Last week, we discussed the “thorny side of counselling.” Today, I want us to discuss the burden of mentorship. I work with youths, many of whom I have never met, and it is an exciting experience.
Like other aspects of human endeavour, there can be hiccups because different environmental and personal perceptions and expectations influence the outcomes of these encounters.
But some of the personal experiences are not different from what I read on social media, which gives me an idea of the mindset of many youths.
That is why I bring these encounters to public knowledge without revealing personal identity.
Mentoring is a passion, and to do it, you draw from your personal experience and the experiences of others. I was born to a teacher-father, who rose to become a school principal, and to a mother, who was a trader.
My father was a graduate, but my mother’s education was truncated by her father’s death when she was 14 years, but both treasured education. So, in terms of acquiring formal education, I was privileged, but there were no financial privileges or advantages.
These realities never left inner recesses of my mind. During holiday, I got a vacation job to get extra money and to lessen the burden on my parents. So, my antecedents are also somewhat humble.
My father died before I graduated. My mindset after graduation was that I had to go out there and hustle in order to live a meaningful life. Corpers allowance in my time was N125 monthly. I managed to save N750 because I did not want to be a financial burden to anyone after graduation. I did get some help from family members when I was eventually out of money and I fell ill. My first salary was N390 net.
It was small even by the standards of the 80s, but I took it; I had no problem with small beginnings and still do not. I also needed the experience.
These are still some of the experiences that guide me in mentoring young people, but the reactions I get sometimes are the reasons for this article. For instance, if a student from a humble background reaches out me that he is on holiday, my typical advice is join your parents in the farm or wherever they get their source of livelihood to keep you in school. If your input is not needed there, do not lie down in bed or loaf around in the house. Go into village or neighbourhood and look for where there are economic activities.
Farming is going on every day, there are building sites, restaurants looking for casual labour, etc. Some of the reactions I get are shocking and rude. Urhobo big men do not want poor people’s children to progress, but other ethnic groups help one other, is a common one.
The same applies when I advise some fresh graduates to look for whatever is available and start from there. When you are starting off and you are not privileged, low-hanging fruits are easier to access.
That is the standard practice everywhere. When Mexican immigrants get to the United States, they start by working in farms, they do horticulture, drain clearing and other underground clearing, cleaning of streets, etc. In Europe, new arrivals, including Africans, Indians and Asians follow a similar route.
From there, some acquire knowledge and move on to cab driving, taking care of the sick and elderly, etc. While this is going on, some go on to acquire professional knowledge that enables them to work in the health, financial and other professional sectors as core professionals.
So this is a global phenomenon, not something I manufactured to brainwash underprivileged youths to keep them down.
But there is a legitimate route to by-pass this long, tedious progress. You would have heard of exceptionally gifted students, who smashed international examinations and are getting multiple scholarships from Ivy League Institutions. Anybody in this category does not need to join his father in the farm or building site.
There are also partial and full international scholarships schemes flying around online. But our environment is polluted, so some of them are scams. I forward the links to youths, including my children, but warn them to do their due diligence.
There are also specially gifted youths who design apps and sell to IT companies for millions of naira and dollars. Those who remain focussed thereafter are made forever. You can also see examples of youths who have used sports to lift themselves and their families out of poverty in Nigeria.
But what some of these youths in question are looking for is temporary respites. I am a practical person. I do not play fool and I do not engage in wild goose chases. You cannot get it applying for a job in multinational companies or corporate organisations with rigorous employment processes that take time and patience.
I am also an apostle of the dignity of labour. I believe a naira earned is better than one given to you. Before you go asking for financial assistance, explore the possibility of earning first. People are more inclined to help when they know you have made efforts.
If you approach a relative and show EVIDENCE of the earning that you made during holidays when you are about to go back to school, he is more likely inclined to support you because it shows a serious and determined young man, it shows someone who is focused and has value for money. Be useful to yourself and position yourself to be taken seriously.
Another area that these youths complain bitterly about are their relationships with politicians. I do not know details of these relationships and promises made to them, so I am not in a position to comment on them. But I can say this generally. Anyone aspiring to political office should have the general good of the people he wants to represent in mind, not parochial interests.
This comes in the way of programmes he plans for his constituents. They should be encapsulated in his manifesto and this forms the basis of supporting candidates. Once you offer your support on this basis, it forms the basis of continuous support or subsequent support.
When you support political candidates in advanced countries, it is mainly volunteerism. Once elections are over, volunteers move on to their pre-election lives. We saw it with the army of youths who worked with President Barrack Obama to win the presidency during his first term. But even in advanced democracies, members of the campaign organisation do get appointments.
It also happens here and it is very much in order. The challenge here is that virtually everyone who worked for a candidate wants an appointment or wants to be an appendage throughout the tenure of candidate. It is not possible and it is not sustainable.
The next election is less than two years away. Before working for any politician, determine what you want. It is your time and your life. Your young life is too precious to be lived in bitterness and anguish. There is a greatness that God has put in every man. Priotise it; I would rather you spent more of your time nurturing.