Recently, I read a newspaper article about the former governor of Lagos State, Nigeria, Bola Tinubu whose daughter Abibat recently graduated from one of the best music schools in the world, The Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts, United States. The school lists amongst its alumni music greats like Quincy Jones, Joey Kramer of Aerosmith, John Mayer, Trey Parker co-creator of animated series South Park and PSY, South Korean rapper most famous for the hit song, Gangnam Style. Even Nigeria's very own Tiwa Savage is an alumni! Till date, 99 alumni of the school have received 229 Grammy Awards, according to Wikipedia.
You would think her graduating then will be met with applause and hearty congratulations?
I was beyond shocked when I read the comments that followed the article with the majority of comments lambasting the young, ambitious lady as to her 'poor' choice in studying music, saying it showed she was lazy and didn't really want to study hard hence she chose a less stressful course and that studying music was a waste of her parents money.
The comments were so bad that the website moderators had to put up the following comment:
As moderators, we need to intervene with this comment:
This young woman does not deserve the abuses here. In opting to study music, she has only followed her passion. And what’s more, taking a college degree in the best music school in the world.
A lot of youngsters do not follow their passions in choosing their careers, only to graduate to find out that they went to university to waste some years.
We should all pray to know what our passions are and pursue them as life-long careers, not pursuing careers that don’t bring out our true personalities.
Fela was a good example. He went to the Uk to study music. While his other brothers made their mark in medical practice, Fela became the most popular, most celebrated Nigerian in his life-time and even posthumously.
Nigerians let us rise above parochialism, on this matter.
Now to say these sort of comments get to me will be saying the least. You would assume that in 2013, we as black people would have risen beyond the belief that if a child does not opt for a career in medicine, law or engineering, they are failures. To opt for anything less would be frowned at and I have seen many parents fight their child going on to university to study music or art or any 'lesser' course with all their might. At this point, I would like to acknowledge those few parents who have supported their children in whatever paths they choose. You are simply the best and I pray that you live long to reap the fruits of your labour.
Recently, I was priviledged to organise a parent/youth forum where we discussed problem issues that arise between parents and youths from three perspectives: Sex and Relationships, Career and Religion. Before the event, however, we conducted a survey and collected questions from these youngsters which we intended to put forward, anonymously, for the parents to answer and the most frequently asked question was on the issue of parents insisting that their children study a particular course whereas the child had a totally different course in mind that they would have loved to study. There was a 16 year old girl who desired to venture into the world of fashion and study at the London Fashion School, but whose father would rather she studied law. There was a 24 year old graduate of Information Technology who had initially wanted to be a chef but declined because his mother was totally against it. There was an 18 year old with the best voice you have ever heard who dreamed of a life performing on stage but who, in a bid to please her parents, chose to study Journalism. And the list goes on.
My heart weeps when I see such situations as I have mentioned above. It weeps at our lack of understanding and our inability to see apparent opportunities that are untapped and our desire to, instead chase after where the paths have already been laid. My heart weeps for the youngsters who could have lived their dreams right from an early age, but instead are spending the best years of their lives doing what they are only partly or not passionate about. It weeps at the ignorance of this generation and the fantastic opportunities we might be missing out on. And please don't tell me they can still have great lives in their substitute endeavours. Yes they can, but It simply ain't the same. I know because even though I grew to love Law because my father constantly drummed it in my ears that it was the best course for me to do, my innate dream was to write music and I spent a great deal of time in my formative years trying to develop my passion for music. Until Law took over. And music went into the background. But I find that I still naturally gravitate towards music, and this was not in any way boosted by my LLB.
Our brains differ in abilities, yet we expect only the best. Don't get me wrong, it is not a bad thing for a child to be pushed to do better and achieve good grades as long as it is targetted in such a way that the child's passions are considered. Too many people in our generation are working at jobs they absolutely do not love and waking up everyday to go to work is a grumble. It is time we stood up for a change. Chinua Achebe was initially enrolled to study Medicine and boy did he have the brains for it! He could have gone on to do excellently well as a medical doctor but he chose to go where his passions lie and study English instead and look what he achieved.
This is a passionate plea to parents and guardians; there are dreams that lie in the heart of every child, talents that have been deposited in them that makes them unique and makes them..them. Stop putting them in the back burner. Please. Stop the belief that a child can only do great if they go to university to study a 'professional' course. It is not true. Every course studied has the ability to make you a professional. Please stop restricting your children, allow them experience life in their own unique way, not the way you wish you had enjoyed yours. Stop forcing your dreams on them, and please open your heart and minds and dig deeper into what your child is interested in before you say no.
You will be doing our world a whole lot of good.
P.S: I really, really want to know your thoughts! Please feel free to comment in the section below.