I decided one day, to speak to a class of senior students about their aspirations in life. This was welcomed with gusto, after all, there are few months left for them to graduate secondary school, as external exams are barely around the corner.
I took my time to listen to them each of them express dreams about different careers borne out of passion or simply admiration. The macho boys dreamt to join the armed forces, some wanted to be professional engineers or doctors or lawyers. The girls chose nursing, pharmacy and all the professions that appeal to girls.
Then just like my teacher did me several years ago, I asked if anyone wanted to be a teacher. Well, as I expected, the class went quiet with polite, declining stares and then seconds later, I was greeted with sniggers, whoever wanted to end up with chalk in a front of a classroom? They didn’t have to voice it out.
This was the golden question we were asked as students years ago and I can remember reacting just like my students today. I always tell those who care to know that I did not choose to become a teacher, the noble profession chose me. Don’t get wrong, I love my profession and I have never been happier and fulfilled doing anything else.
Growing up, only the top-notch professions made sense to us. If we weren’t dreaming of wearing stethoscopes, we wanted to grace the courtrooms in wigs. My best friend should have been a nurse (or was it a pharmacist?), today she is an archaeologist, with a burning passion for the field. I on another hand, wanted to become a lawyer and turned out a teacher.
Realising this, I concluded that aspirations are not necessarily static, aspirations can be circumstantial. Sometimes, our aspirations as kids do not even reciprocate our abilities. Before I dreamt of being a lawyer, I wanted to be a doctor but my parents noticed I was bad in arithmetics and had to convince me to switch to arts.
I wasn’t about to explain any of these on deaf ears. Knowing my students for years now, I could tell who would turn out to be a better doctor and whatnot. But years back, I wasn’t ready to listen to my teachers on this either.
It would be fair to say that the teaching profession does not appeal to the younger generation because of the ever decaying situation of the education system. At a glance, the salary scale of teachers for instance in Nigeria does not hold a candle to our ambitious generation.
The government itself has grown negligent over the years towards the system. Lack of infrastructures amongst many other things has contributed to this less appealing sight, especially in public schools. Hence, it is not uncommon to see ‘accidental’ or ‘temporary’ teachers who only found themselves in the spot as a result of the economic situation.
However, for those that gave out their best and along the line found their passion in it, they can only speak of how much honour and nobility they have achieved; the rare gift that comes with teaching that not even money can buy.