An Old Primary School Right of Passage.

The first thing I heard from the Head Teacher when I went to register to start my primary school education was— “raise your right hand over your head and touch your ear on the other side.” It was a heart breaker for many children those days. If your right or left hand couldn’t touch the tips of your ear on the opposite side, it meant you was not old enough to start a primary education.

It actually happened to me twice before I was formally registered. Two years in a roll, going to that long line, with my peers and being rejected at the end of the line—just because my fingers could not touch the tips of my ear. I guess the first time I was a little younger, but the second time I was really 7 years old. It was humiliating in both cases.

My mother was and continues to be a law abiding citizen. Most parents whose kids were rejected due to the hand over head to ear rule, would go to the district office and just buy a birth certificate for their kids. My mother kept me home for two years so that I could start primary school at the right age.

I knew all my A, B, Cs for gods sake! I could count to a hundred in Ones and in tens in Swahili, but, that was not enough. I had to touch the ear, because that was the rule of the land. For most of us who did not have a birth certificate to prove that we were indeed 7 years old, we had to wait for the next round–which was next year. The lack of birth certificate was very rampant during those days. Even though I was delivered in a regional Hospital “Kitete Regional Hospital” I still lacked one.

It is still a mystery to me to why we had to do that? I have not been able to find any logical explanations to collaborate the relationship between age and hand over head touching your ear on the other side preposition. If you know anything as to the origin of this rule—please share!!

6 thoughts on “An Old Primary School Right of Passage.

  1. Deeksha

    It is related to ayurveda and as per ayurveda your nadi are fully developed if you are able to touch your ear with other hand and you are ready for school (where you might need to control your toilet and motion). As per logic you should not control your motions till your nadis are developed otherwise it will impact your growth.


  2. Judy Nicholas Hand

    I don’t know why and was looking for info too. But, I taught 1st grade for 7 years and found that if I had children in my class that by about January or February could not read they also could not touch their ear. I never had it fail. I don’t know the science behind it and did not teach according to it, I just always checked after that much time and it kind of took the pressure off me and then the child because I accepted that the child was just not developmentally ready. I would love to know if anyone has any science to help us all understand this.


  3. Sorry for my late response. I was not able to find anything in the child development literature to support this myth. Perhaps, I am looking into a wrong area of this research.

    If you happen to find anything substantive, please drop me a line. I would love to know.


  4. Micah

    I was actually looking for information regarding this too, as my grandfather says …thats How they did it back in the day! I too would like an explanation too! I think there is some substance to it…just in that…I homeschool my children and they are READY by the time they can do this. My four year old children cannot do it, and they are not ready for school. But as in your case, u were beyond ready. Did u feel you missed out starting “late.”


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