I was discussing with a Nigerian friend that had just obtained a degree in Business and Management Studies and she said her next course of action was to enrol for the Senior Helpers Program. She explained that she only did business and management studies to please her parents and since she was done, she would give the certificate to them and go for what she desires: taking care of elderly people. I was surprised, but I remembered how parents in Nigeria push their children into their own professions and not what the children want or have aptitudes for.
One of the things I admire in western countries is the freedom children have to choose their professions. Parents here do tell their children that whatever they decide to do, they will support them. Most Nigerian parents rather tell their kids what they want them to become and force them to study the required course. Some give up if a child declines and prefers another occupation, but there are parents who go to the extent of punishing a child by depriving him/her of parental love and support because the child went against their choice of profession. If one is to investigate why such parents prefer a particular job, it will because it is more “prestigious”, “lucrative” or it is their dream job (an occupation they had wanted to take up, but could not due to some circumstances).
Chimamanda Adichie, a Nigerian writer that has received many accolades through her works, indicated in her biography that she was outstanding right from the beginning and after secondary school education, everyone thought medicine was the appropriate course for her. She was a first-year medical student at the University of Nigeria before she left for the United States to study communication and then got a master’s degree in creative writing. Many Nigerians would wonder why a brilliant pupil would go for an art course and not even to study law but communication and creative writing to become a writer.
During my secondary school days, moving from JSS (Junior Secondary School) to SSS (Senior Secondary School) was a crucial period because students were expected to choose between science, art and commercial classes. At the beginning of a session, students would generally be divided into these three classes based on their performance, especially in the junior secondary school examination. The names of the most brilliant ones would be in science list, the average ones in commercial class and students who are below average or are considered academically poor would be told to join the art class. This decision was not definite, students could decide to change from science to art, science to commercial and vice versa.
The categorization of people in senior secondary schools in Nigeria is still mainly based on intelligence and it is almost automatic that a brilliant student will be in science class.
According to Simone Biles’ biography, a gymnast that won four golds in the last Olympic games, she was climbing monkey bars right from the age of six and was enrolled in Bannon’s Gymnastix at this tender age. I wonder what people like her who exhibited similar talents at their tender age have become today in Nigeria.
We tend to neglect such little beginnings in Nigeria and look for bigger things. Parents observe their children and think they are destined to become medical doctors, pharmacists, engineers architects etc. and not artists, teachers or writers etc.
The Nigerian government also encourage this phenomenon by unduly promoting certain professions through considerable wage disparity. Hence, people are obliged to study the courses required for these jobs in order earn high salaries and be reckoned with, even if they don’t have vocation for them.
Apart from corruption that is the major problem in Nigeria, I think this attitude has affected the country a lot. People are not fulfilled in what they do and it has led to low productivity, poor services and regression. Many Nigerians only work to earn a living and don’t find pleasure in what they do. If our leaders in Nigeria today were destined leaders and not just those who are rich and have political fathers, we would not be in this mess. If the majority of Nigerian nurses, politicians, teachers, doctors, lawyers, engineers, architects, accountants etc. love what they do and have vocations for them, things will be better in Nigeria. Unfortunately, it is mostly a case of a square peg in a round hole.
Just as one can lead a horse to water, but can’t make it drink water, parents and the society can only force a child to study a particular course to become what they want him/her to be, but they can’t make the child derive joy in the profession, even if they succeed in making him/her practise it.
There is a difference between having a prestigious job, earning much and being happy with what we do. One may have the first and second, but lack the third. On the other hand, a job may not be prestigious (according to the society’s definition) and may only be enough to earn a living, but could be fulfilling. The latter is better because it is profitable to the person and the society. I am glad my parents understand this and have helped my siblings and I find our paths.
I once believed that to become a successful person, there are certain professions that one needs to practise, but I have learnt that any job can make one successful and happy if only one is fit for it and fulfilled in it.
In the future, I hope to see a Nigeria where marginalised occupations are recognised, so that people will be encouraged to take up the activities if they have vocation for them.
I enjoin all parents and future parents not to shatter their children’s dreams by imposing a certain profession for whatever reason. Guide them as part of your responsibilities, but let them have the final say over what they want to become in the future.
 The Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie Website. (s. d.). http://www.cerep.ulg.ac.be/adichie/cnabio.html
 Simone Biles’ ex- addict biological mom reveals family rift. (2016, août 10). http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3732340/Simone-Biles-biological-mother-reveals-longing-develop-relationship-Olympic-star-giving-adoption-midst-drug-alcohol-addiction.html