“My Name Is AbdulGafar”

Rainy landing and we had to stay extra minutes on the plane. This nine year old brave lad walked up to me.

“My name is AbdulGafar”

He introduced himself and his mum pulled him back giving him that look only African mothers have. My mother was an expert in eye communication, so I could easily relate. I smiled at her and she let him be. He ran back at me and I also introduced myself with all excitement. We started a conversation that wowed my imagination and that of the passengers on board who could not help but eavesdrop.

“I live in Abuja and my mum is Yoruba. What about you, Taiwo?”.

His mum gave him that look again. I knew she was scared of her smart boy disclosing delicate information about their family. I responded and marveled at his thought process simultaneously.

The level of intelligence and curiosity AbdulGafar displayed was both confusing and interesting at the same time. I had never seen a smarter 9-year old. The questions he asked, his vocabulary and confidence, his ability to hold an intellectual conversation with an adult, all of these and more could not hold me back from speaking to his mum about this beautiful boy she is blessed to have as her son.

“Your boy is a great communicator. What would he like to do when he grows up?” I asked AbduGafar’s mum and she was quick to tell me he wants to be in the arts but she wants him in the sciences. I cringed.

I grew up in an era when the child had no say in career choices. I was almost a victim of that. African parents lure their kids into pursuing professions that will satisfy their bragging rights and selfish interests. It is 2017 and it should stop. I understand that guidance in important but it is equally key to put the innate gifts of the kids into consideration.

Some parents may think they are ‘saving’ the child from the hopeless Nigeri­an labour market by making them study courses like Medicine, Law or Accountancy. However, the world is changing and vlogging, modelling, fashion designing, sport, acting, digital marketing and a lot of unexpected careers paths are making people successful. African parents should catch up.

I spent years in the sciences balancing equations, cramming formulas and titrating acid and base. Interestingly, I have never made a kobo from any of these. My inborn ability to be a creative is what makes me a living today.

African parents should take a cue from this and let their children live their own truth. They should evolve from being the alpha and omega in choosing their children’s careers to paying attention to their abilities and let them build a sustainable career around it.

Unfortunately, our educational system is not helping matters as the careers that are changing the world are still tagged as ‘extra-curricular’ activities in Nigerian institutions. I desire for this to change soon.

I hope to see my new friend someday on a big stage introducing himself to the world with the four heavy words, “My name is AbdulGafar”.

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