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Paper – it carries great weight

Antoinette Connell

Paper – it carries great weight

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We use it to wrap, write or wipe.
As a plain piece of papyrus without, the hieroglyphics, it satisfies the individual’s personal needs.
But apply some form of writing to it and it can have impact of epic proportions. Wars have started and ended with it, lives have been altered through marriage and divorce and opinions shaped by what is written on it.
The functions are so vast that they stretch from the simple to the complex and the reverse. Once I slaved away on an article and felt mighty proud of it. Then one day, I saw that article and subsequent articles spread on the bottom of cages and on the ground to catch the mess of birds and painters. Hardly inspiring, but it has kept me grounded, so to speak.
Last week, hundreds of parents turned in sheets of papers to the Ministry of Education. They contained a guide to the hopes and dreams of parents, the outcome of which will be known after the May Common Entrance Examination.
I fear for the peace of many households as the seasonal pressure mounts on parents to get into a “good school”.
The exam will consume their every waking moment and there’ll be threats and bargaining. Parents will focus their attention on this one paper and depending on their level of preparation will be sobbing with delight or screaming in frustration. I warn some of you this will be a testing time if you are friends with a parent taking that exam.
Friends will no longer be friends if they dare suggest something practical such as the logistics of an easier bus route rather than an “elite” school or hint in any way that perhaps the pace may be too much at a particular school.
I had my time there sitting the exam as a parent but it never gets tired witnessing the madness year after year. However, there is particular joy at seeing a parent who has not taken the exam achieving the school of his/her choice. Of course, if it coincides with the child’s aspirations all the better.
Paper, like an event, sometimes has less significance as time passes, that is why after a while we discard receipts or notes. Of course, the reverse is true that a piece of paper or an event can become of greater importance with time hence the reason we preserve original documents such as The Constitution, debates in the House of Assembly, speeches, books and registers.
After a decade or so, last week’s forms and that 11+ Exam may not be worth the paper it is written on to those who deal with life as it comes their way.
Children, go do your best and if you need to, afterwards change your course to accommodate life.
I had a friend who worked hard for a degree and had it safely tucked away. She returned one day to find that the termites had eaten it and marvelled at its frailty.
Sometimes, it is what’s in your head that matters. After all, a piece of paper is still a piece of paper subject to the elements and insects.