It is Monday morning. Lorac Panachichi, a new teacher at Twapochere Primary School, thought being her first day, she would only have an orientation, but the head teacher throws her straight into the game, to cover for a Standard Six teacher, who is taken ill.
All pupils, except Liganga Kukasika, stands up, when she and the head teacher enter the classroom. The head teacher signals the pupils to sit down, and introduces her to the class.
Told to take over, Panachichi asks Kukasika if he was not feeling well. Silence engulfs the room. She goes on to ask what he wants to be when he finishes school, to which he answers: “A teacher.”
Just then, an inspector of schools enters. The whole class stands, greets him, and sits down as commanded. Panachichi and the head teacher glance at each other, but the former remembers that she was the one holding the floor.
“And the reason?” She picks from where she had stopped, and the response given sends everyone into stitches.
The inspector chips in: “Who else wants to be a teacher and why?”
Ready employment, access to free farming land, and becoming well-known in the village were some of the reasons given by other teachers-to-be pupils.
Kukasika had answered: “So that pupils should be standing up whenever I enter the class even if they are tired or hungry.”
In private, Kukasika revealed that it was because his stepfather was bullying him, at times shovelling him to sleep outside and on an empty stomach, which made him develop an interest in the teaching profession, to settle wounds inflicted in standing up when tired or hungry.
One pupil said he wanted to become a journalist to expose child labour that included forcing children to go grazing animals during school time, while Aligose Wiyi said becoming a member of Parliament would enable her to lobby donors to bail out pupils sent back from school because of school fund.
Gender-based violence aroused the interest of some pupils to join social work, human rights activism or law, while one Malamusi Gambone confessed that he will stop at nothing to become a police officer to enforce in the routes mostly used by pupils because when going home after knocking off, he usually met people making love along the route, whereas becoming a pastor is Chanasa’s dream to condemn the immorality of sleeping as a husband and wife in the presence of children as his parents were fond of doing.
The subject reveals how pupils can be swayed with things happening in the society to shape their future, which some education experts and social commentators say calls for humanity to be extra careful of what kind of societies they are, hinting also of the importance of career guidance at an early stage.
An education commentator, Wanangwa Tembo, says proper inspiration to young ones goes a long way in inculcating a spirit of hard work because it makes them know various career opportunities, and draws some ambitions that translate into hard work.
“Career guidance to young pupils is good as it helps them uncover their potential at a tender age. It is a big inspiration to the pupils, otherwise we have seen such activities taking place largely in secondary schools, and it is high time primary school pupils were also given such opportunities to invoke ambitions in them which can later be translated into reality because they will be focused,” said Tembo.
But while applauding those who organise career guidance talks, social commentator Joel Chiheni-Phiri says there must be some caution because some careers seem to be saturated and have no ready market.
“So, students should be encouraged to join careers such as carpentry, plumbing, and tailoring that will enable them secure jobs easier, or establish their own enterprises,” said Chiheni-Phiri.
These are sentiments Tembo refuses to buy, as he argues that Malawi has not yet produced enough human resource to stop training people in any field, despite the fact that job hunting seems to be a bother.
“To say Malawi should stop training people in certain fields is wrong. If anything, we should propagate for quality rather than quantity. We need to also be mindful that it is difficult to find certain professionals in the rural areas which affect career choices of some pupils,” said Tembo.
Another social commentator Wonderful Mkutche says since career guidance talks try to open up the world for people to have options it needs to be encouraged because most young boys and girls do not have full knowledge of different careers.
He said: “Career guidance enlarges people’s minds, and also tries to inspire the approach they can take to succeed in their different choices, otherwise, some people having grown up in rural areas have limited choices because they only know about professions they see in their communities like teaching and the police.”
But how can things be redressed?
To break through, Mkutche says the first approach is for teachers to be good models, and stakeholders to prepare teachers that they should be able to appropriately assist students to know about other professions, and not just follow a profession simply because of an event in their life.
He said: “You will see a family where a father is a soldier and some children end up being soldiers or police officers, and there are also situations that force you to join certain professions, like you saw your mother being subjected an injustice from law enforcers then you go into activism or even the police itself. But teachers should open up the world to their students by exposing them to different options.
“Another approach is involving different models (people) because their life stories could inspire some students to pursue their goals. Otherwise some students especially those from the rural areas do not understand the various options the country has because what some know are careers common in their areas, otherwise if told that other careers are equally good, they would appreciate, because there are some students with abilities like those of artists and painters which if explored, would make them big, hence engaging different kinds of people in our various societies is necessary.”
Education expert, Charles Maluwa, concedes that an inspiration from family and the society at large, are among the different reasons people go for particular careers, but cautions of proper approach to save the nation from having people who are leaning towards few professions.
He said: “We can run on each and every opportunity that the world presents but to grab what could be right for us, there should be somebody to guide us on the career path, otherwise there are also many myths going around because there are some people who believe that their career are so important, which is not very true, for it also depends on issues of supply and demand.”
Maluwa, who laments that lack of proper lessons on career guidance have an impact on career paths of many hinted that children should be oriented from the family level, with career guidance introduced in schools as a compulsory subject.
He said: “Career guidance is very important because it shapes what you become in future, otherwise we have people who are not satisfied with what they are doing because it was the only choice due to limited knowledge or maybe parents did not have money to help them pursue what they wanted.
“But I would suggest that career guidance becomes a subject right from primary school though it cannot be examinable, but teachers need be properly taught to offer such a treasure,” said Maluwa, who further observed that the aspirations, goals and objectives of a nation also have a hand in shaping careers in a country.
When all is said, the question remains that how safe are our children in the communities they live in so that they are not influenced to choose a career out of frustration or with an ego of vengeance.