By Omowumi Okedare
I read your above-titled article with keen interest. It was a beautiful piece that touches on a key issue in our society. It is no doubt that many Nigerians are sitting on the table you addressed, which I hope hasn’t broken totally by your write-up. (Read the article this writer is reacting to HERE.)
While I agree with your write-up, I have some reservations. I believe that the parents alone are not the only ones at fault in this case. Society is also guilty of the same allegations laid against the parents. I believe society sometimes dictates the parents’ ideology.
Firstly, take for example in Nigeria today, an MBBS fresh graduate ‘all things being equal’ will get a job with a salary that equals his parents pay for 25 years in government service. So why won’t such parents ‘runparunse’ to have a medical doctor as a child? Every parent wants financial rest after retirement. So one of the ways to ensure that is doing all it takes to have a child in the ‘high flying’ professions.
Apart from financial stability, another reason is that society accords respect to parents with children in a certain profession. You are upgraded in the community, church, and social gathering when you are ‘Iya doctor’, ‘Baba lawyer’. It shows your success as a parent to have trained a professional child.
In your article, you mentioned that no parent wants the child to study Theatre Arts. This is correct because how does a parent tell the friends that the child is studying to be a theatre artist? Immediately, the friend thinks the child must be weak academically to be studying such a course.
So, the parent, especially mothers want to have a bragging right to an academically sound child. She will do all within her powers to ensure she pushes her child to study a course that does not interest him/her.
Secondly, there is no dignity of labour. Our society accords respect to certain professions and cadre of workers. We forget that the clerical officer is as equally important in an organisation as the accountant or other ‘higher cadre’. We treat the accountant with prestige and the messenger as nobody. Again, I ask why the clerical officer will not ‘kusibe’ to have an accountant child.
The same society treats some degrees as first-class, some as second-class, and many others as no class. Just recently, a medical doctor was telling me that other science subjects are ‘unfortunate’.
In his words ‘graduates of Microbiology, Biochemistry and other sciences are products of a failed attempt at medicine.’ Tell me what a parent will do if s/he hears that? It becomes a must to have a ‘fortunate’ child demonstrated by studying medicine.
Some children are technical and good with their hands. Must they go through the four walls of a University to do that? A parent too does not want to encourage such a child because that does resonate with the idea of a bright child. Some people don’t have business going to the University, but our society associates University with a ‘passport to a better life.’
So many things to say but I rest my case.
The onus is on parents, society and the government to enable every child and individual fulfill their passion regardless of choice of course, a University certificate, or choice of career.
The society and government should create an atmosphere where every work/vocation is appraised and appreciated by its merits. In addition, government and employers should work on the disparity in pay and ensure dignity of labour.
As the government upgrades pay of a profession or cadre, they should do likewise to others. Until then, we continue to peddle these ideologies that some courses are worth studying and others are not.
Omowumi Okedare is a doctoral student in the Faculty of Public Health, University of Ibadan.