ONE of my longest early childhood struggles was deciding on what exactly I wanted to be in life or precisely what I was to do once I was finished with school. Like many children, I initially wanted to be a doctor. At one point but rather briefly my ambition changed to wishing to be catholic missionary.
Later on in life I wanted to be a businessman, architect, and lawyer and towards the end of my education cycle it was NGO/Community work that was topping the list. For some strange reason when one is much younger the options that come in your head on this issue are usually narrowed down to two or three options.
Many times when you ask children what they want to be in future you are most likely to hear answers like doctor, soldier/policeman minister and even president. At the beginning of this week I met a group of young children at the Meg Foundation’s Kinamba Comunity Project.
I had been requested by one of the volunteers at the project to give the little ones a small talk on what being a journalist is all about and some basic interviewing skills since they were scheduled to visit a few places and talk to ‘big’ people about what they do for a living.
When I asked each one what they wanted to be in future, almost a third went for doctor while many more said they wanted to be soldiers or policemen. There was one aspiring pastor as well as a future president! What this means is that with little career guidance and talks, children or students for that matter will have a narrow view of the world.
They think the only respectable jobs out there are those for medics and security personnel. Although this means they recognise the crucial role played by doctors and security personnel in the country it should not be the end of their thinking when it comes to life choices.
My visit to the community project in Kinamba came just days after I had been to Rwamagana where I was also invited to speak to youthful boys who had just completed a camp organised by Peace Corps Volunteers at HVP Gatagara.
On that day, the organisers of the camp had invited eight different people from different career fields and I was flatteringly referred to as a Media Specialist. Later on I had a chat with the Peace Corps volunteers that had organised this camp and they told me that the objective was to show the boys that with hard work, they could do so much more with their lives than the narrow options of doctor, laywer and soldier.
It is always very frustrating to ask a student about to join university what they want to do for a career and you get a blank stare or that annoying sheepish smile that comes before “I don’t know.” Children need to be taught to focus on the future. They must not be in school just for the sake of it but to be there as a process for the preparation of what their tomorrow ought to be like.
A student who is unaware of what they would like to do with life after school is no different from a passenger who boards a bus without knowing whether it is heading to Bugesera or Rwamagana. Knowing where you are heading is crucial if one is to get there quickly and safely.
Schools should therefore regularly invite different people to talk to the students about career choices out there. On the home front parents need to talk to their children about what uncle Tom or auntie Emily do for a living. Let our young ones know there is so much life has to offer once they are ready to be disciplined, hardworking and focused. I am always humbled to find myself in a position help in this regard.