Bread in schools and Noneffective Motivation

If you went to the regular boarding schools upcountry like myself during your primary/high school life then I know one item that was close to your heart for the four years and after. Its an age old food that was eaten by everyone from Jesus to the Egyptians and Mwangi as he writes this. A loaf of bread is a universal language that any one who has been through our public school system can understand. At one of the reputable institutions that I passed through it even worked as a black market currency. Services and goods could be acquired for the right no. of slices of bread and the crust was the equivalent of the kirucy, prime currency. 

I imagine that schools are the largest consumers of bread and account for the largest market for bakers. For those who wonder why bread is placed on such an edifice while there was lunch n supper, they should eat a regular meal in an underfunded secondary school. There is a reason vegetables were called bitter herbs and Githeri was universally referred to as Murram. Bread on the other hand was tasty, filling, and had quality assurance. No brainer. Watching a couple of school kids the other day wolfing down a whole loaf of bread each and passing around a soda between the 3 of them took me back to a time when Break time, lunch time, and supper time were the hallmarks of m day. Our class time keeper didn't need to do his job since as soon as it hit 10AM a cup would be dropped in class at the precise time. that was enough signal for the Teacher boring us that concentration was from that point -70% . The same happened at lunch time where a spoon would be dropped and if the Teacher extended by a minute it would be an orchestra of spoons,cups and desks being adjusted. Stories of how glaciers created the fjords were really to distant to matter. 

These memories got me thinking that maybe the old school method of motivation and education was missing the bus with the kids at the center of attention. For kids in Rural areas where poverty levels are high, going to school is not about studying and passing exams to go to campus and become a hotshot lawyer and drive a big car. Its about getting Lunch. And for a kid that's all the motivation he needs. In my time to get us to master the times table, we were threatened with a world of hurt, violence of an order our young minds were terrified by. It worked only if the teacher had access to all of us and could shoot random questions but in a class of 40 I managed to coast for awhile till it brought me problems in maths a whole year later. If on the contrary we had been told whoever masters the times table will get chicken at lunch then that times table wont leave any kid even in the loo. Some of the smarter kids will master it and eat kuku and the envy towards them will push the whole class to master the times table in record time. No-one gets hurt and goals are accomplished.

An Aunt of mine told me a story that in her time at Ngandu Girls form 5 & 6 was so glamorous in that they wore different smarter uniforms, ate different food at an elevated position to the rest and had refined mannerisms. Now in the world of girls this was the place to be at and be seen. Never mind that you need to pass your o-levels very well. This was a small hurdle compared to being the envy of the village. Lofty tales of how you would be a doctor 10 years from now if you read hard are trounced easily by seeing your pal sinking his/her teeth in a juicy drumstick and looking hotter than you as you face another plate of Murram. Few kids (me included) have the patience and foresight to practice differed gratification and in my opinion this is where the educationists go wrong. They assume kids are rational human beings and refuse to manipulate them. A teacher at a primary school upcountry in a marginal area once told me that when the food shipment is late and there is no lunch at school for a few days, attendance drops to a trickle. Many parents send their kids to school because that becomes one less mouth to feed. As the kid waits for lunch, he learns cool stuff in science, reading, writing and some math. Win win. 

Instead of fighting it, why don't we use it? Instead of prosecuting parents who don't send their kids to school why not make it the best option there is? Feed and cloth the kids and parents will be more than happy to pack up all the kids and ship them to school. At school at least in the lower levels, show that excellence in class brings better food, status etc. I know some would say that it will breed elitists and discrimination but how is it different from the world we live in now?

  • Stan Ngure

    quite some observations..and majority of quite true. loaf was king.

  • True. All true. In my days in school, the time keeper had absolutely nothing to worry about. He never even owned a watch. At the precise time for lunch, a spoon falling here and a desk pulling there would signal the boring teacher to wrap-up. Mine was an “Under-Funded” so we only go a free “Ka-Quarter” bread on Sundays . in between the week you had to buy if you wanted one.

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