When you attend community meetings, marriage ceremonies, funerals, child naming ceremonies, you name it, in South Sudan, the conversation often centers around what your children have become. You will hear phrases like, “Oh, my daughter, the doctor, says this,” or “My son, the lawyer, says…” Rarely do you hear parents talk about their son, the businessman, or their daughter, the hotel housekeeper or cook. That, to me, shows how much parents in South Sudan have preferences as to what their children should become.
I totally understand their good intentions and wishes for their children, but they should understand that each individual is unique and has different capabilities.
When we were asked, as children, what we wanted to be when we grew up, most of us would say, a doctor, a pilot, an engineer. And, growing up, parents would always try to influence what their children will become by telling them at an early stage that they should be this or that. But most children don’t know what their skills are. And some people are still struggling to grow up!
For most of us, those big dreams of becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers and pilots were never realized. You will find people doing well in the arts, in media, music, modelling, literature, social work, entrepreneurs, information technology. Few have jobs that have anything to do with science or law. It’s not that they are dumb, but because, along the way, they realized their strengths did not lie in science labs, or in calculating pie charts or solving mathematical quizzes. Their strengths were in totally different things, including creativity and innovation.
More often than not we tend to forget that we can’t all do white-collar jobs. If we did, who would do the manual jobs? Everybody has a talent that can be nurtured for the greater good and all talents and strengths should be viewed with the same eye. Any job is as important as the other.
For the few in South Sudan who are lucky to have had an education, despite all the challenges, how do you decide what to become in life? There are the obvious family expectations and your own and aspirations and limitations.
As much as we value doctors, lawyers, engineers, pilots, let us also encourage children to become teachers, human resource managers, secretaries, procurement and logistics officers, constructers, cooks, entertainers, athletes, etc.
Let us bridge the gap that exists in South Sudan’s human resources which in part has contributed to South Sudanese feeling that foreigners have been taking over jobs they should be doing. But they are just doing that rightly so because we do not appreciate many jobs.
For me, this is an opportunity for government, investors, entrepreneurs and especially social entrepreneurs to invest in formal education and vocational training as much as possible so that we have people with a variety of skills who are ready to contribute to developing the newest country on earth, despite the conflict that is ongoing. South Sudan is at a point now where we need to focus our energies on what each individual can contribute to improve livelihoods and foster development in South Sudan.
Looking ahead, I believe the conflict will come to an end one day and we will need a range of skills and expertise to develop our country – not just doctors, lawyers and pilots, who, although they play vital and much-needed roles in society, cannot do everything. Let us tailor our abilities to meet the job market demands both locally and regionally.
My two cents…