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Opinions of Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Journaliste: Tikum Azonga

Why group revision is good


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Usually, when one is studying for an exam, one revises prior to sitting it.

Out of experience, I have come to learn that although prayers and the prayerful attitude can help, left to themselves, they can not deliver the goods. Individual and personal input is indispensable.

Freedom of choice

Obviously, when it comes to revising, one can either join others or go it alone. Again, from personal experience, I have learnt that group work is better. The very first of the lessons came when I was in Form Three at Sacred Heart College in Bamenda (Cameroon, for those who cannot locate the place).

A teacher in a class of his own

It was during the third term promotion exams and the subject was Religious Studies, at the time taught by Mr. Jerome Nsom. This is a teacher we classmates remember very fondly whenever we come together.

He had his own way of doing things. He could be sarcastic to us, but he never insulted us. He never punished us like making us cut grass in his compound, although he lived on-campus. He never even beat us. When he came to our college, we learned he had been Principal of the Teachers`Training College (TTC) in Tatum (Nso). So, he joined us from some position of high standing.

One thing that surprised us about Mr. Nsom was that although he was none of the Reverend (Marist) brothers who ran the school or even the school`s chaplain (the priest), he was the one who taught Religious Studies in Forms 3, 4 and 5, and therefore for the GCE exam ultimately. Not so long ago when I met him in Bamenda and put this concern to him, he said: “There was nobody else at the school at the time who could teach that subject!”.

However, to be fair to him, he knew his subject matter and he knew how to deliver it. When the idea occurred to me to write this piece, I thought about Mr. Nsom and how he taught us the Synoptic Gospels (Mathew, Mark and Luke) and the Acts of the Apostles.

I remember him telling us about how when the Pharisees challenged Jesus to show them proof that he was of God, he said he only had “the sign of Jonah”. Jonah, it is said, spent three nights in the belly of a fish after being swallowed by it and was vomited alive.

By this, Jesus was indirectly telling his detractors that he would rise three days after being killed and interred by man. Mr. Nsom always insisted that during his lessons, we should use “The Knox version” of the bible. He was very sure of himself and when explaining a point, he would say, “some theologians say… but I say…” which means he had no doubt that he was a theologian of repute.

One thing that troubled us about him was that whenever we felt that he was digressing or not approaching a topic in a manner that made it helpful to us prospective GCE candidates, he would reply: “I don`t teach the GCE. I teach Religious Studies”.

A self-imposed trap

However, let`s return to the Religious Studies exam. This was to take place one morning. The night before, we of Form Three set about doing last minute revision for the exam. Among those of us who revised in the dormitory, I chose to do it alone, lying in my bed.

When the rest of my classmates who were revising in a group invited me, I declined the offer. When we were about to leave the dormitory for the exam, I could not find my pen. So I borrowed that of a Form Five student, Pius Ndiforkah.

We wrote the exam and although I did not feel very comfortable about it, I was still convinced I would pass. Pius was one of the Senior Form students who lived in our dormitory in order to play a supervisory role over us, junior students.

The bad news

That evening, when I went to Pius to return his pen, he asked me what the exam was like. I told him it was okay. But looking at me rather sternly, he asked in Pidgin: “Then why you go write-am fail?”

“Fail, me? How do you know that?” I asked him, scandalized.

He told me that after collecting the scripts. Mr. Nsom made them Form Five students mark them under his supervision during their own Religious Studies lesson, and he Pius was the one who marked my paper. What a coincidence! I was crestfallen. When later the teacher returned our scripts, I actually found that I had failed in the subject. Interestingly, all of my classmates who revised together passed. That`s not all because some of the topics they treated in the revision session actually came in the exam!

Application at the ENS

Having learned that bitter lesson, years later when I was a student at the ENS in Bambili, I became very instrumental in getting some of us classmates to form a study group which we exploited to the fullest in preparation for the examination that was to see us promoted from the First Year to the Second Year. The study group was for the subject, Science of Education. It brought together students like Maggie Aweh, Ntembe Paul Amombi, Tinkuh Emmanuel Yembe, Nyiawung Philip, Nsalai Stephen (Bilingual Letters), Vero Kete, Mispa Itoe (Science of Education) Tegen James (Geography, I think) and myself (Bilingual Letters).

No hard feelings

I bear Pius no grudge for breaking the bad news, neither do I blame the pen he lent me. I blame myself for not having the foresight to perceive the wisdom in group revision at the time.

What some pens have done

While we are on the subject of pens, let me recount two anecdotes. Firstly, let us look at the pen of Chief Bisong Etahoben, a senior person in the profession of journalism who hosted a column in his newspaper, The Weekly Post, in Yaounde entitled “This my Inquisitive pen”. Under that title, analyzed aspects of everyday life.

Whenever I picked up his paper that was the first thing I read. Perhaps I should take this opportunity and pay tribute to the Chief for propping me. When I decided to set up my own newspaper (The Cameroon Companion), he gave me full support, although the paper was coming to rival his. That is what I call magnanimity.

The next person I want to mention is Prof. Jonie Fornyam, Head of the Department of Law at the University of Buea. Prof. Fornyam once told a story about an incident that a pen – yes, a mere pen – caused. He was somewhere and needed to sign a document but when he felt his pockets he could not find his pen. So, he turned to a colleague who had one and asked if he could borrow it.

The colleague became very upset about the request and asked him whether he knew he was talking to a professor. How could he have dared to want to borrow a pen from a whole professor? Now that the Head of Department has also become a professor, I wonder what he would make of the incident.

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