Irabor Nkeoyeasoa Mary
Those days have fizzled out when only people who are not privileged enough to attend school are forced to learn a skill or a trade. The table has turned now. Young students who have skills are better at managing themselves through school without being a thorn of the flesh of their parents. Later, when they’re done with their first degree, they seamlessly make something out of their lives while others who don’t have any skills end up roaming around with files and worn out shoes. How would it feel spending more than four years in the university and an extra one year for National Youth Service Corps only to be told to go and acquire a skill in order to survive?
To some graduates, this rhetorical question rings a bell in their head. Many questions may be going through their heads as they read this. ‘Why did I go to school in the first place?’ or ‘Did I just waste five years of my life positioning myself to work in a corporate environment and run errands?’.
Evidently, white collar jobs in Nigeria are often obtained by nepotism. You have to know a powerful person who gets you in and that can be really frustrating for someone who’s been rejected even though they are qualified. So, what do you do to survive in such an unfair society?
Nowadays, visionary parents are taking the bull by the horn and clearing the way for their children. Taking a tour around Iponri Market in Surulere Lagos, I observed a trend. During long vacations for secondary school students, there is a large number of teenagers learning one craft or the other in various shops. It was a delightful sight at the particular shop I chose to call at. Speaking with their trainer, I gathered more insight.
“All my apprentices are students, the senior ones are waiting for admission into the university, college or polytechnic while the junior ones are still in secondary school. Majority of them came to make enquiries to learn on their own but I insisted that they bring their parents as guarantors before I can start training them.” Mrs. Sosanwo Tope, a tailor at Iponri Market said.
Mrs. Sosanwo is a good trainer with a good structure for training these young talented people. She is quite organised in her management and one could easily see that in her policies.
“I only accept to train those that have some formal education with Junior Secondary School 3 being the limit for registration because it is easier to explain to them and they catch up quickly. Those that are actively in school resume from 4pm to 8pm while they are to spend the whole day here during their holidays”, she reiterated.
One of her trainees, Eze Adaora, 18, claimed she could make good clothes. The rate at which these teenagers learn is amazing. They all seemed to enjoy what they were doing.
“I can now sew clothes for myself while I make some money sewing for my friends. With the sewing machine my dad bought for me, I can fend for myself when I begin to live alone on campus. I will continue learning to gather more experience pending the time the University of Lagos gives me admission. I chose to study in Lagos because I wouldn’t want to be moving my machine around too far from home.”
Furthermore, skill acquisition will help to reduce the spate of crimes and social vices in our society. When youngsters are engaged in positive activities, they will not be ready tools for causing havoc. As the popular saying goes, ‘an idle mind is the devil’s workshop’, people who have nothing worthwhile to think about will usually think of something bad to do. Pastor Laide Adewale of the Redeemed Christian Church of God in House of Praise Parish, Lekki phase 1, Lagos holds up the idea of guiding students to learn a craft or a trade.
“I advise parents to let their kids learn a skill or one form of handwork while they are still in school so they don’t end up as ‘aimless graduates’ roaming the streets for a job that doesn’t even exist which can be frustrating and lure them into drugs and crime.
“I even include it in my sermon once in a while because it is my responsibility to tell the congregation the truth, no matter how bitter it may be. The pastor said.
Also, on the campus ground of the University of Lagos, students can be seen going about their business activities alongside academics. Cynthia Eruka, a 200 Level student of Creative Arts said she doesn’t regret her learning a skill earlier as a teenager.
“Thank God my mother forced me to learn hairdressing when I was in SSS 1. My friends back then used to make fun of me but right now, I make a lot of money in school styling hair for both male and female students. And interestingly, the guys pay more for it and theirs don’t take much time to make.”
Finally, a lecturer in the Faculty of Social Science in the University of Lagos who pleaded anonymity weighed in on the motion.
“If you don’t learn a skill while attending school, you will understand why the national anthem ends with ‘so help me God’ when you graduate.”
So, should learning a skill or a trade still be considered as a venture for illiterates and dullards? It’s food for thought.