Malawi Secondary School Examinations (MSCE's) are well under way across Malawi. Students graduated at colourful ceremonies, danced their four years of hard work off at discos and received gifts of all sorts from their parents, guardians, relatives and friends. Well, at least that was the case at the secondary school in my community (Chisugulu Community Day Secondary school, simply known as Chisugulu or Deck).
After all the graduation buzz, the exams finally started.
I have these two friends that are writing their MSCE's. They came to visit me after their first exam and we had quite an interesting chat that day. It was all about their career choices after they write their MSCE's.
I wasn't shocked when they told me they both wanted to study nursing because that's what most girls here aspire to study, aside from teaching. So I asked them why they wanted to be nurses and they said "because we want to help people." I then asked them what would happen if that didn't work out for them for whatever reasons and they said they didn't know what they would do because that's all they really wanted.
So I shared with them my career choice story to teach them a lesson or two. And here it is:
When I was a kid , I always asked that very common question every kid gets asked..."what do you want to be when you grow up?" I want to be a doctor I would answer.
The question "why?" would follow and I would say because I want to help people. That dream died down quietly. And then I wanted to study law for the same reason "to help people." Today, I am not a lawyer nor am I doctor. Honestly... if were you to ask me if I'm happy with what I am currently doing... I would tell you YES!!
Why? "Because I am helping people" just like I've always wanted.
The one thing I wanted them to learn from this was that not everyone gets to be what they aspire to be. Some get their aspired careers. Some get careers that fulfill the reasons why they wanted a certain career that they didn't get and some get careers that they wanted but the reasons for wanting it are not there. It might seem like common knowledge to most but these girls and their peers in my community are not informed/educated on this. They have no one to open their eyes on things like these, they believe their community is doomed not to have successful people.
The girls pointed that it was hard to get out of their community as they have no one to guide them and no one to look up to. They said that no one has ever gone out of their community to make something big out of themselves so they can inspire the younger generations. And so because of this, the community believes that once students sit for their MSCE's, they must get married and forget about going further with their education as it's pointless . This isn't just for the girls, it applies to the boys too. And this is the most probable reason why they (both girls and boys) drop out of school in my community.
It seemed that these girls and other students lost hope in having brighter futures because of the unconscious ignorance of their communities, which results in ridicule of those trying to make out of the community. Some parents have raised concerns about other parents in the community mocking them and discouraging them from sending their children to school. They are unaware that it is these very young people that could help with the development of their community and country as a whole.
This mindset that these young people have might continue to be shared to the generations to come in their community.
How then can the hope of these young people having brighter futures be instilled in them? What are the possible ways of changing the older generations mindsets as well as the mindsets of these young people, for a hopeful community?
They say "the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago, the second best time is now." You believe in yourselves and you are hopeful about your future endeavors . Help me, to help them believe in themselves and to be hopeful about their future.
Your ideas will go a long way. :-)