There is no doubt in my mind that most Nigerian parents are after what is best for their children. There are no limits to what my parents would do for me and I am forever grateful for what they have already done and plan to do. I am sure a lot of you can relate to the sacrifices parents make every day for our progress, but what happens when this well meant sacrifices clash with our own dreams and aspirations? Allow me to explain.
Today Chiamada Adiche is a celebrated bestselling author around the world with a movie adaptation of one of her books ready for the big screen.
She decided to study Communication and Political Science after a year and half of Medicine and Pharmacy. The founding father of Nigeria’s independence, Nnamdi Azikiwe mastered in Political Science and Anthropology. Wole Soyinka, Obafemi Awolowo, Chinua Achebe…etc. There is no shortage of progressive thinking Nigerians that have opted to study in fields not related to science, this include engineering by the way. So why do our parents continue to present the idea that some degrees are more equal than others?
For as long as I could remember my parents had always told me that science degrees were the only degrees worth having. On arriving to the UK for further education after leaving secondary school I wasn’t the least surprised to realize just about every other Nigerian was studying Pharmacy, Medicine, a form of Engineering, and the occasional Accountancy, Economics and Business Studies. During my first year in University while studying Pharmacy I rang my parents to discuss the possibility of changing to another degree. I personally felt ill-suited for pharmacy as it seemed to be in conflict with most of my natural talents and interests. I wanted to study PPE, a combined degree drawing on Philosophy, Politics, and Economics. I won’t go into the details of the phone call but it ended with my dad suggesting the degree was worthless and will lead to poverty in my future. Similar stories are not unheard of and the perception of most unorthodox to be somewhat inferior to the conventional degrees is evident even in the employers market in Nigeria. Perhaps maybe it only seems this way because at entry level there are only few pupils in these degrees anyways. In my secondary school only one for catered to social-science and arts students respectively. Five forms housed the science students!
If Nigeria is to progress we must change our perception on what education means to start with. This means instead of considering it to be an investment for future job prospects we must think of it first as an opportunity for mind expansion. Secondly, parents should learn to take the talents and natural affinities of their children into account in the process of course guidance. Finally, we must change our perception of the current unorthodox degrees by learning to appreciate their value in society. In an emerging economy and developing society it is imperative to possess a well-rounded talent pool of individuals.