By Misbahu el-Hamza
Last week, while on phone with Malama, my mother discussing the kids – my brothers, she told me something that amazed me about her friend, Malama Hama. Recently, my mother said, Malama Hama paid a sum of ₦20, 000 for her son to learn “Computer Studies” at a Business Café cum learning center for a period of one year at the end of which however little the boy learn, he’ll be given a certificate to leave.
Now, I know some of you might be thinking what’s there if a mother paid such money for her kid. Well, this isn’t like any financially buoyant mothers you know. She’s an Arabic school teacher whose only four-month salary that I know can add up to the said amount. She’s one of the most hardworking mothers I know, doing everything they can to make the lives of their children and of others in their community meaningful even before the death of her first husband. She earned my respect since I was in primary school for her intrepidness and thirst for knowledge. Once my mother’s student, now colleagues.
Without any western education or computer skills, just like my mother, Mallama Hama seems to have reasoned the present reality and forecasted the future to see the ‘why’ her boy needs to learn the skill. She sees and accepted the fact that the world her boy’s living, is, and will continue to be different and more complicated than hers. He, therefore, needs to be ready. I cannot fool you as some “researches” do that only intelligent mother begets intelligent child, but mothers, to me, make most great men and women of this world. We, fathers only help in building that greatness. Some of us, sadly never even help these days.
Today’s reality has made it clear, without any vagueness or ambiguity, that young men and women not only need to learn a skill; they need a skill or two in information technology (IT) to be able to thrive in this challenging and dynamic world. I still remember when my father told me that a time will come when even a ‘mai-gadi’ cannot be employed if he doesn’t go to school. Today, I will go further telling my daughter that a time is coming, when one cannot even be ‘mai-gadi’ if they lack IT skills.
Yes, the world will continue to need tailors, carpenters, welders, plumbers, mechanics, businessmen and women, and so on, but technology is now critical for businesses to thrive. This isn’t going to happen in the recent future, it’s happening already. At every age, one can learn a skill, but I prefer a young age. There are many distractions, and so children are hard to guide, especially when it comes to acquiring skills. While you continue to support the child to learn some skills and become great (for my definition of greatness, please refer to Adamu Tilde’s paper on ‘why and how to be great), you must be resolute and patient through the process, and you must figure out their strengths. Let me give you a story I know you’d like.
No one understood the importance of skills like Malama. All her peers and our neighbors know how strict she was on us when it comes to learning education and skills. Out of all 7 of us, not a single one who she didn’t personally take to a master to learn a skill. For me, she first linked me up with our neighbor, late Mallam Adamu to learn to repair clocks, watches, and small radio set at the burnt Main Market Jos in the 1990s. I ran away for no reason. Malama did all she could to no avail. She then took me to learn mechanic – how to repair motorbikes. I ran before learning how to do “service.” She wasn’t happy the day I left her standing when she was greeting her friend on our way to taking me back to the garage to apologize to Oga DanAsabe.
Malama, the brave woman this time sat me down after dinner and asked: “Gambo, please, tell me what is it you want to do?” You have no idea, I said in my mind. I can never say “writing” or “drawing”.
At the time when I was in primary school, what I was very good at was writing Hausa stories and pencil drawing. I completed 8 different stories, 60 leaves full before going to JSS1. My age-mates and friends would circle me reading them as they clap and laugh, and sometimes even shade tears. That was my price. Malama hates the time I take writing when she needed me to go buy her ‘Kuka’ or ‘Magi’. And I hate to be distracted. Something happened, which made me stopped writing the Hausa.
The last drawing I made and my very first on a cardboard paper was that of a PDP presidential aspirant of the 1999 election, President Olusegun Obasanjo wearing blue ‘babban riga’ and a Yoruba cap as he sat on the poster like a northerner. My father who so much loved OBJ at the time. Again, Mallam hates to see me drawing animates, and that was my last too.
So when Mallama asked her poor boy what he wanted, I told her sewing. I like the cleanliness of tailors, unlike mechanics. Then she said, fine. Two days later, I was handed over to Mallam Usman. That was in 2000 when I was in JSS1. Eventually, I was switched to learn Fashion Design, and in no time, I was an expert at it. Funny enough, I tried to run from tailoring too. But to Mallam Usman, I was more than an apprentice, and a father can never watch his son spoil before his eyes. I was forced to stay. This skill would later in life be my only source of income at a time. It made me once said to my father, this salla, I’ll be the one to pay for all the family’s ‘kayan salla.’
This is just a story for you to have a test of how a mother struggled for her first son to learn a skill and was never tired. Even though her son later re-discovered his long gone talent and blend that with the technological skills to thrive, her efforts were never in vain. But your time is different. What’s similar is that you all should make the child learn a skill. What are you doing to get your child ready today?
If you have the means to help our boys and girls grow, please do so. Recently, a woman on Twitter sponsored more than 250 young northerners, mostly women to study IT courses online at HiiT for ₦5, 000 each. When HiiT announced the fee reduction of their courses to that amount, she tweeted to sponsor 5 “arewa youths” only. But the gesture was expanded when many young people kept showing interest. Each beneficiary was carefully selected and contacted privately with coupon codes to register on the school’s website for a course of their choice in either Digital Marketing, Project Management, Ethical Hacking, Web Design and other valuable training. One condition attached, however, was that interested candidates MUST commit to the course to completion. I personally helped in contacting and guiding male beneficiaries to register.
Before the HiiT program, 6 other young girls were sponsored, by the same woman, in Kano, to learn Web Design. This time in-person. The training was concluded not long ago. I learned that the opportunity was open to boys too, but no single boy applied. I love how our girls are working hard in the tech ecosystem. If you are a boy, what skill are you learning to thrive? If you aren’t doing anything you are wrong. If you are reading this and not learning any IT skills, there are many waiting for you to study for free. I did many and currently doing some. Search for massive open online courses (MOOCs) like Nigeria’s HiiT, or edX, and Coursera, etc.