Carry-Overs: Dealing with a Student’s Nightmare

By: Deji Yesufu

I saw an article on social media a few days ago. A young man in one of Nigeria’s universities is in depression. He is weighed down by multiple carry-overs and is at a loss as to how to handle the situation. The incident was being reported by his elder brother, who was calling on the public to save his brother. There is no one in a Nigerian university system who doesn’t know what a carry-over is and the psychological way it drains a normal human being. But if you happen not to have schooled in Nigeria, this is what the carry-over is all about. A normal degree in a Nigerian university will require between 4 and 5 years to complete. Each year has two semesters. And in each semester, you will be required to do an average of 10 courses. In the lower levels, you do more courses and at the higher classes, the courses reduce so you can face your project and conclude them.

The carry-over is actually a fail on a compulsory or elective course, which you are required to pass before graduating. The trouble is not in the failing, especially when you consider that anyone can fail. The trouble is that the more carry-overs you have, the more courses you are left to do in school. And in some cases, there are prerequisites. To do certain courses in 200 level, for example, you have to pass some courses in 100 level. A student may even end up being forced to repeat a class because he failed so many core courses, he finds himself unable to sit in the same class with his mates in subsequent years. It is one reason why carry-overs lead many students to sometimes commit suicide. Few things are more depressing than a carry-over in school. In this essay, I want to suggest some practical ways to dealing with this grave evil. I will be writing from experience, having battled carry-overs myself in my student days.

The first step at avoiding failure and being ladenned with some debilitating carry-overs is to enter the university with a business mind-set. Too many times young people enter school with a carefree attitude, basking in the euphoria of being on campus; enjoying newfound freedoms and forgetting too quickly what they came to the university to do. Before you know it, the course work days are over; exams are at your feet; and students are at a loss as to how to respond to the situation. University life is a microcosm of what life will be for an individual after school. If you are unable to deal with school issues, you will leave school and life will remain a mystery to you. University is serious business.

A wise student hits the ground running. You must attend all your classes. Ensure your notes are up to date. And you must read EVERYDAY: I cannot emphasise this enough. What will save you from reading a mass of texts as exam draws near is having grasped a working knowledge of what your course is all about long before your exams begin. When exam arrive, all that will be left will be to study past questions, discuss with your mates and stroll into the exam hall and nail the course. I remembered that in my first year in school, all the guys that had either attended polytechnics or remedial schools had a better grasp of handling school than those of us coming straight from secondary school.

Now, if you are in school already and you are weighed down by carry-overs, do not worry – there is nothing that cannot be solved. There are options: you could either shelve all your new courses and face the carry-overs square, or you can leave that course of study and do something else. You may require to see a school counsellor, talk honestly with your parent or somebody who knows these things well. There is no point sometimes flogging a dead horse. Carry-overs may be a pointer to the fact that you were not designed to do the course. These days young people enter school very early. If you drop out and start a course afresh at 22, by 26/27 you can be a degree holder. Many people have started afresh and gone on to do very well in life.

At this juncture, I want to enumerate a few things that will help you to fail in school. If you love failure, by all means when you enter school, find one or all of these things and indulge in them.

Young person, if you want carry-overs plenty, by all means when you get to the campus, find a young man or woman (as the case might be) and begin a love affair. This is what such relationships do to your thinking: they occupy your mind and the time you should be thinking through a course of study, you will be worrying over a guy or a girl. You will fail. Some will argue they did it and passed. You were lucky and would have done better if you had a clearer mind. Shelve relationships till later. Or, do not seek a man or woman in school. If you are destined to find a partner in school, it will come naturally and it will add to you; not subtract. When you do well in school, you will get a good job and then can have whatever relationship you want.

Beware of revelling, carousing and binge partying. It will destroy your stay in school. Separate from friends who do it and find those who will help you study. Revelling are activities that will kill your time and leave you drained, unable to study. The flip side of drunkenness is indulging in campus fellowship. Some even become pastors while in school – you will have carry-over plenty. For a Christian student, the two times you should gather with others is on Sunday and at a mid-week fellowship. Each of these activities should also be heavily timed. Any gathering that will exceed 2 hours is not good for your studies. Avoid tasks in fellowship that will impede on your studies. Leave pastoral duties to ordained pastors who have finished school. This nonsense of students gathering and praying for hours by the school Chapel is a sure way to carry-overs. Pray in your room and then head to class!

I believe this last point need no mention but for those who may need to hear it, I will touch on it: avoid cult membership on campus – it will not only save you from failure, it could save your very life. Young men could grow to be tremendously strong and handsome, and one of the ways some seek to vent off some energy is to join these cult gangs. To control the young man’s energy and ego, people invented something called sports. Sports range from the ones that are extremely energetic like football and basketball to the ones that are purely intellectual like chess and scrabble. Find one of these sports and burn your energies there. Avoid cult membership like a plague. If you are in one, you may need to leave school, report yourself to your parent and have them change your school entirely. If they have the resources, you can leave the country and school abroad – it is that serious.

The carry-over is not the end of the world. I had them plenty and I overcame all of them. In my first year, I failed Maths 107 – Calculus. It was a prerequisite to all my maths courses in subsequent years for four years in a row. That course was what led me to stop over reading. It was the only exam I did on campus where I read overnight and went to the exam hall without sleeping – and still failed. The following year, I attacked the course with a vengeance and scored an A. I never failed any maths course again and never read into an exam hall again. I stop reading the previous night and go to the exam hall trusting God and never my reading. This may not work for you but after a while of trying, you come to know what works best for you – them keep doing it.

One day, while we were in four hundred level, our class representative told us that most people failed a course and that the lecturer was offering the whole class to rewrite the paper. The brilliant students among us will have none of it. I wasn’t sure of what to do with the information. Then one of us stood and told the class: he said that we have all just returned from our 300 level industrial training. Our experience out in the real world was not based on how well we were doing in school but merely on God’s mercies. He appealed that we should all rewrite the course for the sake of those who failed. I’m not sure if his advise was taken. We didn’t rewrite the course. I escaped with an E. But I never forgot that incident. In real life, we are not distinguish by As or carry-overs, it is God’s mrecies that distinguishes us.

The student weighed down with carry-overs today can become a Soyinka, Dangote or Peter Obi tomorrow. Carry-overs are not the end of life; they are only a bitter taste of what life can be in Nigerian universities. Your battle and victory over carry-overs can become the impetus for your success in the real world. And you can surmount that carry-over.

(The attached picture is a lecture hall with my classmates and I at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, sometimes in 1999/2000. We might have been attending a Maths class)

Posted by Deji Yesufu

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