My mentor, who is a structural engineer, told me that, "It is one thing to know how to design a system that will work mechanically and it is another to know how to design a system that will work to meet people’s values, beliefs, modes of behavior and other societal dynamics.”
Being a student of civil engineering who has finished university, and is ready to positively impact the world, I thought through my mentor’s remark and immediately realized the need for Engineers to break out of oblivion and explore society. So, I decided to introspect about how professionals (of all kinds) interrelate in Africa and the world at large. The revelations from my voracious introspection are not only intriguing but require a thorough and collective philosophical resolve, to solve them.
A thorough survey of curricula in African schools (especially the lower levels) is met with an unprecedented glorification of sciences and debasing of the arts. The notion is prevalent in families too. An illusional and stereotypic chasm has been regrettably created (regrettable, at least to me!) between sciences and arts.
Whether it is the families that influence the curricula development centers to peddle this notion or it is the curricula that influences families, is not only a mystery but also an endless karmic cycle. Politicians have taken advantage of the fact that the citizenry are lost and trapped in this endless cycle, to weave their campaign rhetoric hence garnering votes, fueling and reinforcing the notion of the vitality to study sciences.
African children are born to find a karmic, rigid template of the “dominant professions”, to which they have to adjust themselves so as to fit in. Otherwise they are deemed failures. It is as though a domino effect from a prejudiced past of their parents is not only following them but also shaping them so as to continue the domino effect for posterity.
These dominant professions, mainly from the realm of sciences are thought of as domineering. The African children who aspire to have professions in the realm of arts, have to face the sting of stigma, ridicule and mockery! Only the resilient make it. As for their counter parts in the sciences, they naively enjoy a self-proclaimed privilege of studying sciences. Why do I say naïve? Because their passion is largely steered by the domino effect from the prejudiced past! It is a kind of tunneled mind set when selecting professions.
The rampant emergence of novel and sui generis professions in countries like United States of America is largely owed to the in-existence (or at least mild nature) of the karmic, rigid template of professions. I can immediately here rebellious thoughts in the reader’s mind that “This is Africa! Let’s solve our issues our way! Let’s not compare to the USA!” Well, those thoughts bubbling in your mind right now are the quintessential representation of the tunneled thinking mode I am writing about. When we wake up and realize that the world is called so, because it is global, I think that is when these stereotypical professions and professionals will stop budding and we will nurture reality in the professional circles!
Without a doubt, the professions in the sciences are not only dominant (profoundly influential) but also ones one would love to pursue. The problem is when Africans or those in the professions already, think that these dominant professions should domineer. This tendency to domineer inflates the egos of scientists hence clouding their judgement when conceptualizing and designing systems. It also constricts their awareness, forgetting that the world is an Eco-system where interdependence is not only endemic to humanity but also profoundly inescapable.
For us to escape from this vice in Africa, we need to start from the grass roots, that is, with children, by grooming them to be liberal thinkers but not dogmatic ones. Who specifically, is to start? YOU & I!