Wed | Sep 20, 2017

Open letter to students entering grade seven

Published:Tuesday | September 6, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Michael Abrahams

Young ladies and gentleman, you are very fortunate. You are on the threshold of receiving a secondary-level education. Do not mess this up. A good education lies at the foundation of success. Take full advantage of opportunities that are now within your grasp. Do not form the fool.

Some of you will love school, some will like it, some will tolerate it, and some will hate it and think that it is really lame. But it is necessary. A good education is valuable. Adolescence is a critical point in your life. At this stage, you can position yourself for success, or set up yourself for failure, because your academic performance at this time will help to determine your future path.

It is important to be rounded. Engage in extra-curricular activities, and pursue hobbies and develop other skills, but take your schoolwork seriously. Pay attention. Stay focused. Block distractions.

It is a rough and competitive world out there, and with rapidly advancing technology, some jobs are no longer relevant and are becoming obsolete. So aim to excel in all your subjects, especially English. A good command of the English language is powerful ammunition. It will make people take you more seriously. We live in a global village, more so with the advent and ubiquity of the Internet, and a good command of the language will enhance communication with the movers and shakers of our society as with others outside of our country.

WATCH YOUR FRIENDS

While you are in school, you will form friendships, some of which will last a lifetime. However, it is important that you associate with winners. Keep the company of those who have ambition, those who excel and those who motivate and inspire you. Avoid idlers and time wasters. Human energy is a real entity. Maintain a safe distance from those who emit negative energy, and those who are more caught up with other people's business than their own ambitions. Negative people can drain you and drag you from your pinnacle down into their abyss, eroding your confidence and hindering you in the pursuit of your dreams. Do your best to avoid them and keep them out of your space.

Remember that school is not a party or a popularity contest. Be wary of peer pressure, and refrain from engaging in activities that you do not wish to engage in or you know are wrong. If you are being bullied, do not be afraid to report it, and likewise, refrain from bullying others (including cyberbullying) and engaging in violent or disruptive behaviour.

Another thing that I would encourage you to do is to read, and read widely. Read about current affairs, world history, scientific developments, human behaviour and various cultures, philosophies and belief systems. Reading will not only make you more aware of the world around you, but will stimulate you to think, and more importantly, to think outside the box. Progress cannot be made if we only think inside the box. Do not accept everything you read and hear. As a matter of fact, question everything you read and hear, and do not be afraid to challenge dogmas.

NEVER GIVE UP

Be persistent in the pursuit of your goals. Do not give up. Do not be afraid of failure. Learn from your mistakes and the mistakes of others. Being a winner does not mean that you do not fall. It means that you get up after you fall and keep going until you succeed. Be punctual and respect other people's time. Pay attention to your hygiene, your appearance, your grooming and your deportment. Your appearance influences how others see and respond to you.

At this stage of your lives, it is natural to be curious and to experiment, but be careful regarding what you experiment with. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana and other recreational substances are best left alone. People who start drinking alcohol in childhood have an increased risk of becoming alcoholic, which can lead to death. Young tobacco smokers are likely to become addicted, and tobacco is the number-one cause of cancer in the world, in addition to causing a multitude of other serious health issues. Marijuana, on the other hand, is not a killer, but can damage the developing mind, and youngsters should definitely avoid it.

Remaining on the topic of experimentation, please keep your reproductive organs to yourself. Resist the temptation to engage in sexual activities, as these can have deleterious consequences, and this is not the time to be dealing with the catastrophes that can result from this behaviour, such as pregnancy and its complications, sexually transmitted infections and emotional upheaval.

And even if you are not engaging in this type of activity, also resist the temptation to take pictures of yourselves that you would not show to your parents. All it takes is a misplaced or stolen phone, or a malicious person, and your life may change forever, as these images will exist until the world ends. It is one thing to cause embarrassment now, but when you are older and seeking employment, all your potential employer has to do is perform an Internet search and your past may come back to haunt you. And if you use social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat or others, be very mindful of the things you post, for the same reason.

Stay focused, think positively, be persistent, and in doing so, you will blaze a trail to your success.

n Michael Abrahams is a gynaecologist and obstetrician, comedian and poet. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and michabe_1999@hotmail.com, or tweet @mikeyabrahams.