When your child abandons a course you’ve paid for   

Unhappy young man

Have you identified your child’s talent such that you are able to firmly steer him towards a career that matches skills that come naturally to him?

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What you need to know:

  • If your children are still in school, primary or secondary, do you know what they are talented in?
  • Are you aware of your children’s capability such that you would be able to help them choose college or university courses that align with their talent?

Last Saturday, I happened to overhear a group of women discussing their children’s progress in school. One of them narrated how her son had arrived home one day and announced that he had lost interest in the course he was studying at university. The young man, I learnt, was a second-year chemistry student at the University of Nairobi.

The mother was shocked, surprised, angry, dismayed, disillusioned and all other kinds of emotions you’d exhibit if your son or daughter casually informed you that you had poured money down the drain for two years.

The thought that first came to mind was to put her foot down and tell him that under no circumstances would he drop out of university; that her effort and sacrifice for two long and hard years would not go to waste.

But after sleeping over it, she told him that even though she was disappointed, she would not force him to finish the course. As I write this, the young man is studying plumbing at Kiambu Institute of Science and Technology.

After she completed her story, the woman’s friends were aghast, wondering how she could have allowed her son to forego a degree. But she reasoned that she would rather have a child with a skill that he could happily earn a living from than one with a degree that he resented and which he had no intention of putting to use.

I thought to myself: “There goes a wise woman.”

Stories abound of young adults that are studying courses they are not interested in one bit; courses that have been thrust at them by parents who are convinced that they know what is best for them in terms of the skills that the job market requires.

Your child’s talent

For instance, I know someone who was forced by his parents to study for a degree in teaching, and when he completed his studies and graduated, he informed his father that he had no intention of stepping into a classroom to teach. That degree, he says, was a waste of his parents’ money and a waste of his time because he has never applied it, 15 years on. The man sells cars, if you’re wondering.

Which brings me to the question – if your children are still in school, primary or secondary, do you know what they are talented in? Are you aware of your children’s capability such that you would be able to help them choose college or university courses that align with their talent?

A couple of years back, an acquaintance had a group of us cracking in laughter when he narrated an embarrassing and self-esteem-killing story about how he went to audition for a TV anchor’s job at a certain broadcasting station after graduating with a diploma in mass media.

His long-running admiration for the good-looking, glamorous and prosperous-looking anchors on our television screens is what inspired him to study the course, and he could not wait to grace our screens. On the day of the audition, he was decked out in the best suit that a working-class cousin had, having invested in a fresh haircut and a new pair of shoes.

He was confident that he would dazzle the interviewers – but he did not even get near the auditioning room (the studio to be specific). The person receiving the interviewees took one look at him and announced, “You have a face for radio…” 

In other words, he was told that he was not attractive enough to be on TV. That is how his dream of becoming a newscaster was brutally cut short. He commented that he wished someone had gone into the trouble to point out to him the qualities broadcasting houses look for in anchors. Even though this came off as a joke, I got the feeling that he wasn’t entirely joking.

True, you cannot tell your child that he’s too ugly to get a news reader’s job on TV. If anything, every parent believes their child is good-looking. The question is, have you identified your child’s talent such that you are able to firmly steer him towards a career that matches skills that come naturally to him?

The writer is Editor, Society & Magazines, Daily Nation. Email: [email protected] ke.nationmedia.com

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