Does our education promote dignity in labour?


  • Education, especially in the sub-Saharan region has caused a professional disparity that should have not been there. Those whose formal education has prepared them for specific jobs look down on those whom society has prepared for its other necessary jobs

While our society tends to have a clearer outlook on its needs, the formal education system brings about a new way of looking at things. This includes a new outlook on the future professional life of those it has affected.

For example, we learn sciences like mathematics, biology, chemistry, economics, etc. to become scientists, and even if we do not become scientists, we will have a scientific mindset and capacity for scientific reasoning in our daily affairs.

However, education, especially in the sub-Saharan region has caused a professional disparity that should have not been there. Those whose formal education has prepared them for specific jobs look down on those whom society has prepared for its other necessary jobs.

There is a lot of unemployment, among other things, because in the mindsets of young people who have been educated by the 'professionals cooking pot school system' the array of what they consider as jobs is pretty much limited.

If care is not taken, the motivation to make young people cherish education, though purposed for good, can become their hypnosis pill in the future. For instance, a child who has been told by their parents she will do very well as a doctor may grow up not learning about the opportunities that life avails to them, apart from becoming a doctor.

In prescribing professions, parents, guardians and teachers recommend the most socially dignified which are also perceived to be the most financially rewarding. A child becoming a doctor, an engineer, a lawyer, a pilot, a teacher, a banker, or an officer in the government, among others, are every parent's pride.

No wonder, most people have clandestine mild regrets because the professions they mentioned as favourites in their childhood did not materialise. Oftentimes professional aspirations are not necessarily what children want, but what parents want for them.

Need for change

It is high time we sensitise people to regard all productive avenues with dignity. Insofar as one's productive and creative energies are invested in some good cause, regardless of how filthy or manual it is, that is labour that deserves to be dignified. Menial work, small-scale agriculture, animal rearing, brick making, etc. are not less dignified jobs.

In Europe for example, people speak openly about their work when asked, and they refer to their jobs professionally. A sewing shop near my area here in London is called Fabric Experts. The quality of work is the same as that of any fundi cherehani in Tanzania.

A typical conversation about jobs will be like this: "Hi Janet, what do you do for a living?" Janet replies: "I am a chef in the evenings, and I babysit in the afternoons. I'm also a concert pianist, I trained at the Royal Academy of Music many years ago. I also love needlework and crocheting in my spare time, my grandmother taught me. I sell my crochet sweaters, hats, and gloves online." This is an honest and informative answer, it clearly shows that Janet is proud of what she does.

If a similar question was posed to a Tanzanian, the answer may not be as long or meaningful as that, and the tone will be one of a person who is almost losing hope, especially if asked in Swahili. For example: "Juma, what do you do for a living?" Juma may reply: "Tupo tupo aisee, tunapambana." First, this response is in plural form though the question was directed to an individual, and it means 'we are just there, struggling.' The response does not give any information that adds value to the conversation.

Asking people about their jobs, especially if they do not have white-collar jobs is considered rude, and one has to be in their politest composure to ask such. This is because we have made non-office jobs less dignified jobs, and they all fall in the category of 'struggling' or what we locally call 'mission town hustles.'

Sometimes when you ask people that, it makes them sad because it dawns on them that they really do so much and are struggling a lot. Working multiple jobs is not struggling. People work multiple jobs everywhere in the world.

Regardless of the nature of the job, so long as it is lawful, there is no call for shame about it. A plumber is not less important than a doctor. His hard work at securing the pipes and water systems prevents our water from being contaminated and us from becoming sick. The same applies to garbagemen, recyclers, and all others who in the course of their work come in direct contact with dirt.

While schools prepare us for professional jobs, even an educated person can take up any job that is available outside the professional options. It is beneficial for the school systems to talk about professionalism more widely, professional skills can be used to improve the quality of less professional job opportunities. It is better to take a skilled or menial job than roam around the streets jobless yet over the top with the pride of being a graduate. Our society needs people who contribute productively to its progress.