In Summary
  • In other cultures, the role of the teacher — and to a great extent the parent — is to identify a child’s strongest areas and build on them from early in life.
  • Lupita’s story of tenacity is akin to the legend of the person who became “an overnight success” after many years of struggle, invisible for all the time but celebrated in their hour of glory.
  • We need a system that makes it possible for talented individuals to profit from their skills

Oftentimes, the role that talent plays in self-advancement is lost or underestimated in a culture that emphasises achievement in education, as happens in Kenya.

Yet, the role of education, ideally, ought to be to nurture all-round individuals in the sense that they are functionally literate and can conduct their affairs in relative comfort because they have the requisite skills.

In the Kenyan public culture, however, education has been touted as the only key that can open the doors of prosperity. This is true for a vast majority, but it is not the whole truth because, as many individuals in business and sport have demonstrated, one can get ahead in life purely on the strength of a talent, a special capability, or sheer discipline.

Because achievement in education has taken a larger-than-life role in the public psyche, children are compelled to regard it as the only arena where success and achievement are considered worthwhile. Therefore, those who do not make it, even when they are endowed with other talents, are made to feel like second class citizens as their parents agonise about how to get them to secure places in the next level of education.

Yet in other cultures such as in Canada and some European nations, the role of the teacher — and to a great extent the parent — is to identify a child’s strongest areas and build on them from early in life so that by the time they are young adults, they have achieved a measure of success — and financial independence — largely or solely by exploiting their skills and talents.

NOT THE FIRST KENYAN

And this is where Lupita Nyong’o, the Kenyan actress who has conquered the film industry, comes in. Through her industry and many years of staying the course, Lupita has made it to the big stage.

She may not be the first Kenyan to have gone in search of greener pastures in Hollywood, but she is now without a doubt the most visible.

Lupita’s story of tenacity is akin to the legend of the person who became “an overnight success” after many years of struggle, invisible for all the time but celebrated in the hour of glory.

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