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Hiya! Just a quick intro :) I lived in Nigeria for more than half of my life (so far) before moving to England and I have seen the best and the worst of both worlds. I was greatly inspired by the #OccupyNigeria protests and this blog is my way of #occupying. A lot of us compare African countries to the Western countries and I will mainly be talking about the positive things that I have observed and learnt in my few years of living here. Payme’s 2Cents is for all who dare to dream to see changes in their lifetime. It is for those who dream to see environments where 'helping' thrives. I will be giving my2cents worth on how we can work towards getting things to change for better. It would be great to know your opinions, so please leave comments. Remember to keep sharing posts that you enjoy. Follow @payme_my2cents. Thanks a lot for visiting!!! Enjoy my2cents :).

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

The Nigerian Dream?



Growing up in Nigeria, I knew I was going to become a medical doctor. It was not a hard decision and I know that a lot of people especially Africans would understand. Back home, science students blessed with good grades are expected to end up as Doctors or Engineers and social-science/art students would become Lawyers and Accountants. Well, I could not really stand Physics so Engineering was out of it for me pretty early on. For students who ended up becoming medical doctors, the route taken to reach that goal was quite straight forward: finish secondary school with high grades, write Jamb and get admitted to study medicine and they were very much on their way. This isn’t the route for everyone but in my environment back then it was the most common route.

Compared with a few people that I know, I actually had a little driving force: I did not want to be a Nurse! Before you crucify me, my dad is a Nurse. A really good and passionate nurse if I must say and I admire him a lot. So my reasons?  Well, I must have been about 9 years old when I got admitted into hospital because I had typhoid (“the lollies being sold outside the school gates are bad for you, you don’t know where the water’s from” my mum warned, but Payme had to find out the hard way :|. The things we put our parents through ey!). Back to business, there is one thing I hate about hierarchy and that is the ‘rudeness’ that people with no professionalism bring with it. And I am sure Nigerians can testify to it that right from primary school to places of work, ‘SENIORITY’ is the order of the day. I saw how some of the doctors talked to the nurses like the nurses were less important and I did not like it – there goes my first reason. Also, while on my hospital bed, I was being pampered and treated nicely and I would like to think that this was because the nurses liked my dad who was their colleague at the time plus he was also a unionist. He was not a paediatric nurse, but even in his absence, the nurses were really nice. But there was a stark difference between the way I was treated and the way the other kids in the ward were treated even with their parents present. They got their drugs, injections etc. on time but there was a distinct lack of empathy and the nurses/doctors were sometimes impatient when it came to reassuring the worried parents. I knew this difference was because they regarded my dad as one of their own and being his child, it was simply natural for them to be nice. Right there and then, as a child, I decided I was going to work in a hospital (albeit for selfish reasons) – there’s my second reason. So, I was going to work in a hospital and not as a nurse but as a doctor. Simple!



However, as a child, I never thought of the implications of those seemingly insignificant thoughts that led to my decisions. What would happen if I fell sick in a part of the country where none of my family members worked? Would I need to also train as a banker so that I can be treated nicely in banks? Would I build schools and employ teachers so that my own children will not be ignored while other teachers mainly focused on their colleagues’ children? Would I need to become a police officer or marry a policeman so that whenever my car gets stopped by officers who are mainly interested in my N20, I can just get myself out of the situation by presenting my ID card or simply placing a phone call? Funny enough, as I am writing this, my cousin is at a police station with her friends because the police stopped their car on the road and without being arrested for any offence, they are now at the police station. I do not doubt her story as I have personally experienced such twice in 2010 while in Nigeria for a holiday. They ask you for your papers/license, you show them all the documents and somehow you still end up at the police station either for reasons your new car occupant, a guy with a gun with a police tagged vest cannot even explain (they do jump and sit in your car!) or because the receipt of the laptop you bought more than 4 years ago is not with you or the e-mails on your smartphone contain facebook friend requests which are now somehow illegal in Nigeria as all of these make you a likely scammer. Rant over. Back to business again! :)

My decision to become a doctor was not based on any passion or long term desire. I do not even know if it is right to call it a decision as I just sort of reached that point. I simply was going to become a medical doctor because I excelled in science. Now being 14 when I graduated and being in Nigeria did not help matters as I really did not have a clue about ‘doing what you love’ and no one spoke to me about that. I was blessed to not have gone to the university right from that age (trust, I did not see it as a blessing at the time lol). My family moved to the UK and I was not allowed to start A-levels as I was only 14. I spent two years in secondary school and two more years to obtain my A-Levels and then I was back at the “what do I do?” junction. Initially, it was medicine although I found biology boring. Mathematics was better but I did not want to spend years in the university studying something that I thought was abstract. Chemistry was my favourite but I did not want to become a teacher - the only people I knew in Nigeria who had degrees in subjects like Maths, Biology, Chemistry etc. were all teachers. Bear it in mind that I grew up in a town with no Chevron, LNG and the likes. Ile-Ife had schools, hospitals and OAU (a university). After my A-levels, I took the UKCAT exam, had the right grades but I still was not sure. The processes involved in gaining admission to study medicine in the UK made me realise that I did not want to study the course. The processes were not only focused on the academics part of qualification and great emphasis was laid on qualities that make up a good doctor. Qualities like passion for the job, empathy for patients etc. I realised I could study but I did not really care about the job. I did not have a desire to help people through medical processes. It was just not for me. Chemistry thumped Biology. Still, the realisation that I was not going to become a medical doctor was hard for me to accept even though it was my choice and then I had to tell my dad! lol. God bless my parents, they were supportive:). I then spoke to my Chemistry teacher who was so kind to give me really helpful advice with regards to career options. A lot did not even involve teaching (like really! lol). Why did my classmates and I not get help with regards to career choices in my secondary school in Nigeria? One would think students would be guided through making such important decisions. Not all schools are like this but majority are.

Why this long story? Well, if I had become a medical doctor, a hospital in the near future would have had to employ me - a doctor who over the years would have become more and more jaded. How would such a doctor treat his/her colleagues (fellow doctors, nurses, orderlies etc.) and the patients who would need empathy and care? Medicine is hard enough for people who love it! Could this be the problem with most of the professions in Nigeria? Do the teachers, police officers, bankers and others love their jobs? I know that not everybody in life would be blessed with being able to do exactly what they enjoy. However, what are the proportions of people who at least like what they do to the proportions of people who completely hate their jobs and just do them in order to survive?

Different factors contribute to the predicament of being an unfulfilled individual. From the parents who do not help or encourage their children to become better at what they are good at due to the fear of having them grow up and not be able to earn a living and fend for themselves, to the educational system that fosters the stereotype that a particular group of students (science based ones) are better than others (students in commercial/art classes), to the government who do not provide enough funding for different sectors of the nation from agriculture to sports to education etc. Are children encouraged to become what they want to be or are they steered to become what we want them to become? Maybe that banker would be more helpful if he was a PE teacher in a school. However, would he become a teacher when he already knows that the only type of teaching that provides a decent income is lecturing at higher institutions? How many times has he read/heard about teachers being on strikes as their salaries have not been paid? How many times has he heard some complain of earning next to nothing and having little or no opportunity of furthering their careers? Well maybe if the environment was right and he was teaching the subject that he liked, there would be a position in the bank for someone who actually studied and enjoyed accounting but had no one who could help him get the job (since getting some jobs in Nigeria is not really about the qualifications you own, it is about who you know). Well now that ‘someone’ is a frustrated barber who could not care less about customer service. “I went to the university so that I could get a white-collar job, not to sit here and cut people’s hair” he grumbles to himself from time to time. If there were more avenues to obtain funds from the government for small businesses, he might be able to try his hand at a different business that he would enjoy. One of the non-English speaking policemen who arrested ‘our car’ might be excellent at farming if agriculture was an encouraged practice and if there were regular teachings on how to market your farm produce and expand your trade. Instead, he is left at the mercy of citizens’ curses in a job with no promise of him getting better or actually getting to take his oaths seriously. Maybe the boy who is now a jaded social studies teacher would have used his sociology certificate to join politics or the police force as his passion lies with national causes. However, he knows that becoming a police officer or a politician in Nigeria is not a career choice ‘normal’ people make daily. People who work in such fields are tagged as criminals. Even the rightly qualified ones who want to do their jobs honestly cannot do so and are frustrated because they are surrounded with colleagues who either have no passion for the job or do not even know what their profession should be like.

Where is Nigeria heading to? Nigeria is going to remain backwards until the day the majority of the population are in their rightful places. Until people are no longer frustrated with their lot, until the only people selling in the market know that they are there as a matter of personal choice, until the boy whose only interest is acting does not become our future senator. Until, we learn to channel our thinking in the right direction, Nigeria would remain what it is – a mediocre if not downright awful country filled with frustrated and unfulfilled citizens. I once naively believed that studying chemistry meant I would end up being a teacher. How many children/students are out there unaware of their options? How many of your children have you sought to steer or block from doing what they enjoy? How many friends and siblings have you unnecessarily dissuaded? Not every student that studies drama ends up being a waiter, some make it to the big screen, some make it as authors of plays, and some make it as lecturers. How much has traditional thinking incapacitated us? The most successful people in the world are the people who stick with what they enjoy doing. The great scientists, footballers, statesmen, authors etc would not be where they are today without support. 

Students should talk to their teachers and principals about organising career events for them. Extracurricular activities such as sports, creative writing classes, arts classes, music bands etc. should be encouraged in schools. More companies should be involved in organising career focused events in schools and enlightenment programs should not be limited to people in the big cities (Lagos, Abuja, Port-Harcourt etc.) as most of the students in towns and villages are unaware of the great opportunities in the big cities and the outside world. When people are encouraged and exposed to learning from a wider circle, they would be in the position to use their gained knowledge and experience to develop their local communities. As individuals, we should do our best to work towards our dreams and encourage the people around us who are working towards theirs. I understand that the government has significant roles to play but we all have our individual responsibilities too. People like you and me end up in the government. When we are happy and fulfilled, we would become more motivated and interested in improving the welfare of our community and the people in it. Change starts with one person. If we expect our country to change, we must choose to rock the boat sometimes and do away with the traditional ways of thinking that hold us back. Enough of the “this is how it has always been, why bother to change it now?” thinking. There are so many ways of improving the state of our country and I firmly believe that this is one of those ways. We cannot keep celebrating less than a thousand people in a country filled with about 160 million people. Things have to change and we have to act now! This is my own way of #OccupyingNigeria. Are you with me? :)

@payme_my2cents



Image from http://professionalsearchafrica.com/

14 comments:

Ponlexious said...

This is a brilliant article,well written. We've indeed suffered for long in ignorance(the greatest disease;'My people perish because of lack of knowledge'...the light has come, thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

What a great way to OccuppyNigeria!! Wonderful piece it is... I really hope Nigeria gets to the stage someday. how,when,?? I really don't know o o o..

Anonymous said...

Wow!! Payme, you put most of my thoughts into writing.. One thing i have always known is that, you must LOVE what you do in order to be successful in it, if there is no PASSION for it, then there is no way one will grow. It is also important that, children/young adults should be ALLOWED to choose their choice of career. Their parents should be there to advice them but not to over influence their own decisions thereby making them feel they have to do a particular type of career. In the long run, if an individual loves their career, you'd see that the drive for it will improve and they tend to be good at what they are doing.

Anonymous said...

Love it!The truth written out so beautifully.

Dayo Snr said...

Uhm! Your beautifully crafted piece came about 35 years too late for me. I believe I was born to be a "maths teacher"!!! However, my Mum wanted me to be a medical doctor. I couldn't go for teaching because nobody in Nigeria will understand why somebody with the "kind" of brain that God has blessed me with would want to be a Teacher. I eventually read Engineering and then went on to do a PhD so that I can fufil my Mum's yearning of having a child addressed as a "Dr". Am I fulfilled?? In a way yes; as I ended up being a glorified Teacher aka Lecturer. Can't wait for your next piece.

Olumoroti Akinloluwa said...

Written with candor.

Anonymous said...

good talk, but what do we do ,where do we go from here dear, one thing is sure, that we all have d solution . GOD will see us tru amen amen &amen

Jide Bello said...

Highly definitive piece.Kudos to you Pemi. This should be compressed into the nitty gritty and published in a widely circulated educational or social journal or periodical with vast coverage back here in Nigeria.More than ever before in the History of Nigeria, I strongly believe it's that time that the Nigerian educational system and even parents do away with backward thinking and dogmas of getting educated.We must see that this has to do with the future of the country and about building a lifetime career that will create the over harped but yet unseen 'New Nigeria'.

Payme's Cents #OccupyingTheWorld :) said...

Thank you and thanks for reading. Share with your friends please :)

kabal said...

Brilliant piece. This happens to almost all Nigerian youths. Every brilliant child has to be a doctor, engineer or a lawyer!

webround said...

I schooled in Naija (FGC) and we had a guidance counsellor whom we all had to meet with when we entered SS3. I remembered clearly that the guy spent time discussing with me when he had looked at my documentation and discovered I had dropped one of the 4 science classes in my final year. He took the time to ask me why I dropped the course, and when I gave my answer, he tried to explain to me that doing that was limiting the possible careers I could embark on. His advise then was to at least take the class for up to second term at which point I would be very sure of my career (by then I would either have written JAMB or filled out the JAMB form). Bottom line is we had a counsellor who actually talked to us about our careers.

Also, this issue of ending up in a career that you are not passionate about is not synonymous with Nigeria. In the US, most immigrant parents (including Asians) insist that their Kids should study medicine, law or computer science. For example, if you're the child of an Asian immigrant and you tell your parents you want to study music or literature, they will almost behave the same way the average Nigerian parent would behave

Payme said...

Hiya, thanks for reading and taking the time to comment :) Good to know that your experience with FGC was positive. There are a lot of schools lacking in that area. Also, it would be quite narrow-minded of me to think that particular issues are only experienced in Nigeria. My language is specific because of my target audience. Thanks again:)

Anonymous said...

Hmm... This write up touched one of the fundamental issues in the Nigerian Education. I have my regrets and I still thank God that I went through the Nigerian Secondary Education. The fact is that, our parents believed that a child can only become "somebody" in life if he choose science and become a Doctor or Engineer. What about technicians, mechanics, or pharmacists? are they not worthy of recognition? Nah... not in Nigeria. and if you talk about doing art subjects, they you are not smart at all!!! that was my dilemma back then, I took science subjects to please my dear parents and I finished and came down here to Malaysia with the full awareness that I would emerged as an Engineer - however, I hate science with conviction. Now, I had my 1st degree in E-Commerce , MSc Finance and now in my PhD in Business Administration. If we had career counselors to discuss with, perhaps, I would have removed all science subjects before my WAEC but I didn't have that privilege.
Payme, thanks for stroking a chord in my heart... I appreciate it!!!

@CollinsMaestro said...

I've always loved literature. In my SS1 I had read all the books and most of the poems in the Literature syllabus. In SS2 I read 'Authority in Government' cover to cover. But I was a 'science student'. I did sciences because we were made to believe you only took art subjects if you couldn't pass physics or chemistry. Nothing about one's passion. I ended up studying sociology in the university and even got an M.Sc in Developmental Sociology but I believe I would have been better if I was allowed to be an 'Art student' regardless of whether I could do well in physics and chemistry or not.
This is a great article. Please keep it up.