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Sunday, 27 November 2016

Tips on How to Pass Exams

One of the requirements or expectations in students’ career is passing exams. Whether you are a primary school pupil, a secondary school student, or a university candidate, passing exams is one of the conditions that will propel you forward. Unfortunately, some people are so scared by exams that they develop what psychologists term ‘examination fever’. After reading these tips you will realize that a person who knows how to handle exams needs not being afraid of exams. The following tips are therefore equally important as far as passing exams is concerned:

1. Revise sufficiently
In the course of attending class lectures, as well as taking notes in private studies, you collect notes that at the end need to be revised for the sake of passing your exams. Because of this, your notes are supposed to be written properly and systematically so that you can revise them easily. Moreover, the fact that a student attends different lectures on different subjects, there must be a well-planned revision timetable, to make sure that all subjects are given equal time for revision.
2. Predict possible questions
A successful student is the one who is able to predict possible questions for a certain exam. You have stayed with your lecturer or teacher for some time, and you know what they have been insisting. There are areas in the class lectures the lecturer has been highlighting as being very important. In your notes, there are places which carry little weight but there are areas which look so significant that the possibility of your lecturer setting questions from them becomes quite obvious to you. Another method of predicting possible questions is looking at the questions of past exams on the same subject. Although wise lecturers do not set questions that are exactly similar to past questions, in terms of structure and wording, the kernel or central idea of past questions is more or less similar to the theme of the exam ahead of you.

3. Understand your studies
Prior to going to the exam room make sure you understand what you have learned. Try as much as you can to understand the knowledge or information you have gathered over the term or semester. Understand and do not memorize as some poor students do. Memorizing like a parrot is a very poor way of learning and doing exams at large. A student who understands what the lecturer has taught has knowledge and can answer a question set on any area of the course.

4. Approach the exam with a positive attitude
If you approach an exam with a positive mind you will get positive results and if you go to an exam with a negative attitude the results will also be negative. In any exam, you sit for trust or convince yourself that you can make it and at the end of the day things will be so. A good student should not behave like a coward soldier who is defeated before the war starts.

5. Use the exam day wisely
There are things you need to bear in mind on the exam eve and on the exam day. On the exam eve revise lightly, sleep sufficiently, and take a light meal. Prepare the tools necessary for the exam (e.g. pens, pencils, drawing compasses, as well as the exam identity and number that show that you are allowed to sit for the exam). On the exam day observe the following things which are often overlooked or neglected by some students, resulting in getting poor grades in exams.

(a) Wake up early, wash your body, brush your teeth and take light breakfast. Do not drink big amounts of fluids like tea, juice, coffee, or porridge to avoid frequent cases of going out for short calls when the exam is in session. Another thing to observe is to dress decently as well as avoiding wearing strong perfumes which might be a cause of embarrassment to other people in the exam room.

(b) Be punctual to avoid going to the exam room sweating or panting because of rushing. Punctuality will also save you unexpected problems like traffic jams on the roads you use on your way to the exam center or poor health disorder like a headache, flew, or stomach upset. In the case of health problems punctuality will enable you to inform the invigilator beforehand that your health is not good and the invigilator will know how to take care of you in the course of the exam. For the students who go to exams driving personal cars, your car may refuse to start up and for the students who do exams using computers the computer may fail to start up as well. Arriving at the exam center at least half an hour earlier will enable you to get rid of such problems.

(c) Never go to the exam room with unauthorized materials like small pieces of paper or mobile phones, to avoid being suspected of cheating. If you have been attending classes regularly and you have spent enough time to revise your notes, you will pass the exam without cheating. Remember that cheating in exams is an academic crime and if you are caught cheating stern measures will be taken against you, including immediate expulsion from the exam room. Better get 60% using your own head than getting 90% through cheating.

(d) While inside the exam room do not do things that might raise suspicion. For instance, fumbling in your pockets from time to time, sitting too close to another examinee, exchanging objects like rulers or erasers without permission of the invigilator, or visiting the toilets frequently and stay there longer than usual.

(e) Follow exam rules or regulations. Do not open or start doing the exam before you are permitted to do so. If you are supposed to answer only one question respect the instructions because doing all questions is a violation of exam rules, regardless of how good you may answer these questions. If a certain question is compulsory, answer it, no matter how difficult it is. Do not change the nature or structure of the exam questions to fit your taste or liking.

(f) Comprehend a question before starting to answer it. Also, understand the task expected from you in connection with the exam questions. For example, understand what you are supposed to do when given tasks like explain, give an account on, discuss, comment, clarify, verify, analyze, etc.  

(g) Start answering the difficult questions. Do difficult questions when you have energy because an examinee’s answering stamina tends to diminish towards the end of the time allocated to a certain exam. Another advantage of starting with the difficult questions is that examiners set exams in such a way that difficult questions get more marks.

(h) While answering exam questions use a neat handwriting. Despite the fact that most people do exams in a hurry in order to finish in time, try to maintain a clean work as much as possible. If you can work in a hurry and at the same time produce a clean work you prove to the examiners that you are an able student. Clean work will appeal to the person(s) marking your exam and it will earn you more points. This is because a clean work is easier to read and mark.

(i) Spare a few minutes to check your answers, to make sure that they are logically arranged. Check your language. “Check your Ts, and Js”, as one good teacher used to tell us when we were in primary school. An uncut t looks like an l and g without its proper downward bend looks like q. Furthermore, j or i without dots on top of them are non-existent letters in the alphabet.

(j) Check your work to make sure that you have answered all questions you were supposed to answer. Some examinees are so nervous or shaky during exams that they fall into the plight of leaving some questions unanswered. For example, if you answer three questions instead of four you were supposed to answer, you will obviously fail the exam.

(k) Make sure that all questions you have answered are numbered. Also pin your answer sheets systematically to avoid leaving out any sheet of paper. This is important, particularly if you have decided to answer the questions starting with the difficult ones.

(l) Even if the exam appears easy to you, avoid showing openly that you are able to finish it within a short time. So don’t be the first to get out of the exam room because that might give the impression that you have belittled the exam. Some exam regulations stipulate that no student is allowed to go out of the exam room before a certain period of time has elapsed. If an exam was supposed to be done for let us say two hours and you show that you have done it in half an hour, the invigilator will mark you and the consequences might not be very good on your side. After all the questions you think are easy may in the actual fact be harder than you have thought.

(m) When you are satisfied that you have done everything correctly and within the given time hand over your answer sheets to the invigilator and march out of the exam room without making noise. Once you are outside the exam room make sure that you go far away to give chance to other examinees to finish the exam without disturbance.

(n) Don’t waste your time discussing an exam that is over. To avoid regret or remorse about questions you might have answered wrongly or poorly, forget discussing the exam you have already done and concentrate on the coming one. Remember the age-long wise saying – spilled water cannot be recollected!

If you have prepared sufficiently for your exam, you don’t need to panic or worry. After all, exams test only a small part of the things covered in a course. Do your exam with confidence and hope, knowing that there are other people who have done exams that are even harder than the one you are doing now but with determination and self-confidence, they got very good grades. Maybe the exam you are doing is not the first one – you have done other exams in the past and you passed. If you have passed other exams in the past, why not the one you are currently doing? These tips focus mainly on written exams, but even in oral exams, they are quite helpful. 

By Godson S. Maanga

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Hints for Improving Your Spoken English

Speaking properly and convincingly is the dream or aspiration of any person speaking English. A good diction in spoken English makes people bother to listen to you. It gives you a positive image in the society you belong to as well as making your point of view more lucid and articulate. To acquire a good command of spoken English, consider the following points:   

1. Use Standard English
Generally, there are two types of English (British English and American English) but over the years there has developed ‘Regional English’, a term that means the type of English spoken in different regions of the world like Canada, Scotland, Australia, and India. In Africa ‘Regional English’ includes West African English, East African English, South African English, and North African English. There are also smaller brands like Nigerian English, Kenyan English, Egyptian English, Ethiopian English, and Congolese English. Taking time to identify and use Standard English will be very important in speaking better English. Standard English is more refined or polished and it is the language used by civilized or well-behaved people. Colloquial English like slangs and vulgarities are discredited in Standard English – the language recommended for official talks.

2. Listen to English programs offered online
A student who is not a native English speaker needs to know how words in Standard English are pronounced. Examples of useful online programs are Test Your English, BBC Learning English, Alison, and Udemy. Spending a few minutes every day to listen to these online English-learning programs will add cubits to improving your spoken English.

3. Watch and listen to standard radio and TV stations
International radio and TV stations employ announcers and commentators who are good at Standard English. Such stations include the BBC, CNN, CCTV, SABC, and NHK World. These stations are taken as role models because their main objective is to capture an international audience. Another way of improving your spoken English is watching various movies broadcast on local and international channels. So listen and watch news bulletins, documentaries, movies, and even videos displayed on various visual-audio mass media forums.
4. Read texts aloud
When you take a text, be it a book or a newspaper, and read it aloud, your spoken English improves considerably. When you read something aloud, you get a chance of listening to your own voice, as well as reading by maintaining the tempo of spoken English. If possible, read the text in the presence of a friend, family member, or colleague who will listen and correct you when you commit a pronunciation error.

5. Do not be afraid of making mistakes
At the beginning speak freely, without bothering you are committing pronunciation mistakes or not. Remember that language mistakes are common human errors and this reality is realized when a person begins speaking English. Even the native English speakers commit many mistakes. As you persist speaking you will elevate yourself to higher standards of spoken English. Good spoken English comes with daily practice and when practicing, even in sports and games, worry not about mistakes.

6. Use simple and short sentences
In the process of improving your spoken English, avoid difficult and long sentences. Windy sentences full of jargons are unintelligible even to the speaker. Just as long written sentences make the writer’s ideas muddled up, so do long sentences while speaking. It is good to remember that simple and short sentences are easier to pronounce and in case there is a message you want to pass across, it is also easier for your listeners to follow. Remember that clarity in speech is determined by brevity and because of that speak in such a way that your sentences are short and clear.
7. Read as much as you can
Reading recommended publications on proper English speaking will be an enormous contribution to your spoken English. These publications are written by experts in their respective fields and it will pay if you develop the habit of reading them over and over again. This particular reading should bear in mind diversity in topics and specialization. Read the materials that appeal most to you but if you can read without being too choosy your spoken English will improve a great deal. So if you are a timid or novice speaker intending to increase ability in spoken English read books from various fields in the social sciences as well as from pure sciences. Do not ignore pieces of literature like novels, poems, essays, plays and biographies; or books on Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Astronomy, and Anthropology. 

8. Listen to other people’s speeches
Listen to other people’s lectures to understand how experts speak English. Most public speakers have a big experience and listening to them is quite rewarding. However, due to the fact that not all class lecturers or public speakers speak good English, you need to listen with great caution as well as selectively. Unfortunately there are educated people who speak very bad English and because of that try as much as you can to identify good speakers so that you can listen to their speeches.

9. Increase your vocabulary
Words are bricks that build a language. A good speaker is the one whose stock of vocabulary is rich and diverse and a wealth of vocabulary comes with reading extensively. Reading widely and diversely makes a person richer in words because every field of knowledge has its own vocabulary. The best way of mastering spoken English is establishing permanent friendship with good dictionaries, including thesauruses. Make good dictionaries your daily companions, particularly dictionaries prepared for students. Some English words are so tricky in usage that it is only a dictionary that helps. Without a good dictionary – preferably an updated one – you cannot master the correct usage of confusing words like water and liquid, neck and throat, sky and heaven, cook and boil, smile and laugh, car and vehicle, sea and ocean, eat and bite – to mention only a few. Nor can you understand how to use correctly collective nouns like staff, family, herd, crew, fleet, and committee – also to cite only a few. Correct spelling and pronunciation are language skills acquired mostly from good dictionaries.
10. Master rules of English grammar
The principles of English grammar are different from the grammar of many languages. Grammatical rules are important because they enable a person to understand the basic parts of speech and the guidelines that govern formation of words, phrases, clauses, and sentences that form paragraphs and eventually full-length texts.

To sum up, the hints pointed out here are proven guidelines that will enable you to speak better and more attractive English. They are points you can assimilate or put into practice slowly, constantly, and diligently, as you engage in the art of spoken English.   
 By Godson S. Maanga


Sunday, 11 September 2016

History My Mother

By Godson S. Maanga
History, my mother, I salute you! I stand on the top of Kilimanjaro, the highest hill in Africa, to announce your majesty, peculiarity, and awesomeness. Unshakably and immovably, you stand transcendentally, imparting symbolism of historical attainment and confidence – towering above all knights and emperors. You deserve love, honor, and gratitude. Here and abroad, you shine with super motherhood; as well as unique and marvelous cubits of knowledge. From you come myriad streams of guidance, pouring golden instructions and mighty inspiration for stunned humanity. Your age-old stores overflow with experience and perseverance. From the history of history viewpoint, all rivals stay aloof, trembling with fear and cowardice. In your numerous annals, evolution and revolution are flimsy chapters, subject to debate and frequent amendments; and Charles Darwin and Karl Marx are tiny dots overtaken and discredited by time, in the immeasurable and limitless ocean of history.
Thinking critically about you, I fearlessly declare that yours is a job highly commendable! You have carried me along on a long journey, tormented by turbulence and persecution – caused by old and new colonialism. As a gracious mother, you have been feeding me with knowledge and wisdom, through the historical umbilical cord. In your perfect womb, I was mold into what I am, a great admirer of history. You have infused into my person unequaled passion and respect for history. Through history, I am nurtured and guided, and suckling at your golden breasts is indeed a rare opportunity. Your breasts are a pair of precious stones, found nowhere else except in historical paradise. On your grandeur chest are galaxies of pearl-like teats that produce milk creams, with a far-reaching fragrance of the best smelling flowers in the realm of history. Your face shines like the morning star, and each hair on your head is a model of multi-faceted wisdom. Your sparkling eyes resemble splendid lamps with a searching beam of historical radiance.
Interpreting you retrospectively, even geographical mothers sing your praises because you have mothered them all – Mother Africa, Mother Europe, Mother America, Mother Asia, Mother Australia, and Mother Antarctica. In the time immemorial, when no human being was yet born, you mothered all these mothers. That is why there is History of Africa, History of Europe, History of America, History of Asia – History, History, History – the list is endless!
My mother, history, they despise you. They smear your fame. They say that you are inferior to science – that the scientific theories and principles postulated by great scientists are better than the basic tenets in your fabric. They claim that theories like Gravitation, Relativity and Fermentation are at the top of the ladder of progress but grand topics like History of Africa and World History are indeed at the foot of the ladder. They say that you are so inferior and insignificant that you cannot stand the challenges of Engineering and Nuclear Physics.  They forget that Chemistry and Physics and Biology are all your offspring. You are the one who has given birth to Geometry and Algebra. Without your labor travails, all these branches of science would not have come into existence, and their importance would not have been understood because without history science cannot be understood. Without you, great scientists like Archimedes of Syracuse, Marie Curie, Isaac Newton, Michael Faraday, and Albert Einstein would not have been known because they would have remained in the total darkness of unwritten history. It is you, Mother History, who takes great inventors from under the carpet and brings them into visibility and global prominence. Your historical milk has enabled various disciplines of science to grow into what they are. It is you, my mother, who has given birth to the history of all activities witnessed in science, inside and outside science laboratories. Without you, all types of past, present and future mechanization and industrialization are nothing but unknown giants that have not seen the light of day. Without you even astronomical postulations like geocentric and heliocentric theories would have remained closed huts for those who ignore your significance.  
Perched on shaky ground are myopic judges, who underrate your fans and people who teach your greatness and authority. Out there are short-sighted judges who belittle your role and relevance, insisting that those who teach History deserve little salaries or no salaries at all. It is indeed a folly to say that History is an inferior subject. These academic scarecrows argue that priority should be directed to science teachers and not to those who teach things like Paleontology, The history of Scholasticism, Renaissance and the French Revolution, the Mwenemutapa Kingdom, African Liberation Movements and other historical stuff. Dear mother, the chaps who deny your value are indeed shortsighted and unrealistic! No people can know where they are or where they are going if they do not know where they come from. If one does not know one’s mother, one is the most pitiful person under the sky. And a person who says that there are children without mothers is a great liar.
When malicious critics sneer at you I get nausea. I feel like vomiting all the nonsense I hear people talking about you. When insults are heaped on you wrath and vengeance take hold of me, like a bruised tiger – one’s anger becomes peak-high when one’s mother is insulted. Your despisers are as useless as bags of salt that has lost its saltiness. All people who mock your importance and role are hollow scholars – to give them the proper description. They are wayward like a vehicle without a steering wheel and eventually they will shudder with confusion and shame like reeds in a mighty whirlwind.
In your presence, edifices of ignorance and illusion crumble like morning dew. Thanks a hundredfold for disclosing to me great historians – excellent scholars who follow into your footsteps with notable loyalty and determination. In Africa I see Bethuel Ogot who put Kenya and Africa on the world historical map; and Cheikh Anta Diop, whose wide and deep historical investigations have elevated him to the heights of magisterial historians. In Europe, there are Herodotus, the father of history; Thucydides, the scientific historian; and Erik Hobsbawm, the giant historian with irresistible influence on modern historians. In South America, there is brother Walter Rodney who opened people’s eyes to see how Europe and the West at large retards Africa; there is Boris Fausto who gained world fame as an eminent historian; and Ricardo Augusto Caminos, an accomplished Egyptologist with his particular preoccupation on epigraphy and paleography. In North America, I see John Hope Franklin, a first class African American historian; Michael Kammen, the eminent cultural historian who won the Pulitzer Prize for History; and Joyce Oldham Appleby, with her superb knowledge of historiography and a sharp mind in championing Republicanism and Liberalism theories. In Central America there are Carlos Maria de Bustamante who merged history, statesmanship, and journalism into a perfect academic concoction; and Rafael Garcia Granados, who shared accomplished recipes on Mexican history. In Asia, I see Ram Sharan Sharma, a great scholar on Ancient and Medieval India; Aida Yuji, renowned Renaissance specialist; and James T.C. Liu, a leading scholar on the Song Dynasty in China. In Australia there is Geoffrey Bolton, who directed people’s attention to Western Australian History as well as popularizing Australia’s socio-political development from the historical viewpoint; and Sheila Fitzpatrick, a lady historian who excels as a specialist of Modern Russia History. History, my mother, credit and honor to your loyal sons and daughters, who from rooftops declare your glory and grandeur – sons and daughters who are not afraid of being called historians.
Day and night you stand in front of me like a huge mirror – reflecting human misdeeds, from ancestors of the distant past. With a down-to-earth language, you depict to me the factors underlying gigantic social-cultural and politico-economic evils: justification of enslavement and maltreatment of blacks; discrimination and exploitation of non-whites; the sexual and racial humiliation of black people; and nowadays systematic torture and wiping out people of African origin. Dear mother, you give me genuine pre-warning, that a new wave of the scramble for Africa is back full swing. Camouflaging their insatiable proboscises in business partnership as well as in bread-for-Africa donations, Western hounds (hungrier and shrewder than they were at the Berlin Conference in 1884/85) are on mass treks into Africa – to plunder, to exploit, to grab, to enslave, to pollute, to kill. Once in Africa, they prepare fertile ground for rape, divorce, coups, tax evasion, poaching, and moral decadence. My mother, history, from you I learn that egocentric foreign exploiters, operating with crooked arms entitled ‘multinationals’, come with hidden motives: splitting African families; supplying weapons that engineer ethnic clashes; transforming Africa into a filthy dustbin for industrial wastes from the West; trafficking hoodwinked Africans into clandestine destinations overseas; siphoning Africa’s natural resources, and causing havoc in African countries as it is evident in North Africa.      
History, my mother, the nature of living forever is truly yours – you are neither ephemeral nor mortal. All humans will come and go, leaving you back as strong and healthy as ever. For the history assassins who announce your demise, you can only die as a result of their distorted thoughts. And if you die in their misguided minds you will never rot. If you rot in the eyes of these felons you will never stink. And if you stink it is because the nostrils of their minds are dead. And if they bury you insisting that you smell, they will indeed be crazy – it is only madmen who bury a nice-smelling flower like you, dear mother. History, my mother, long live! Long live! Long live! Glory, and power and dominion are yours, forever and ever!

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Thursday, 11 August 2016

Patriotic Response

By Godson S. Maanga

Dear AK, 

In your interesting essay entitled “The 10 most well-known countries in Africa” (The Guardian, Thursday 14 July 2016, p. 8) you excluded Tanzania which should have come first in your list of 10 best countries in Africa. In a list of ten, if not five, most important countries in Africa Tanzania should be included due to the following undeniable facts:

  1. Tanzania has the famous Olduvai Gorge, the historical site where the couple paleontologists, Louis and Mary Leakey, excavated some of the oldest fossils in human history – the Zinjanthropus boisei and Homo Habilis, hominids dated between 1.75 and 2 million years ago.
  2. Tanzania has Mount Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa and the second highest in the world, after Everest.
  3. Tanzania has Ngorongoro Crater, one of the world’s wonders and the only wild game habitat with tree-climbing lions.
  4. Tanzania, at Kihansi, has species of frogs that are not found anywhere else in the world.
  5. Tanzania has some of the best national parks and game reserves in the world, including Serengeti which way back in 1959 compelled Bernhard Grzimek (the stunned German Zoologist) to declare to the world that “Serengeti will not die” and to date, Serengeti is still alive.
  6. Tanzania produces Tanzanite, the only country in the world that contains these precious stones.
  7. Tanzania’s western territorial boundary goes through Lake Tanganyika (the lake that bears the country’s former name), the longest and the deepest lake in Africa and the second deepest in the world, after Lake Baikal in Russia.
  8. The legendary Rift Valley divides into two branches in southern Tanzania, at the northern tip of Lake Nyasa.
  9. Tanzania has Oldonyo Lengai, one of the awesome active volcanoes in the world.
  10. Tanzania has streams and rivers that pour their waters into Lake Victoria, the beginning of the legendary River Nile, the river without which even the Egypt you have ranked first would be a mere desert.
  11. Tanzania has produced Mr. Bert Shenkland, one of the best car rally drivers during the East African Safari  and it has also produced Mr. Philbert Bayi, one of the best athletes in the world.
  12. Compared to most of her neighbors, Tanzania is a very peaceful country, nicknamed ‘The Island of Peace’, characterized by her ‘Harbor of Peace’ (Dar- es- Salaam).
  13. Tanzania is the only country in Africa with a stable political union (i.e. the Tanzania Mainland-Zanzibar Union) which completes 52 years in 2016.
  14. Tanzania is the home country for two international figures (Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim and Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro) who in different capacities have worked with UN very successfully.
  15. Tanzania has contributed enormously to the liberation of many countries in Africa, including South Africa that you have ranked second in your list. Most liberation movements had bases of operation in Tanzania.
  16. To crown everything, Tanzania was first led by Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, one of the best statesmen in the world, historically remembered as the Ujamaa architect and politically revered as the ‘Father of the Nation’.

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