“God wouldn’t inspire us with ambitions that can’t be realized” – St. Theresa of Lisieux
As a boy I had little direction in choosing a career to pursue. Rounding off my primary school, I only saw secondary school as a continuation of schooling. I recall one day in secondary school when my principal asked the class what each one would like to be in future. Responses from my classmates were accountant, astronaut, doctor, engineer, and the likes. I wonder how many would have actually thought about it. She came to me and I decided to be honest, “I have not given it a thought” I said. I did not know how she took that response but she asked me to remain standing and went on to other students. Lastly, she came back to me. “A politician”, I told her. Of course I did not mean it not having thought about it. I only said that to resume my seat which I did. As I look back to that incident, it surprises me that immediately afterwards I still did not seriously think of what I wanted to become. Then I was in Junior Secondary School, JSS 2.
Much later, I started to fantasize about being a number of things – medical doctor, scientist, an engineer, and others. Little did I know what was required to become any of these. I had not understood the amount of work any of these demanded. My dreams were not based on knowledge. When you dream uninformed you are likely to be jolted by reality. At that point you may consider the dream as being unrealistic. The dream is not necessarily unrealistic; it is the approach that determines whether it is realized or not where what you know and who you know are two great factors. I say this because I consider what you know and the people you know as wealth.
Children should be allowed to dream, the earlier the better. Parents ought to observe their children with respect to their strengths. But the hustle and bustle of life, the need to work, pay the bills, achieve, and provide for the children’s needs have taken priority for most parents. They do little for the actualization of the potentials of their children. A lot of parents leave this task to the school. But the school does not divest the parents of their responsibility to observe their children. I believe every child has a gift. This gift should be honed and properly channeled. Parents have a major responsibility in this. The school assists the parents in achieving this not the other way round. For a child to be the best he can be, he needs guidance. For instance, a child may love teaching. He is quick to gather other children and act like their teacher. This behaviour goes on repeatedly. Attention ought to be given to this child concerning this behaviour. A teacher that can positively influence minds may be in the making. Guidance becomes necessary. After careful observation, the parents should be able to look for ways to encourage this child. They can get books to develop the child as well as make him acquire more knowledge. The parents can sometimes play the learners themselves. This is in a bid that the identified strength is developed. The child can eventually voice out that he would love to be a teacher. At various stages the parents should get the child informed about what is involved as well as the process. The parents in this case did not dream for the child; the child is not used to actualize the ambition of the parents. They only want the child to build up the gift he has. Another child could love to loose toys and try to re-assemble the components. The parents can follow an analogous process described for the “teacher-child” but customized for this very child. Parents have this task. It ought to be balanced with work and other responsibilities. To ignore this or be oblivious to it is to forgo a major responsibility. Parents should be actively involved in seeing that their children become the best they can be. They should be creative in ways they go about this.
At the end of Junior secondary school, a good number of my fellow students just wanted to go into science department to continue Senior secondary school. Science was seen then as the department for the academically sound by many students. For me I wanted science. Why? Science was science; science was it! I had little introspection. Both parents and school ought to guide children in choosing the department to go into. This is crucial. A lot of wrong choices have been made at this stage. Other wrong choices proceed from this. Confusion may arise later in life.
The first time I seriously thought of what to become was towards the end of my Senior secondary school when I was about taking the University Matriculation Examination, UME, conducted by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB. My father wanted me to pursue a profession that would be “useful” in Nigeria in making money. He wanted me to become a petroleum engineer or chemical engineer. For me his intention was good. With the influence a father can have on his child, my thought oscillated between the two courses for a while. At last, I filled computer engineering as my first choice in my UME form and petroleum engineering as my second choice. I went on to read computer engineering with the sole aim of getting a good job after university.
There are young men and women whose dream was to finish tertiary education, get a job, and enjoy a progressive career. One, two, three years later, they have not gotten a job. As one gets older, he gets more responsible. A young man or woman would eventually want an accommodation as well as want to start a family someday. Finance has a major part to play in this. So when a white collar job is not forthcoming after a period of time, you should be motivated to think in terms of what you can do. You may ask yourself such question even before looking for a job. Most great men started early. They are “early risers”. The idea of sitting at home, cursing the country, or blaming the government is not the way to go. You have to think. Do away with self-pity; it brings no good. You have to act responsively and responsibly.
This write-up continues in the next post.
Godwin Nwaokike is the author of Growing Through Life: The Pursuit of Fulfilment. Click the image below to find out more about the book.