Right On Time

Haraka Haraka Haina Baraka

(In hurry there is no blessing)

Generally speaking (though it’s so cliché to say it), things tend to move a bit slower here in Kenya.

Including right here at Kabarak University.

Take today, for example.

Students are sitting their “supplementary exams” this week.  These are students who, for whatever reason (and I can think of many, quite frankly) failed their end-of-trimester exams in August, and who now get a second chance to try again.

This is primarily so that progression through the academic program sequences won’t get entirely out of whack.

A factor that is especially important in the overly packed nursing curriculum (courtesy of the Nursing Council of Kenya) we have here.  If a student fails a course, especially a pre-requisite one, he or she can get really messed up.

The practice of allowing supplementary exams requires each professor to submit two final exam papers for every subject they teach.   For my courses, this means creating an additional 20 MCQs (multiple choice questions), 6-10 SAQs (short-answer questions; 40 marks), and 2-4 LAQs (long-answer questions; 40 marks).  One hundred extra marks to imagine, construct, and wring out of my brain for everything I teach.

Of course, this is no picnic for students either.  In addition to re-cramming for old classes while missing new ones, students must also pay a “supplementary fee” for the privilege of re-taking an exam.  This is additional money that many students do not have, or are ashamed to ask their parents for because they don’t want to admit to them that they have failed (as they know all too well how hard their folks have worked to get them here in the first place).

So; a costly privilege indeed, for everyone involved.

I had the privilege of being the “Chief Invigilator” for this morning’s first supplementary session from 9:00-12:00.  It was my job to collect and proctor three nursing department examinations.

Dutifully, I left the house around 8:15 to head over to the Examination Office (hours of operation: 8-5) to collect tests, foolscaps, attendance sheets, and one or two other bureaucratic forms that are so much a part of the educational system here (a legacy from the British, perhaps?).  However, the “lady with the key” had not yet arrived.

No worries (hakuna matata), as I was told she was “on the way coming”.  And indeed, she arrived right on time, at 8:30.  Fortunately, all of my sealed brown envelopes containing the various and sundry items necessary for each exam were ready and waiting for me.

This left plenty of time to get to the auditorium, the standard venue for all major exams that take place here on campus.

On my way there, however, I received the message that the auditorium was being used for something else today.  The only room choices left were the Chemistry Lab, with backless stools and laboratory counter tops, not exactly ideal for writing a major, three-hour exam…or, a classroom with regular student chairs in the new almost-finished-but-still-noisy-construction-zone Health Sciences building.

Hakuna matataAt least I had a choice!  I decided to go with the regular chairs and hope there would be a door to shut out the noise (there was).   However, how to let students know?  Detouring over to the old Health Sciences office, I was glad to see that the “lady with the phone numbers” was in.   All students were eventually called and re-routed to the new venue, and everything got rolling by 9:30 a.m.

Right on time.

I was way more fortunate than a colleague, who was proctoring six exams for her department and also venue-less.  She and her students eventually came to join us in the same hard-fought-for classroom space, dragging their chairs behind them.  When she had gone to the Exam Office (at 8:30, right on time), some of her exams had not even been printed yet.  Consequently, those guys didn’t even get started until sometime after 10:00 a.m.

Hakuna matata.  Haraka haraka haina baraka.

Things like this happen here at Kabarak every single day.  Nobody expects it to be otherwise; nobody bats an eye if meetings, functions or classes don’t actually start “on time”, whatever that means.

This is the Status Quo Here, and around Kenya as a whole (dare I be so bold, to say that?).  We’re just not in a big hurry here, folks.  Relax, take your time.  What is the rush?

There are reasons for this “no hurry” culture, of course.   For one thing, Africa as a whole is more relational-based, community centered, and not time-oriented.  Articles, books, and probably more than a few doctoral theses have been written on this topic.  No need to rehash it all here.

It’s just me that needs to learn how to live more “in the moment” this way, like the Kenyans do so well.  Even though I’ve been here for a gazillion 20+ years already, I find that I still need to learn how to relax, how to let go, how to not sweat the “time” thing, how to be able to roll (“my word” for this year) with it all.   To know that things do eventually happen and get done around here; students get taught, exams get taken, life gets lived.

And not always on crazy-mzungu-AmericanKate Standard Time”.

I need to learn how to find the blessing in the not hurrying mindset of life.  So far, this blessing has mostly eluded me here at Kabarak.  But I’m desperate to find it.  I want to believe that it is truly and actually there.

Take tomorrow, for example.

I have class in the morning from 8:00-11:00.  This is week #3 for this particular class, and we still do not have a designated classroom space.  The first week we were at the online learning center.  Last week, it was the Chemistry Lab (the one with the backless chairs).   I’m supposed to receive a call today “by the end of the business hours” (the scheduler’s words), letting me know where we will be.  Perhaps it will be in the library; perhaps in a standard lecture room (pipe dream); perhaps just the Chemistry Lab again.

And perhaps I won’t find out anything until tomorrow morning at 7:30 or 7:45, as I run around campus looking for an open classroom (been there, done that, more than once).

One thing I know: not taking on the unnecessary stress of things that are out of my control, things that will eventually work themselves out and in the long run won’t matter much anyway; for me to learn this simple yet profound lesson at Kabarak in my life here would be a great blessing indeed.

My students already know this.  They are not worried about tomorrow.  They are relaxed, calm, and ready to go, no matter what happens and no matter how long it might take to find us a classroom.  They are like this based on years and years of practice, of living their entire lives this way.

Because they know that, whatever happens, they will be right on time.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Phillipians 4:  6-7














One thought on “Right On Time

  1. Nice Kate! Great lessons for we, Wazungu. Our African brothers and sisters have much to offer us. May God have His way with us.

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