The ‘Ukona Kiherehere’ Effect – Part 1

There are those students who always have an answer to a question and are always willing to partake in activities in class. These students are bold, curious, and enthusiastic and they are everywhere.

However, I noticed that we tended to be more of us in primary school, but as we grew older and moved to high school and university, we shrunk a little bit in each stage. We raised our hands a bit less in class and were a little less willing to engage in activities.

My hypothesis is that a factor that contributed to the withdrawal of these enthusiastic and bold personality traits is the the wording that we use to refer to these students and how we treat them in class. Such students are often referred to as “Teacher’s pet” or as we like to refer to them in Kenya, “wakona kiherehere”. Come to think of it, what does the word “Kiherehere” really mean. Well, I just googled it and it means excitement. If the word means excitement, then why have we come to use to create such as negative connotation on people who display it. What is wrong with someone displaying excitement in the thing that they are part off and why do we try to talk down these people.

Please note, these tendencies are not only propagated by fellow students in school but also by parents when they keep on shutting down their children when they ask questions or show curiosity about certain things. Teachers also exhibit these tendencies when they make jokes about such students or refuse to pick these “overenthusiastic students” to answer questions. A lot of us wouldn’t call it “talking down” when we say, “Oh she talks so much” or when we refer to refer to people as teachers’ pet. An even greater number of us do not think about how saying these things affect the recipient of such actions and comments. However, it’s essential that we do as it would make us more conscious of its effects. What the name calling and ignoring children does is that it tells the children that there is something wrong with their curiosity, enthusiasm and boldness. And when this is repeated severally over the years, children start to view this trait as a short coming, as something that makes them less worthy.

Their minds internalize that there is something inherently wrong with this and attempts to remedy this by reminding them to keep quiet a bit more, by developing a hyper-consciousness of how they are perceived and as such making them more wary of talking or engaging with activities and over time this part of them is totally shut down. So if this was started in primary school, by the time these students are in university, the once bold, courageous student is now the one who hardly speaks in class. Afterall, he/she is just trying to fix this “flaw” and align more with what their friends, family and teachers implied.

Look out for part two of this article where we will share some tips that different groups such as parents, teachers and older siblings can apply to ensure that they do not shut down their promising kids.

– Wamaitha

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