By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
During my childhood days, a child's school age is determined when one's palm touches one of the ears from above the head. If you are a child that is cheated by nature, it would take you more years to begin school. Personally I was one of such children.
Initially, nature cheated me from infancy to class two in the secondary school. Hence I did not start school as supposed. During the retarded growth period, my immediate junior sister doubled my height. She looked like a camel while I looked by a grasshopper. As a result I was denied receiving my first Holy Communion at Jos due to my small stature. I was highly aggrieved when my junior sister was considered while I was told to wait till I grow up. Is there any prospect for a dwarf to grow up? Only by miracle of God can it happen. To cut the story short, I later grew tall accidentally and divinely.
In this computer age, school age is measured as soon as a child's left or right palm touches the belly from sideways. No wonder children of nowadays begin to go to school immediately they come out of the womb. Today we have daycare for those infants still breastfeeding, pre-nursery for weaned children, nursery for toddlers and primary for the children who have started running. All these grades of school children are engaged in school-run mentality. Their parents abandon them at school in the guise of lesson. What is the use giving extra lesson to infants and small children? No wonder many children develop mental problems nowadays.
Going to school involves examination at each stage, from nursery to university level. Examination is a test of knowledge. Without it a pupil's or a student's academic capacity cannot be determined accurately. Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines Examination as “a spoken or written test of knowledge.” From Google's perspective, examination is “a formal test of a person's knowledge or proficiency in a subject or skill.”
Why then do some people maintain that examination is not the true test of knowledge? Often good luck or bad luck is involved in examination. If you are lucky, what you read appears in the examination, written or oral. But if you are unlucky, after burning the midnight lamp, you crash in the examination hall. That's why any pupil or student should be versatile in studying. One should also pray because God helps those who help themselves. One of my classmates in secondary school was seen neither in class nor at private studies. During our final examination (WAEC) he just sat in the hall writing imaginary figures in his answer sheet. When the result came out, he got 9 x 9 = 81. His reaction was, “God what did I do to you that you gave me such abysmal result?” Who was responsible for the bad result, God or the student?
Any serious pupil or student at all levels must work hard by coming to school regularly. He or she must also pay adequate attention during classes. In addition he or she ought to study on his or her own. After school period comes homework. Classwork plus homework give rise to success. Absent in class and lack of homework result in failure.
As mortals we are in God's classroom, which is the physical world. Everyone is in his or her own classroom struggling. The classrooms can be in the church, business, teaching, learning, civil service, farming, driving, etc. Wherever you find yourself struggling to survive is your classroom. However those involved in stealing, prostitution, corruption, bad leadership, electoral rigging, terrorism, sexual immorality, lying, cultism, kidnapping, abortion, murder, armed robbery, drug abuse, etc are in illegal classrooms. No classroom is permanent as far as being a good pupil or student is involved. The classrooms are therefore transitory. From nursery you proceed to primary; from primary to secondary school; and from secondary school to higher school or university. While in the university, a student is regarded as an undergraduate. At completion of the tertiary institution he or she is called a graduate.
Unfortunately today, graduation has been watered down. Thus, you hear nursery school pupils doing their graduation. Primary school pupils also graduate. Secondary school students graduate likewise. The other day I heard that a group of drunkards gathered in a market square and was doing their graduation. Criminals graduate negatively. Few years ago I visited Amawbia prison in Anambra state. Three of the inmates gathered round me asking for financial help. I gave one of them N1000 note for the three to share. He collected it very fast from me like a wild kite and ran away. The other two pursued him bumper to bumper. They succeeded in catching him. However the money was nowhere to be found when they brought him before me. He told me that the wind blew the money away as they were pursuing him. I observed that he was speaking like someone with speech impediment. Hence I compelled him to open his mouth for proper examination. Reluctantly he did so. Behold the N1000 note was lying at one corner of his mouth soaked in saliva. Is such a clever thief not a graduate in theft?
After examination, the candidates score one mark or the other. Some pass excellently. Some score very good marks while others score just good marks. They are promoted to the next class or next academic level. Those who pass weakly are promoted on trial. They are given a second chance to prove their academic capabilities. But those who get bad results are either dismissed or asked to repeat the class. During my primary and secondary school days, you could easily discern the academic results of pupils by their behavior. Those who passed well hardly hide their report cards. Those who hide their report cards either got weak pass or failed woefully. A certain student came home after the promotion examination. He failed woefully. His teacher remarked: “What a woeful failure! To repeat class two and to study harder to improve.” The student in question hid his report card under the cupboard and told the parents that his teacher was sick.
Therefore his report card was not ready for collection. Unluckily for him, his mother came across his report card while she was sweeping the room thoroughly. She was highly enraged when she saw the woeful result. Out of anger, she gave the boy twenty-four woeful lashes of the cane. He cried woefully.
As children of God, we must undergo eternal examination before the judgment seat of God. Three things await us: death, judgment, heaven or hell. Death is the common denominator for all mortals. Are you mortal or immortal? I know one police officer who goes by the nickname “Anwuanwu” (Immortal). Does it mean that he will not die? You can succeed in cheating everybody but you cannot succeed in cheating death. Death is therefore inevitable. Are you ready to die? My friend told me that he wants to go to heaven but he is not in a hurry to die. I asked my parishioners to indicate their wish to go to heaven by raising their hands. Almost everybody in the church including my humble self raised the hand. Then I asked those who wish to die on that very day and go to heaven to raise their hands. No one did, not even the mad man who trouped into the church from nowhere. Guess if I raised my own hand. We want to go to heaven but we are afraid to die. Where will you or I spent our eternity? As you make your bed, so you lie on it. One will reap what he or she sows.
Those who make heaven have excellent results. They are referred to as the Church Triumphant. On 1st November yearly we celebrate the Solemnity of All Saints (All Hallows). According to St. John the Visionary, “After that I saw that there was a huge number, impossible for anyone to count, of people from every nation, race, tribe and language; they were standing in front of the throne and in front of the Lamb, dressed in white robes and holding palms in their hands” (Rev.7:9). Practice makes perfect. I put on white robes and carry palms in my hands from time to time, so that I may triumph in heaven. There was a popular man called Mr. White. He wore white every time from head to toe. When he was interviewed on why he did so, he replied, “White is the heavenly dress code. As it is done in heaven, so I do it now on earth.” He has already gone over there. Anyone who gets an excellent result after God's judgment is due for direct entry into heaven. Are those special persons addressed as “Your Excellency” already qualified for heaven? Let us make haste while the sun shines, because nothing imperfect will enter the Kingdom of God.
Those who pass weakly after God's judgment will proceed to purgatory. To purge means 'to purify.' Saint Paul makes this clarification: “The one whose work is burnt down will suffer the loss of it, though he himself will be saved; he will be saved but it will be as if passing through fire” (1Cor.3:15). In Catholicism, we refer to the souls in purgatory as the Church Suffering. They will eventually proceed to heaven after undergoing the temporal suffering. Therefore they have hope of seeing the Beatific Vision some day. Every second day of November is the Commemoration of the Souls in Purgatory. The dress code in purgatory is violet.
Failing woefully is a hopeless situation. St John remarks, “Then Death and Hades were hurled into the burning lake. This burning lake is the second death; and anybody whose name could not be found written in the Book of Life was hurled into the burning lake” (Rev. 20:14 – 15). This burning lake is hell-fire. Please go to God's library now to register your name in the Book of Life before it is too late. The registration is renewed each passing day. Let us avoid 'had I known.' To be in hell is a terrible situation. Avoid woeful failure in this life and in the world to come. The devil is the commander-in-chief of all those who failed woefully in this life. The dress code in hell is black.
The people of God who are still alive are called the Church Militant. They are like soldiers at the battle field, fighting to win a spiritual war. They still have opportunity to make excellent result or pass weakly. But if care is not taken, they end up in woeful failure. A stitch in time saves nine. The dress code on earth is green.