Parents in most cases are pushed to actively engage in their children’s lives, to ensure that they are making the right choices.
Some parents, however, go to the extent of wanting to have the ‘upper hand’ even when it comes to taking major decisions, such as choosing a career.
Local comedian and actor, Michael Sengazi, was obliged by his parents to pursue a career in law, a path he followed when he joined the University of Kigali, but deep down he knew this wasn’t his dream career.
This is why after graduating he chose to follow his passion —comedy. His parents failed to understand how a qualified lawyer could decide to go for comedy because they didn’t see it as a ‘well-paying job’.
He had a challenge of convincing them to bless his journey. “So, I asked them to give me one year to try and see if comedy would work out for me. I worked hard and my parents realised that I could achieve big things, and they gave me the freedom to pursue my career.”
Sengazi's experience brings this case to the forefront. The comedian emphasises that parents ought to understand their children and recognise that they are individuals with personal dreams.
“There are times when parents do not really understand a child’s career perspective. But children have dreams and parents should give them this freedom of choice if they are to become self-reliant,” he says.
Emmanuel Niyonsaba, a father of four, says since it’s the child’s future and not the parent, kids should have the freedom to choose their own careers.
“Sometimes parents force their children to choose according to their desires, and the end result for this is a lack of motivation.”
He, however, says he wouldn’t advise anyone to have conflicts with parents over education.
“Education is a solution not a problem to society. You can study anything and reserve time in your free period and holidays to undertake your vocation,” he says.
A student from the University of Rwanda who chose to speak on grounds of anonymity describes a profound bitterness she holds against her parents for making her take up a career she wasn’t interested in.
“When I joined my advanced level, I passed with flying colours, in that I could have chosen anything of my interest. But my parents told me that I must either become an engineer or a doctor because they are among the high-paying jobs nowadays. I really feel bitter towards them because this is my future and not theirs. They should let me choose my own path in life and be left to deal with the consequences since it’s my life,” she says.
Bienvenue Muragwa, a career consultant at The Southern New Hampshire University based in Rwanda, says that parents are only allowed to guide the child during the career guidance process, but not take the final decision.
“Parents are not allowed to choose or take the final decision for their children as the performance of the student is the assessing parameter of the career to be pursued,” he explains.
Children should be independent
Shalom Azabe, a graduate in general counselling at Kampala Christian University, says in most African countries, not only Rwanda, children are overly dependent on their parents, yet this shouldn’t be the case.
She recommends picking a leaf from westerners who endeavour to learn their children’s interests, something she says aides them in career guidance for the child.
“Normally, a child starts to demonstrate a choice in a career at 14 years of age. This is when parents need to sit down and make analysis that would help them guide their child in choosing the fitting option to undertake,” she says.
“This is in fact considered as over-protection as parents want to exercise their authority on their kids unwillingly, yet this affects them psychologically, and when the kid later on fails, they encounter a regret of pursuing studies that were not their choice in the first place,” Azabe adds.
According to Muragwa, children should be given space to experience life on their own. He urges parents to mostly give advice, rather than making the choice for them.
“Children have aspirations but less ability to choose the best career option to pursue. Parents, on the other hand, have personal experiences and complete knowledge about their children, they can, hence, guide them in making the best choice regarding their future,” he says.
Eugene Fixer Ngoga, the director of the career guidance unit at Rwanda Education Board (REB), says parents shouldn’t impose unreasonable restrictions for the child to choose a certain career.
“It should be a mutual effort guided by a complete evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, ability, and willingness of the child with the scope of option proposed in the future. Only then can such a decision be made as it proves to be correct for the individual, parents and the nation at large. We work with schools’ parent boards and we train them on the reactions towards their children’s careers, which is an on-going campaign,” Ngoga says.
Meanwhile, the career guidance unit in REB is starting career campaigns right after the 2019 academic year.
“Last year, we trained 832 teachers on the career guidance system and we are planning to continue this year. We are developing manuals, circulating brochures, posters and preparing career dress-up days in every district,” Ngoga adds.