my in-course assessment test results dwindled over time across board, from average to so very below par. It became pertinent that I employed very drastic measures if I was going to pass the professional exams at the end of the session.
I devised a plan to ensure that I at least passed as it had become apparent that the days of chasing credits and distinctions, which I unsuccessfully pursued in my first year, were heavily threatened due to the relegation to which I subjected my studies. I started by photocopying notes of the more serious class-attending, and “stenographic” members of my class and knowing that that wasn’t enough, I organized a group reading club, TEMPUS FUGIT in recognition of how fleeting time is, named after my secondary schools’ motto. I did draw quite a number of members of my class, though not exactly the creme of the very cerebral ones, but these ones could also hold their own when push comes to shove. Some of them knew I wasn’t a pushover from my first year, and may have joined because of this, little knowing that at the time I convened that group I’d become but a shadow of my academic self. I coordinated the meeting, but stepped back mainly to learn, when those who knew better, and most importantly had been in class while the topics were taught, took the floor to explain them.
While it may have been recreational for some of the members of my group, my whole academic life depended on it, because I’d found it difficult to read on my own. I was abusing coffee, and every other stimulant I was told could keep me awake, yet I couldn’t manage to keep my eyes open. Sadly, the insomnia I prayed for then and would’ve done any, and everything to procure then, I now am bedeviled with today, so much so that I’ve given in to it as part of the journey of my life. My attention span had so much reduced that even when I attended classes, I had only less than ten minutes of attention to give to what the lecturer was saying before I drifted off to distractions around me or in my mind. So what I’d do was to come late to class to catch the lecturer while in the thick of the topic, hopefully just after introducing the topic, because then I can easily store such information for recall during exams, as I do indeed have a photographic memory, and ease of recall once I witness something personally.
I had challenges with paying full attention to lecturers who started their lectures with digressions or jokes, because if my short attention span caught only those periods of jokes or digressions, then those will be my main takeaway from class, which I’ll then have to augment by writing the notes, the picture of which I’ll hope to recall during exams. I suffered during tests, in courses of such jocular lecturers where in trying to do the recall I remembered the jokes, but couldn’t remember beyond the lecturer going on to mention the topic of the day. Of course such tests I failed or barely managed to pass.
Part 2 med school exams, would have us write five papers, namely, Morbid Anatomy (Pathology), Pharmacology, Microbiology, Haematology & Clinical Pathology, and Epidemiology & Community Health. A week before the exams,I felt so saturated that I couldn’t take in or assimilate anymore. Unfortunately unlike Kolade, Okey, Mayowa, Puddicombe, Jay-Jay, Chinomso, Yewande, and the likes whose saturation rates were tipping the hundred percents, or the Wole Fadahunsi and ‘Luoye specie, who could never be under any pressure, and at the same time muster much needed concentration to read even in the midst of chaos, in just about anywhere and under any circumstances; and had now switched off and letting off heat by engaging in “tanning” video games or watching those involved in pre-“PROS” video game tournaments.
I knew that the best of my saturation bought me just about 20% of all that I needed to cover in the “Areas Of Concentration” of all the courses, and not even all that I should know ordinarily. My books automatically became sleep inducing medication and it didn’t matter that I just woke some of those times. I had only Tempus Fugit to fall back on, and to grasp anything I could use for the exams. By the morning of my first paper, I was a wreck, but I mustered enough courage to appear at the exam hall like a sheep to the slaughter, intent on not engaging in any form of exam malpractice. Usually, when the department isn’t keen on numbering the chairs in the hall using the matriculation numbers, I opt to sit anywhere in the front rows.
The first paper on the first day off the exams was uneventful, though I couldn’t remember which it was, but it must’ve spurred me on to face Pharmacology, when it’s day came. I didn’t feel like the sacrificial lamb angling or waltzing towards the slaughter until I saw the question paper for “theory“, after answering the “True” or “False” for the Multiple Choice Questions, MCQs, and some doubt crept in. There were twelve questions I think, of which we were to answer four compulsorily. Another four we were to choose from what was left. My confidence evaporated once I saw those questions, coupled with the fact that I couldn’t bring what I knew about those topics from memory to bare on paper. I had to even consult the MCQs for some ideas I could borrow to draw myself out of the pit I found myself in. There was no saving me from the “mind blank” I experienced, and after I managed to put down all I could remember for the four compulsory questions, while remembering only the joke that was told on the day the question that would’ve made my fifth answer was taught, I handed in my papers, to the chagrin of my classmates, who were still battling with theirs, probably intimidated by my audacity to finish so early and walk out of the hall.
It was a very sad and unhappy me who walked out of the hall, despite smiling in response to subdued hailings by my classmates, knowing full well how badly I’d performed. I rushed to the hostel, had some food and left to punish myself with grueling hours of nonstop study till I “quenched“, but sooner had I settled down at the library, than I began playing the ‘game of feet’, with a female student (whose face I couldn’t easily make out at the time), sitting directly opposite me, while pretending to be reading. The n,ext time I was conscious, I found myself alone in a dark library, at some minutes past eleven o’clock at night. I had no choice but to bang on the huge door at the ground floor of the library, to get the attention of the security men on duty that night.
Once they saw me and opened the gate, my night took a turn for the unpredictable, as they decided to put all that they’d learnt in “security school” into practice that night. The duo that came to my aid, swiftly “alpha-alphaed‘ the ones at the security post to inform them that, a “zebra had just crossed the “Bermuda Triangle” or something to that effect, which I thought was quite unnecessary, seeing as I was unarmed and wasn’t even big enough to try anything funny with both of then, with the security post just a stone’s throw from the library, and we could as well had walked down there without any showmanship, stunt or show off of any kind.
It turned out that the display by my rescuers, turned captors would be a tip of the iceberg compared to what their boss was going to exhibit. The tall and intimidatingly imposing figure of a man that was the Chief Security Officer, to whom I was brought, interrogated me, asking me the same questions over and over again, while citing sections of the law of Nigeria or code of the school, that I’d allegedly breached, before eventually releasing me, after I signed an undertaken to make myself available after my exam in the day. Nothing incriminating was found on my person, neither were they able to elicit sinister motives from their interrogation of me, besides the fact that I slept off inside the library, and not even the chic, with whom I played “feet” considered it trite to wake me while leaving. I was to tired and too disgusted to read again in that wee hour of the morning after my release, that I simply went back to the hostel to sleep. I faced the exam of that day stoically, then returned to the security office, to go and sign a letter that detailed the events of the night before, proceeding from the interrogation.
The exam days were soon over, and life returned to normal while we waited for the release of our results, which when it came surprised the hell out of me. I passed Pharmacology, and Epidemiology & Community Health, but failed Microbiology, Morbid Anatomy (Pathology), and Clinical Pathology & Haematology. When I went to present myself to Professor Coker, because he insisted on seeing those who failed Microbiology before the resit exams, he expressed disappointment and anger, not at my falling his course particularly, but because I’d failed Pathology as well, which is considered a walkover in my college.
His conclusion was that I must’ve been very unserious, like the other five students who also failed Pathology, and I might be irredeemable. I couldn’t put up any defense so I just let it pass, bemoaning my fate. Truly, all one needed to pass Pathology was to read the notes, not even any of the approved textbooks. Bordeaux hadn’t even attended classes before one of the in-course assessments in Pathology, but led the class with about 90% score, after cramming the notes he photocopied just two days to the test, for instance.
Those were the days I could pray to move mountains, not these days of regaining faith, after losing it; as it appeared like my prayer to pass Pharmacology was answered so I could see how possible it is for the spiritual to control the physical, but failed the ones I probably felt i should manage a pass in, to show me that it isn’t always by my power to make these things happen. I seem to forget these things once a while, and this like so many I’ve encountered in my life, reminds me not to forget. I learnt a great many lessons from what happened then, and of course passed my resit exams and hence didn’t have to repeat the class or get rusticated.
I write this because something happened to me yesterday that shook my spirit, but while I pondered over it, that part of the story of my life came to my mind, and it was once again clear to me that the race isn’t to the swift, or to the strong, but to those who put their trust in the Most High YAHWEH, with whom ALL THINGS work together for good.
Published by m'khail madukovich