Chapter three of The Graduate – “Think about Thinking” touches on a topic that is, I believe, a stumbling block for too many African children. Growing up in a traditional African home often came with a “freedom of speech” limitation. The discussion of certain topics was considered off limits, and the mere mention of it meant that you were being disrespectful. Those topics were grown folks’ business, period. The sad reality is that some of us grew up with the notion that we could only approach our parents for trivial things like food and shoes.
This barrier would prove to be most inimical when facing real-life dilemmas. And when, after high school, I applied to the University of Namibia, I faced just such a dilemma. I had applied for two different courses that I believed I would do well in but got turned down for both. I did not know what to do, and worst of all, I didn’t have the confidence to talk to my parents about it. I had to figure it out for myself.
Though I felt hamstrung, I set my heart on getting into university. I visited the Unam registration offices during their registration week, thinking I could convince them to allow me to register for the courses I had applied for. In vain I ran from office to office all day, just to realize that I was not getting into my preferred courses. I eventually settled for whatever course had space and for which I qualified. As a result, it took me six years to complete a four-year course.
One of those extra two years was spent as a gap year at home, woefully frustrated and unhappy with the course I was enrolled in. During that year, however, I discovered that the Ministry of Labour was conducting career aptitude tests. Being desperate for guidance and advice, I eagerly grabbed the opportunity, and to my surprise, the results showed that I was enrolled in the right course. The following year, I went back to Unam more determined than ever and graduated. Today I am building a career in a field I never even knew existed.
Although career aptitude tests would greatly benefit high school students and should be an integral part of their high school preparation, it – and nothing of its kind – can ever replace parental involvement and guidance. Part of the duties of a parent is to make sure their children get the best possible education for their future and this includes school, of course, but it also includes the invaluable life lessons parents should provide during the time spent together (Harley Rotbart, MD, 2020). The connection formed during that time spent together, along with the life lessons shared, would without a doubt provide developing young adults with a life compass as they navigate real-life challenges and decisions. The role of a parent does not end with basic human needs.
It should go beyond that.