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When next you meet a child, try asking him what he wants to be in future and you may be surprised at the things you will hear. Perhaps, what should be of more importance to us is the passion children attach to their dream careers.

Recently, I visited two kids close to where I live. They were both in nursery school, girls and aged 7 and 10 respectively. Like most kids, I suppose, they were very inquisitive, but after one round of questions, they settled for their homework. I watched on, making sure that there were no mistakes in their work. I loved the silence at least; hummingbirds were chirping as they struggled for nectar on the nearby hibiscus.

In about half an hour, the eldest was through. As she closed her book, something caught my eyes, so I took the book from her and opened it. At the three last pages were drawings. I regarded it and smiled. She covered her face with both hands, maybe in shame.

“Who drew these?” I asked. She did not answer.

“That is how she draws in all her books.” the younger one said, thinking that I am angry with her sister and probably expecting me to scold that one.

“You can draw well; do you want to be an artist?” I asked.

“Maybe I can be an artist too, but I really want to be a doctor” she replied. I thought this may as well be another parent-chosen career, so I decided to test her knowledge.

“Why do you want to be a doctor?” I inquired. She said she was moved by what she saw in Nollywood films which portrayed doctors as heartless, citing instances where treatment could not be carried out without the poor patient depositing a huge sum of money.

“I want to be different” she said, “I want to help people!”

“Do you think you would be able to help everyone in need?” I asked rhetorically. She smiled. Perhaps she could not comprehend the real situation in hospitals but I admired her love for her dreams and her passion to contribute positively to humanity.

The younger one who for some time had been left out of the conversation quickly said, “I want to be a teacher when I grow up”

“A teacher?” I asked. They spotted the surprise in my voice. “Why do you want to be a teacher?” they were now looking intently at my face.

“My parents have asked her many times, but that is what she said she would be” said her sister.

“I like teaching people”, she snapped rather cautiously. I thought she did not like her sister’s comment; then she mumbled,

“What is wrong with being a teacher?” I was taken unawares.

“There is nothing wrong with it… it’s only that very few young persons want to be teachers in future” I finally said deciding to speak the truth. I was not sure of how they would respond but to my relief, they looked at each other and merely laughed. Probably they thought I was joking but at least that spared my details.

I don’t know how they would feel were I to tell them that most teachers are mere ‘victims of circumstance’, people who at a time have had fantastic ambitions that were shattered. And there is one thing that lacks in such people: dedication. Granted, some may be converted on the job.

Without dedication, how can we build on the foundation for our ambitious future generation, a foundation they lay on their hearts?

“Does everyone become what he wants to be?” it was the young one again. I paused and looked at her face, saw the eagerness for an answer and shook my head.

“Why?” she inquired.

“Some people… their dreams are shattered” I was now nervous.

“How are their dreams destroyed?”

“You would not understand”

“Would I not understand too?” it was the older one. I now realized that I could not escape this, so I decided to explain.

I told those stories of sincere doctor wannabes, lawyer wannabes, etc. who spend years trying to be on the path of their vision, but never being able. Not because they is incapable, but uncompromising.

I know of someone who had spent the last five years in pursuit of his dreams and still not being able to be on the path. He told me, “it is not bad to keep on trying, but sometimes you wait and wait until no one but your heart tells you that your fear has been confirmed. You take it in good faith and say, ‘its one of those things’. Soon the good faith turns to anger and frustration” but we should remember that the pains of waiting are gone when the desired is achieve.

The worst things to do are to blame yourself and doubt your capability.

As a result of being desperate, many youths go into the higher institution to read anything available, shattering their dreams in the process. Sometimes these are courses they don’t like, or funny still, did not know existed prior to their frustration. Something like ‘Refuse Science’… I don’t think this is funny?

And back to those kids, they were listening eagerly but I did not know what was going through their minds. Well, I did tell them that even when one gets professional training, the availability of jobs become an obstacle to being what one wants to be…engineers are bank managers just because they have the connections…, only those who chose to could not let their dreams shatter.

Realizing that there are obstacles should make us think intently before pursuing a career. Giving consideration to questions like these could be of help:

  • Is this really what I want to do or what others impose on me?
  • How will it allow me contribute positively to the lives of others?
  • Is it realistic and achievable or just an illusion?
  • How available is employment after training?
  • Could I remold my dreams in unfavorable circumstances?

The young ones are watching what we do. They are either encouraged to keep their dreams alive, discouraged to shatter them, or be driven by fantasies, leaving their future in the hands of fate. The two later options are disastrous.

Like those who use the computer see the need of back up files, those who build their future may need back up goals.

Dreams are not rigid, they are a reflection of your eagerness to succeed, a focus and guidance used in the trek of future’s path.

Good dreams don not die, circumstances could only mold it into something else. A good dream is built on the basic ground of contributing positively towards humanity; it is more than a means of gaining wealth and prominence.

“Will our days be better?” the young girl asked innocently. I nodded without giving thought to my action. The door opened and in came their youngest sister (about a year old). She was smiling and running towards me. She could not speak and obviously never understood what we said, but she made me realize that in effect, I was promising them to do my own quota in laying a good foundation for them.

The main thing is to love what you do. Like a mirage in a sunny day, fantasies evaporate, but dreams stay on, inspiring one to be determined to fulfill it. It is then that you realize that no one else could fulfill it but you.

“I want to be a…” is a plea on the part of children, a cry for help. They are saying that our generation creates the favorable conditions for them to fulfill their dreams.

So next time you hear “I want to be a…” coming out of one tiny throat, know that it is all about their dreams, your dreams and you.

by Effiong Samuel

(First published in the "Education" column of Rise magazine in 2006)

Allow them sketch dreams

Explore their imagination

“Who drew these?” I asked. She did not answer.

“That is how she draws in all her books.” the younger one said, thinking that I am angry with her sister and probably expecting me to scold that one.

“You can draw well; do you want to be an artist?”

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Written by: Effiong Samuel