I spent most of yesterday interacting with a group of students preparing for the SAT. They want to study in American universities so they can have a “better future”. The story is always the same. Their parents want to ensure that they can get “good jobs”. These days when you have foreign education, you are ahead of your peers. I am personally aware of a multinational company that recruits young graduates from UK universities even before they are graduates. So these young people and their parents have a point. It is good security if you want “the job”. Unfortunately they don’t appear to have any idea what “the job” is.
Young Fred caught my attention because he asked a lot of questions. The conversation appeared very new to him. His goal is to become a civil engineer so I probed further. The whys, the Who, the What and Where- you know the drill. It turned out that an uncle he loves a great deal is an engineer except he didn’t realize he is not a civil engineer but rather a mechanical engineer. Fred doesn’t appear to understand the difference but claims he has passion for civil engineering.
He had said that he likes to spend time with his uncle (who I should mention lives in the USA). “He used to fix cars before he left for the greener pastures of the US. Now he works or airplanes” Fred added. From my own experience, uncles and Aunties who live abroad are the coolest people in the family until you are old enough to understand what is going on around you. Taking a path that is influenced by them could be a very dangerous venture.
As far as his parents go, they just want him to get a good education and get a good job. For this they are ready to spend the almost 50,000 USD. I did not get the impression that they were interested in any talents or interest he may have at all. In fact I do not believe there has been any real discussion about his future beyond the fact that he is going to need a job. When I asked about his natural gifts he said he could rap quite well when he was in primary school but he stopped because his parents complained and asked him to focus on his books. So he did.
When I asked him if his parent knew a millionaire called JZ he just giggled. He wasn’t evens sure if they knew a guy called Reggie Rockstone. When I threw the famous what will you do if I gave you a million dollars now at him; the usual house and car and provide for my family came almost instantly. This is the reason he wants a good job and why he needs an American education. There has been no real discussion with his parents or teachers as to what he wants to do with his future and how he can be the best he can be. There is no definition of what it will mean to reach his best. As a Christians you would think the idea of serving the purpose for which God created Fred will be an automatic. Not the case. If he had any talents at all, his parents don’t know about it and if they did, they don’t consider it valuable.
He wants to live what he called a good life although he is not sure what that is. He believes money will make him happy because everything revolves around money. The concept that money is only a medium of exchange and that what he seeks could actually be something else sounded like the strangest thing in the world. He is familiar with the word passion and why it is needed so he uses the word to justify his unclear choices but doesn’t appear to have any passion beyond fidgeting with his mobile phone. He is about to add to our already overloaded average bracket even with his expensive US education. Nothing unusual there; It is the norm. The rest of the groups were pretty much the same.
After Fred I did a short session with some Swiss and Congolese friends who understood what I do more than my own people. We were soon discussing how Ghana can be better so I brought up Fred’s story. Then I was asked the one question we always ask ourselves as Ghanaian. A question I have attempted to answer so many times I have even developed several theories to explain it. Why do we have so many Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Stanford, LSE etc graduates running things in this nation and yet we never make any progress? As I broke into another lecture of theories and hypothesis’ (hey that’s what I do…lol) I couldn’t help wondering what good all this really is? My Swiss friends were nodding their heads… obviously interested with my blabbing- at least I was making some sense of the situation theoretically.
I had probably left young Fred more confused than he was when he sat in that chair to talk to me. If I could press a button to fix his problem, I would. But it takes a lot more than that. I learnt a lot from Fred yesterday. You will be amazed where your lessons will come from. I think I may have learnt more than I taught yesterday. Our high schools are not doing enough by way of career counseling. The kids are really confused like I was when I was their age. Not surprising we have wrong people in the wrong places. I myself have been a square peg in a round hole for a long time. I had to learn the hard way.
The issues are simple; if we continue to churn out more averagers, who just want a position that provides them with the opportunity to rob the rest of us, we will remain on the underdevelopment treadmill for a long time. We will be continuing the average cycle which may not in itself be such a bad thing unless you know that our average is below average per world standards. Using the wrong tools for the job never brought the best results anywhere and leakages have the habit of wasting power. Yet I am no pessimist. |SPiD-UP®