There was a heated argument between my head teacher and my parents, the tension between them had been lingering for a while. Prior to that tension, my parents and the head teacher were very good friends, my father especially since he was the PTA chairman for the school and also a very respected man in the community. The reason why they were fighting, I cannot tell but I knew it had something to do with me and my career. My father was a traditional man and he did not believe in formal education, he and my mother were training us to become farmers and take over their farms when we come of age, we would go to the farm with them everyday and meet our friends on their way to school, and deep in our hearts we wished to go to school too. Later, through persuasion by the head teacher, both parents enrolled in adult class and through that became literate, and then we also had the opportunity to go to school and pursue different careers. As a result of that, all my siblings did not start going to school early, I was however fortunate because I was only three years when he changed his mind about school so I had the opportunity to start schooling at age three. and for my career path, I loved agriculture, plants, animals, soils and everything that has to do with agriculture.
My other siblings went to vocational and technical training (TVET) schools, one studied and specialized in carpentry, one did home economics and later hotel management, the other two did not continue after JHS, one proceeded to learn dressmaking through apprenticeship and the last decided to learn software development from his friend who was into web and software management. None of them made it to the university, something my father had always wanted, and was ready to do anything to help us get the best education to whatever level we could go. Since all his other children could not finish as he had hoped for, I was his last hope. The head teacher was able to convince my father to let them go to technical and vocational training (TVET) schools. I was a good student and performed well in my subjects, so my father was proud of me and made sure he provided everything to support my education and career. That fateful day, the head teacher had came to seek permission for me to go on a one week fully sponsored agriculture related programme in the city, and that had led to the fight between them. My father wanted me to become a lawyer or a doctor so that at least he would have one “book person” in the family.
My father’s view of formal education was totally different; formal education means no relationship with dirt, physical activities or no dressing up in overalls. To him, getting formal education means that you will get a white-collar job afterwards and sit in an office, drive a car, speak good English among other things. It took a lot of convincing from the head teacher to allow my father let my siblings take the paths they took, but considering the fact that they were overage; it was easy to have him agree to let them engage in their preferred vocations. It came as a big blow to my father to know that his only hope, was interested in agriculture as a career; he gave me two options, thus to either stop the school and go to the farm with him (if I was really interested in agriculture, he doesn’t see why one has to attend school to learn how to be a farmer) or stay in school and become a lawyer or a medical doctor. Ever since my father found out I pleaded to become the prefect in charge of agriculture in the school, there have been no peace at home. My father believed that I was good enough to be the senior prefect, he already had that discussion with the head teacher so he was disappointed I wasn’t made the senior prefect…
Stop judging my father in your head, we are all guilty of this in one way or another, whether you are a parent, a big brother or sister, an auntie or an uncle, a teacher etc we all tell our little children to learn hard so that they can become doctors, nurses, engineers and on a few occasions teachers, their career paths are determined here. So even as the children grow, the only professions they are familiar with are doctors, lawyers, engineers, bankers, nurses, teachers, and a few more career. Recently the entertainment industry has become more flexible and some parents can boldly encourage their children to take up acting, singing, rapping, fashion design, modeling and other activities. But what about the other activities like hairdressing, construction, electrical, letter work, basketry, agriculture, pottery, carving and so many others. Interestingly, children can learn these alongside the formal education that they receive, then they can be guided to choose a career path that they can specialise in.
In many communities in northern Ghana, it is common to find young children combining their schooling with a form of vocational apprenticeship such as shoe making, weaving, blacksmithing, smock making, dressmaking, photography, basketry, pottery, farming, hairdressing, construction, leather works and so on. This may be due to the fact that a lot of their families are engaged in these vocations, so they help them after school and during holidays, through that they also acquire some of the technical and vocational skills which shape their careers. It is important that everyone masters at least one skill. It is unfortunate and regrettable that in Ghana, many young people see TVET as a last choice when considering an academic or career choice. The good thing however is that, taking a career in vocational or technical education (TVET) creates entrepreneurial opportunities for the individual who in turn creates jobs for others. They provide essential services to us and some of their products are even exported to other countries.
Times without number, a lot of children are denied the opportunity to pursue their dreams because parents who are directly paying their fees want them to tie a particular line of career choice. It is not that parents do not want the best for their children, they actually want their children to be able to secure jobs that pay well, respectable jobs and jobs that will make them proud. At least society will point hands at them and say that “this is the daughter or son of Mr. and Mrs. So So and So and she or he is a doctor”. That is not to downplay formal education or its role in development, but I think we need to appreciate that vocational and technical education (TVET) compliments formal education, one should therefore not be considered more important and given more attention. If we neglect technical vocational education and training (TVET), who will make furniture for us, who will design and make our clothes, who will build our houses, who will construct our roads.
If the teachers are mentioning more vocational and technical skills and why they are important, more children will be interested in going that way. However, a lot of our teachers make us feel that vocational and technical education (TVET) is for those children who do not perform well in class. So much emphasis is placed on academic performance that we forget each child is unique and special and thus should not be forced to go the way that everyone is going. Teachers should also encourage all children and help them when they are able to identify their talents, remember the Hindi movie “Like Stars On Earth”? Government, NGOs and some individuals have put in some efforts to support TVET in the country, but a lot more need to be done, and we all need to get involved and play our respective roles to achieve this aim.
Today’s blog is dedicated to Edna Aninga, she doesn’t just have a formal education, but took her childhood painting seriously, she is a PAINTER! she paints on clothes, calabashes, bags, just think of anything and she got you. You can find more of her works on facebook and instagram “@the art village”.
The photos I used are from Anadem photography (Anadem on instagram), thank you guys for your support. CHEERS