I don’t like what I study, a truth I find myself admitting to at least one person every single day, and if not that then it’s constantly on my mind. It always takes me a few seconds longer than it should to respond when a person decides to ask me the one question I dread the most in this world: “What do you study?”. It takes me a long while to process everything and remember that even after 3 years, I’m still in denial. However, it doesn’t take a person long after they get to know me to come to the conclusion that I do not have a passion for Electronics Engineering, and they always have the perfect solution: “If you don’t like something, change it.”
It’s not that easy. It’s never that easy.
At the age of 15 I had to pick whether I wanted to continue studying Science or Arts for my last year of high school which are the only two options you are forced to choose from at a young age by the Sudanese education system. You are to take exactly seven subjects, no less, no more, and six of the subjects are already chosen for you. How was I supposed to make a life changing decision at such a young age? How is it a life changing decision when the choices are very limited and indirectly guide us to similar paths? I think the reason Robert Frost (American poet famous for his ‘The road not taken’ poem) took the road less travelled at first was because he thought it gave him the power to make a different choice, but I’ve learned the hard way that when two roads diverge in a wood, they are almost always designed to fool you into thinking the choice is yours when really they’ll just lead you to the same place or exactly where they want you to go. What he failed to understand is that no matter where life takes you, there’s a certain sad joy in regretting decisions when you realise the choice has always been fully yours even if you miss out on something better.
Applying for college is a real nightmare; you’ll find yourself choosing something based on cost and not preference, and on the average promised future salary and not passion. Even if you can afford tuition fees for any faculty you choose, there isn’t much to choose from in the first place and you are not allowed to have another major or minor. You are expected to be either a doctor or an engineer and the more complicated the course a kid chooses is, the better. The field that you pick is used to reflect your “intelligence”, which has become a synonym for “ability to memorize”, and your parents’ ability to provide for you.
If you enjoy it, it must be a hobby
I wanted to be an artist. I wanted to be a psychologist. I wanted to be a journalist. All of which were looked down upon by society and my own parents. The sad truth is that I didn’t have the strength or even felt the need to fight for what I wanted at the time. It might sound like a story of someone giving up, but I was certain that I would never find a university in this country that provides me with any kind of help to excel in any field I chose. The majority of universities do not even teach in English or prepare you for the real world because the main focus is on medicine and engineering, everything else is irrelevant. Job opportunities are already very limited, and they’re almost non-existent if you decide to go into a different field.
Schools have little to mostly no extracurricular activities; they are designed to kill talent at an early age, because God forbid this rebellious crazy child decides to throw his knowledge of science and ability to solve problems, and pursue a career in something he actually likes. They forget that when you oppress a child and criticize his creativity and outside-of-the-box thinking, you are reducing his chances of success. You are more likely to excel in something you have passion for, or at least like, or just chose on your own out of complete contentment and not pressure.
Entrepreneurship is every child’s pipe dream
The only solution if you do want to chase your dreams is to study abroad, and if you can’t afford it (because no country would evaluate your Sudanese sad excuse of a certificate fairly), then you must forget all about your hopes and dreams. Dreams tend to be seen as “daydreaming nonsense”, thought to reflect your “inability to cope” with studies and a syllabus that is aimed at kids who can memorize things instead of being able to think critically – it is unfair in every way). You would need to find the strength to wake up early every single morning and head to a place that does not hide the fact that it values students’ attendance more than actual learning. You are obliged to take your uncomfortable seat in a steamy, smelly lecture hall and be forced to stay there for two hours, listening to an unqualified teacher. This is why year by year the percentage of students dropping out of universities (even after completing most of their course) is increasing. Entrepreneurship is the ultimate pipe dream and pioneers like Bill Gates are our society’s idols. Gates went to a private preparatory school and was excused from math classes to pursue his interest. We often forget that we weren’t provided with solid foundation to build on in the first place and choosing to rely on ourselves without enough background in anything is not the wisest decision. Imagine you decide to build a house and while you might have the time and physical ability, all you were given is a single brick. In a world where nepotism and cronyism are a ladder, education represents building blocks.
A caged bird stands on the grave of dreams, a caged bird sings of freedom
Fleeing war is a method of survival and while it is also not a choice, it’s understandable. What good is survival if you are constantly under the weight of oppression? I wanted more for myself, I still do. I want to escape this land where I can’t simply walk on the street without feeling uncomfortable and my “choice” of outfit depends on what society might feel is provoking. I want to escape this society that doesn’t give equal chances to a woman; where some families still force their daughters to get married at an early age to complete strangers. I want to be able to think for myself without considering society’s reaction. I want to make my own choices because it’s what I want to do even if they turn out to be a big mistake. I want to escape and have more opportunities and be able to make a choice and not just settle for something because it would help me survive. Everyone has dreams and potential, everyone needs to escape “choicelessness”.
Here I am three years later at age eighteen and the frustration this faulty education system caused is a weight all students feel every single day. There are children with parents who can’t afford to send them to school, there are children who have no parents. This creates new generations of children who are denied education, growing up to become parents who either cannot support their kids or are depressed adults who won’t bring children into this world so that they don’t suffer their own fate. There are financially successful adults who are unhappy with their lives but still force their kids to take that same route out of fear of poverty. To become an independent individual you have to be able to make your own destiny, and education is one of the important factors to unlock a person’s potential.
The ability to make a decision that only concerns your life and no one else’s is the key they’ll never hand to you, and all you can do is stay locked up in this cage of “choicelessness” and watch all your dreams and hopes fly away.