Many times where I come from, we talk about mentor-ship mostly when we are in the job world but rarely at the time when we are shaping these careers. I am sure you are wondering where I am going with this, but stay with me here.
Here in Uganda our academic curriculum is painted with so many subjects that one as a student has to do whether they will use them in future or not. These subjects become less as one advances in their studies and by the time one is sitting their final examinations at college they have only about 4 subjects. To this day I have not put the knowledge of the 1900 Buganda Agreement I did in History or Pythagoras theorem to use but I had to do them at a point.
As we choose out the course to do at University, more than often does someone find a mentor to guide them on which course to do after all this directly determines the career path one takes on. At the end of the day you find frustrated engineers, doctors, teachers who either chose the profession because of peer pressure, parent’s choice and so many other factors you know that made you choose what you are doing that you do not enjoy. I was lucky to have a mentor at the time I was entering the university but never the less it was not a walk over especially because my choice did not match with that of my sponsor.
This is how I ended up being the nutritionist I am today, a profession I pride in.
Sitting across my mother who was not happy about the fact that I had chosen to do nutrition instead of medicine, I could not help to see the disappointment in her eyes. You see I have always loved science right from primary school and everyone around me knew how much I loved it and also performed at it. Each time we were asked about career choices in our play dates, I always said doctor because that is the only career I knew that was for people who loved and did sciences. While in college, I still did a science combination; Physics, Biology, Chemistry together with Food and Nutrition (PCB/FN). Draining is an understatement when it came to what this course was for me, so when I was done with my A’ level I needed to breathe. My results came back and my best done subjects were Biology as well as Food and Nutrition, followed by Chemistry and Physics. Unfortunately my points could not take me on government sponsorship for medicine although I could get in on private sponsorship.
Now remember me craving for a ‘breather’?, I was not mentally prepared for 5 years in medical school. This led me to seek out for a mentor to make the right university course as I applied. Mr Rwapwani Apuuli, a very educated man working in Environmental sciences in Mulago at that time is where I found myself. In company of a friend, I explained to him my love for science and health but also the fact that I was not mentally ready for 5 years in medical school. (I am yet to think critically whether it was the years or the course in itself).
He understood me and I remember him looking at me and saying, you do not have to only do medicine to be the health sector. At the end of the day we ended up choosing a Bachelors’ degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics that I applied for and was given in both Makerere University and Kyambogo University. (The reason I (we) chose Kyambogo over Makerere University will be a story for another day)
The only problem with the course I finally settled for in as much I appreciated and understood it is that my mother could not understand why anyone would choose not to do the most acclaimed career in the world. She saw ‘Dr Lutgard’ slip through her hands for a course that would only land her in kitchen (so at least she thought). Despite her constant persuade for me to change my mind, I did not barge and had made up my mind although she still had an upper hand since she would be the one sponsoring the course.
This ‘fight’ led us to a clan meeting for them to decide whether I would go through with the course or not. Tears were shed, tempers hit the roof but at the end of the day, it took a professor in Nutrition who was sitting at the UNICEF headquarters here in Kampala, George street to convince my mother that the career path I was taking was right. Having understood, she gladly funded my course and I did a course that I loved and appreciated and at the end of the day was able to graduate with a class honors degree.
Hadn’t it been for the career guidance I received, I would not be the nutritionist I am today. How many young people are out there doing something just for public acceptance or because it is the family career and you cannot be the one going the opposite direction. At the end of the day the recipients of the service are the ones to suffer.
Let us normalise mentorship right from when our children begin school. If only we could identify their strength and interests and bring them in spaces that will enhance this, we shall have better career choices made and a better world to live in at the end of the day.