Book of Life: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

By: Adebayo Abdulrahman

Il Buono, il Brutto, il Brutto

The late film producer and screenwriter, Sergio Leone, never tapped from the tree of knowledge known as the University of Ibadan. Still, when he directed the 1966 Italian spaghetti western movie – the good, the bad and the ugly – little did he know that the title of the movie would one day come in handy to dissect a significant event in the institution, the release of the academic grades of its non-final year students.

Widely referred to as the Book of Life, this document contains the full details of all existing students, and their respective cumulative grade points average for the last academic session. This year, Valentine came 13 days earlier than the patron saint of lovers planned for UI students, as the Book of Life for the previous academic session was released on the first day of February.

Since its release, the fresh face of last session’s freshers has vanished and in its place comes a haunted one determined to make up for every un-dotted ‘i’ and un-crossed ‘t’ as soon as possible. The majority of satellites, especially those with expert opinions on ‘simple courses’, have suddenly begun to keep their advice to themselves. While some tutorial masters are now hunting for personal tutors to help them master their way to academic excellence, some prospective SU aspirants have redesigned the trajectory of their political careers.

On the other hand, the 4-pointers, especially those whose self-esteem is tied to their academic performance, have grown a different attitude. Rather than deflect when people call them scholars, they smile slightly, soaking in the praises. “Of course, I am a First Class student”, a voice echoes in their head. Congratulations, scholar Muiz. May your days be long!

But the real question, for every sane mind, is not the sense of sadness felt by some or the wing of pride grown by others instead; it is about whether the release of the book of life is necessary, insignificant or below the belt. To answer this, the Italian phrases, Il Buono, il Brutto, il Brutto, must be highlighted.

Il Buono: The Good

To discuss the advantages of the availability of the book of life for consumption by the public is to understand that more often than not, as humans, we tend to derive a certain level of satisfaction from the perception of members of the public about us. In the book of life context, the reality that the academic performance of all students is just a pdf document away helps fuel the desire of a significant number of students to excel academically.

Students under this category primarily derive a certain degree of self-esteem from their academic prowess. As a result, the book of life can function as an unseen hand that reminds this set of students that having excellent grades is a priority for them, always.

The book of life also eliminates the ‘appearance’ issue that seems to have taken over the mentality of some set of students. To these sets of students, they are more interested in appearing to be students with excellent grades, than actually having excellent rates. However, the presence of a book of life takes away the umbrella of disguise that shields them and, in turn, leaves them with no other choice than to put in the work to have excellent grades indeed.

il brutto: The Bad

Essentially, the book of life is home to the personal details of all students. The ‘personal’ nature of these details alone underscores the first problem with its availability for consumption by any public eye interested in a feast of grades. The fact that members of the public have access to the details means students, who are the owners, have been denied the luxury to determine who should access them – or not

These details, especially matriculation number, the most critical identity of any student, also become accessible to anyone with piqued interest. The implications that these have are not only far-reaching but also dangerous.

In the same vein, the public display of academic performance associated with the book of life lays the groundwork for students’ unhealthy rivalry. No doubt, competition between students is encouraged to stimulate better performances. However, the kind of competition created by the book of life is likely unhealthy. The unhealthy nature of this competition is rooted in the fact that it is fueled by the desire of these students to perform better for the public’s view.

il brutto: The Ugly

However, the most severe effect of the Book of life is psychological. No doubt, the intellectual prowess of all students differs. This difference is an indication that while some students can skip classes and still 4-point courses, others that attend TDBs six times a week might still struggle to get Cs.

So the problem is this: the book of life parades the grades of all students in the eye of the public and in the process, sets some students with sub-par academic performance up for depression and trauma, among other psychological issues. Students who fall victim here are those who, psychologically, have their lives and self-esteem shaped by their perception of people’s views about them.

By the same token, the book of life also reinforces the belief that outstanding academic performance is an irreplaceable necessity. However, as good as a First Class grade sounds on paper, the realities of the work industry now beg to differ. Employers are now interested in certain qualities and skills that having a First Class might not give you.

But with the Book of Life, the now outdated view that a student’s class of grade is paramount and sometimes equivalent to their class of achievement post-school gets reinforced. Sorry, life is not a pot of beans.

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