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But Why Should She Be An Architect? Why Not a Fashion Designer? Why Not a Footballer?   
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I woke up at 6:00am at the Sasakawa Guest House at the University of Cape Coast, writing this article in my dream. The passion to put this message across dawned on me like it usually does when the Lord wants me to prepare a sermon on a particular theme.

It just drops in your spirit like that, and you just start writing, and that is exactly what I am doing now. My purpose for writing this article is to provoke a mature but profound debate on the career choices of our youth.

This is my thesis: ‘‘Parents may be doing a lot of harm to their children in compelling them to read certain specific programmes in school’’.

I know the basis for these parental decisions are usually the prospects of securing a good job after school, and also social prestige in some situations. Other times, it is to fulfil a family tradition.

A family I know has all male wards being Medical Doctors. It is great by all standards. Another family I know, for this same reason, ensured their last born who wanted to defy the family tradition of all males schooling at my alma mater, St. Augustine’s College, never realized his dream of becoming an ‘ODADE3’. Although he  managed to select PRESEC Legon at the blind side of the family during their BECE school selection, he was  withdrawn from PRESEC after only his first term, and taken to St. Augustine’s for only one justifiable reason: family tradition.

I am disturbed by these happenings and this is why I write this article. You see, I have only one regret in my life, and that has been reading science at secondary school. When I look back, I see that mistake as been largely responsible for all my career contours.

It took me just my first year at St. Augustine’s to realise I didn’t belong to that science 3 class. I feared the chemistry tutor then, Mr. Boamah; I didn’t enjoy physics; I clearly despised elective mathematics. But guess what, I always looked forward with glee to a session on social studies and english language.

I endured four years at the KNUST reading another science programme – natural resource management. I hated experimental research design: till date, I still do not get the principles behind chi square analysis and probability. My best moments at the university were the language and human related courses such as literature and sociology. Forward to the Masters level at Royal Holloway, University of London, and I still hated the mathematics and other empirical courses.

I loved the social constructivist courses; I enjoyed the debates in development theory, democracy and governance and the likes. My adrenalin would shoot up anytime I had to speak to people to convince them on an issue. I thought I was strongest there. Recently at my work place, senior management just decided to move me into a talkative role – Advocacy Manager, why? Because my Country Director thinks I am strongest convincing people to do something with evidence. Do I enjoy what I do now? Absolutely! No struggles at all.

I have realized I have been designed to convince people with evidence to get them to act. Today, I am a sexual and reproductive health advocate, and also a pastor, and the feedback I get from people who have listened to me, and keep listening to me is that I am very unique behind the microphone. I think if I had read general arts in high school, and continued to read sociology or any of the humanities at the tertiary level, I would have been far more advanced along the career path than where I am now.

I have had the opportunity to counsel and also pastor several hundreds of young people in our senior high and tertiary institutions across the country, as part of my pastoral work, and I can say this for a memorable fact: many of our young fellows are attempting to please their fathers by the courses they are reading, and they are struggling to keep up.

They want to give up, but cannot, because Daddy would berate them if they decided to drop out of medical school or the engineering programme and re-apply to read sociology. Some of my girls, who clearly should be reading performing arts or journalism are reading accounting and biochemistry and they are suffering.

Their GPAs are not good, because they cannot motivate themselves enough to study. Why are they still there? Daddy said they should read accounting and also become accountants. A dear friend of mine is reading one of the medical sciences, and she wishes she was reading something social science related. She tells me she virtually closes her eyes to score good As in the social science courses, but struggles to make a B in the pure sciences.  Another reading journalism has vowed never to practice after school. She is looking forward to opening her own business and engaging in active marketing to make a lot of money.

My emphasis on our fathers is because of what I keep hearing from their children. It seems the mothers do not particularly care what courses their children read: they just appreciate the fact that they are in the university. It is the fathers whose names keep coming up as determining the programmes their children should read. I think this should be relooked at. But why should your ward take after you in vocation? Is that a rule? I am very happy my father never spoke to me about accounting, even though he was with the Accountant General’s department, because the accounting spreadsheets just kill my motivation when I see them. I am least excited about figures.

In all my interactions, I seem to have come across only a few young people who had the opportunity to take a decision on what programme they really wanted to read in school, were given the go ahead to apply and actually went through the programmes successfully. It is same in my professional interactions, especially with doctors and nurses.

I think a significant proportion of these practicing professionals wished they never entered medical school or the nursing school in the first place. They are suffocating in curative medicine; they are bored, worn out, disappointed they are not seeing all the glamour around the profession, which they envisaged back in high school; they have seen it doesn’t pay, it is tedious, too emotional, and really wish to do something else. I have seen a good number move into public health, where they interface more with healthy people, have greater autonomy over their schedule, pays better, and have no plans at all to return to the hospital. Was there a problem with the human biology programme? Not at all.

The problem was that right from JHS, Daddy, seeing her results cards started telling her she will become a doctor. Then she scored 10 ones in BECE and 8As in SSSCE, and then she entered medical school to fulfill Daddy’s prophesy, only to realise after a few years, she enjoyed fashion design and politics more than anatomy and physiology. I have still not been able to convince myself why a parent would let a ward who scored 5As, 3Bs in WASSCE, and had gained admission to read a very honourable programme, one she preferred at the University of Ghana, go to a nurses training college, all because the mother thought there was ready employment for nurses after school. Today, she has realized she was deceived; nurses also struggle for employment after all.

But is there really a problem if our best students decide not to read pharmacy or engineering, but entrepreneurship or philosophy? Why can’t they read sports and physical education, or train as professional coaches? Recently, Professor Joshua Alabi shared a research finding to the effect that, the very intelligent in school rarely rise into high leadership in our society.

Rather, it is the not too intelligent in school who end up rising to the top and employing the brilliant ones to work for them in various capacities –consultants, employees etc. I think it is largely true. Not many of our politicians in government or parliament probably scored first class in school: not many of our business owners who have employed thousands – such as Dr. Siaw Agyepong- read valedictory speeches at their congregation ceremonies back in the university. I think life is really not about the course you read in school or the class you completed with. Almost inevitably, the people who end up making it to the very top are those who identify their passion, and decide to follow it to the end. It should not be a crime for a child to decide to be something unconventional, provided it is not criminal. I think we should give the young people space to decide what they want to do with their lives.

Today, I am very convinced I am a global icon in the making, why? Because I am following my heart, and I am enjoying every minute of my life. Growing up, I wanted to be a football coach! Today, I coach hundreds, and soon millions, through the gospel of Jesus Christ, and I think I am a Vicente Del Bosque (who to me is the greatest coach ever) in the making in the kingdom of God.

In deciding to let the children follow their hearts, we do not lose them, but multiply our gains in them. What they need is our little guidance here and there, and they will do just fine in life.

The writer is the Advocacy Manager and Youth Focal Person for Marie Stopes International Ghana, and the Head Pastor of PHANEROSIS PRAYER NETWORK INTERNATIONAL (PHANET), a non-denominational prayer network, committed to raising 1million intercessors in Ghana by 2020, and 1 billion across the world by 2050.


Source: Godfred Bonnah Nkansah/[email protected]

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