Opinion: Society: Not just a degree

Thursday, November 08, 2018

I am a 23 year old young man by the name Ebou. I was born in an extended family setting. My father has three wives and ten children. I am the fourth born in the family. Although my parents were not educated, my father had vowed to send all his children to school. This was at the top of his priority list. He ensured that all his children go to school.

One cold evening, as I was playing football with my friends in the courtyard, my step brother came in and yelled out my name. I was so scared that I fell on the ground. He gently helped me up and led me to my father’s house. My father has his own house and each of his wives shares a bedroom and parlour with their children. The boys have their own quarter in the backyard.

When I reached my father’s house, I pulled my sandy hands from my brother’s tight grips and headed to my dad. He crossed his legs to make space for me on the sofa. I sat down starring at the ground. My dad is kind but very strict. He placed his hands on my shoulders tapping his feet on the floor. I knew that there’s something bothering him. Before I could ask what it was, the shell burst the news. My dad told me that he wants to send me to school in the city. I’ll have to leave a week after and will be staying with my uncle. He bluntly told me to quit my carpentry work. I could barely speak. His sudden decision took me aback.

I knew I had to stop this. I comported myself and allowed words to flow out of me. I told my dad that I want to continue with my carpentry work. I spend five years in school and I still couldn’t understand what the teachers were teaching in class. All my focus is on carpentry – the only thing that gives me joy. I told him that sending me to school will be waste of resources since I have no desire to be in school. I am doing well in my carpentry work. My boss is very proud of my workmanship. I told my father that I’ll make it on this path and that I have a dream of owning a carpentry workshop someday, and exporting furniture for sale.

I even went on to remind him that my mother is heavily pregnant and I have to stay and help her. I do not want to leave my mum and my siblings behind. I am fifteen years old and my mother’s first son.  My younger brothers who are twins are just five, very young to run errands for our mum and help in the household chores. My mother does not have female children and virtually depend on me for assistance in the house. I help in there’s household chores. My mum was ill during that pregnancy.  I was doing all the work by myself. I tried to explain this to my father but he has already made up his mind and not willing to change it. He promised to ask my step - sisters to assist my mum. I wasn’t the least convinced with that.

 All my life, I have never seen any of my step sisters helping my mother in anyway. Even if they try to do so, their mothers always stop them. My mother’s co-wives are always conspiring against her. It is one quarrel after another over trivial matters.  My father always threatens to divorce any woman who sparks malice and problem in his house but they don’t seem to care. My mother being a woman of great strength of character always distance herself from this problems and advice us to stay away. Leaving behind my mother in the midst of this “battlefield” is the last thing I will do. 

But no, my father can’t be easily convinced. He concluded that I won’t make it in life as a carpenter. He wants me to further my education and fulfil his desire of having a son who’s a medical practitioner. Sadly, I had to agree and prepare to embark on this quest to fulfil my father’s wish. My decision and choice doesn’t matter to him. He is the head of the house and so he has the final say in every matter that arises therein.

Desperate for my mother to comfort and advice as she has been doing in the past, I sadly left my father’s house and directly went into her chambers. She was groaning in pain. I fetched water for her and gave her some painkillers to take and told her to rest.

As I got up to leave, she pulled my shirt and gestured me to sit down. Her dark eyes desperately sought mine as she clasped my hands. She can tell when I’m sad. Besides, the worry written all over my face is apparent for the world to see.  ‘What is wrong, Ebou?’ She asked.

My voice betrayed a great bitterness. ‘Father had arranges for me to go back to school.’ I told her about my conversation with dad. Her look softened, knowing that there’s not much help she can offer in this situation. She, however, promised to convince my father to allow me stay back for a year. My face brightened up. I wanted to stay back to help my mum and also go back to my carpentry work even if it is just for a while.

My mother tried hard to convince my dad and he eventually agreed.

Six months later, a group of experts from the city together with their partners from the US visited our village. They had come to empower the youths in the village. They built skill a centre in the village where I got enrolled. We were also granted financial assistance to start our individual businesses. The experts were very much pleased with my work. I explained my story to them and they decided to meet and have a discussion with my dad to allow me continue with my carpentry work. My father agreed.

Two years later, I built my own carpentry workshop and started employing youngsters who were very much passionate about this field.

Today, I am a young CEO of my own carpentry workshop with over fifty employees. We make furniture of all kinds and export some for sale in the global market. I’ve build five carpentry workshops in my village and its surroundings. These workshops are currently manned by my former apprentices. I’ve also built a beautiful apartment in our family compound, took my dad and his wives for pilgrimage and sponsoring my siblings and underprivileged students in the village in their academic journey.

Recalling what would have happen to me in the past and what had happened today, I feel more determined to advocate for those youngsters who believe their passion lies in the skills they acquire or are endowed with and not just a degree. Today, my parents are proud of me; most especially my father.  He now agrees with me that education and success in life doesn’t just lie in the four corners of the classroom and the attainment of university degrees but also in doing what one can, with passion and commitment and using it to create a greater prosperity for one’s self and others.

I swelled with pride knowing that I’m walking on a path that influences and will continue to influence millions. 

Author: Rohey Fofana
Source: Picture: Author