20 May Making a Case for Vocational Learning
You remember when you wrote the JAMB examination and you were under intense pressure to score above 200 so as to qualify for Post-Jamb exam into a Tertiary Institution. Remember WAEC; you needed to ace the core subjects including English and Mathematics while simultaneously avoiding an ‘F’ in your result so as to better your chances, you perfected the act of espionage- bending over your paper with faux concentration while minding the business of your buddy’s beside you who is so much better at reconnaissance for answers from all corners around him/her.
Fast-forward a few months later, you seat in for Post-Jamb to your school of choice and take the exam. The result is posted and your score is just shy of the fixed cut-off so you are advised to select a Course you had absolutely no idea existed. You listen to those who say being a graduate is the important thing not the course of study so you settle to study a local Language or Forensic Anthropology (in Nigeria, are you kidding me?) or Archeology (sighs!).
4/5years later, you are celebrating your graduation with a 3.1 CGPA and your Second Class Lower certificate in a course you never quite had an interest in. Your folks are super proud of you. You are effectively the first in your lineage to go to school and graduate thus the sky is your starting point. Everyone turns up for celebration, they even wheeled in your Great-Grand ma from ICU (Intensive Care Unit), conveniently forgetting that she has Alzheimer and as far as she was concerned she just got abducted by undiscovered specie of humans. Service year comes and go and you are in the sadistic embrace of the Nigerian labor market, fighting for a spot with 1st class, Second Class upper, Msc, PHD and some other funky 3-5 letters acronym certificate holder. Out of desperation you settle for the next best thing in your opinion and in time forget about your passion to design or create things. You let your certificate define you.
The above lengthy scenario describes the life of oh-so-many graduates in Nigeria today. For some it doesn’t play out exactly as described above but still they restrict their knowledge and exposure to only what they learnt in school. Remember some generations ago, education was absolutely unnecessary; all you needed was your farm, your herds of cattle and your vocational skills to attract a healthy lifestyle and chics. Then we moved on to a phase where it was education or nothing, vocational skill set was relegated to private hobbies on a minuscule scale. Now, we have come full circle around; education and a vocational skill(s) set are absolutely vital to survive the harsh economy. This is our reality. Take for example Ima- a Dentist who had assumed that the only way she could survive was to apply to a Government hospital; earn “government money” and simultaneously run a Private Practice (PP). As soon as the harsh wind of reality slapped her hard across the face she realized that she was unable to deal, she reacted by settling down into her new role as a Front Desk officer conveniently forgetting that her mother is into Tye and Dye and Adire textile business and that she has a knack for it too. Ms Dentist could have decided to grow her mother’s backyard business into an online and global brand by going at it with all that she has learnt. She was taught that
“…dental structures generally cannot repair themselves and require regular care to retain their health and vitality to remain strong”
This can be translated into
“Mum’s business cannot mature by itself from a small scale backyard business into a global brand except new ideas and concepts are injected into it to give it a new lease at life.
I would like to emphasize that the role of education isn’t only to train one in the line of study; it is also to enable one see problems differently and tackle it with refined finesse.
I have come across several people who refused to be defined by just a certificate; a distant mentor who studied Medicine and today runs an E-commerce store. a doctor buddy who today makes beautiful furniture and is in high demand, a scientist who makes clothes etc and what they all have in common is that they are absolutely pleased with the path they are on. For some of them condition (read unemployment) forced them to looked deeper to discover their passion, and their passion in turn provides them with a source of livelihood and satisfaction for others as soon as they obtained what family and society demanded of them, they turned to what they desired.
In conclusion, take time out from your hour-long romance with Jobberman and your 7-days fasting for a job at Shell to look at yourself. What do I love to do? What can I make of what I love to do? Do I want to put up with an unsatisfying job and a dreary 8-5 timetable? No, then vocational skills may have the answer and the satisfaction you seek. You have a skill, develop it today.