Diasporans forcing children into medicine and law

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CHILDREN in the Diaspora are increasingly finding themselves in a quandary, as they are forced to choose between their hearts’ desires and those of their parents.
Believing that the country has some of the finest law and medicine schools in the world, parents are forcing their children to get into medical school or become lawyers.
I have met a lot of children here who are being forced to pursue careers they do not want.
John Matemba, a Sixth Form student, said this to me:
“My parents really want me to do medicine but I’m not interested. How do I say no? I think I can get in but my heart is not in it.”
“It’s great that you recognise it,” I said.
“Have you tried talking to your parents?”
“I’ve tried and tried, but they have invested their whole life in my brother and I,” said Matemba.
“What would happen if you said no?” I asked.
“They would really be disappointed and that will break my heart,” he answered.
“But if I did medicine, I wouldn’t be honest with myself. And I’d take the spot of someone who really wanted it.”
Children are in a dilemma.
These youngsters know what they want and know their strengths but it seems, for the parents, only law and medicine are suitable, presumably for the ‘prestige’ which comes with the professions.
It appears the parents are trying to achieve, through their children, what they failed to achieve.
This has resulted in the creation of doctors and lawyers who are not committed to their craft.
We are losing brilliant engineers and artistes as these children try to fulfil the dreams of their parents.
The psychological trauma caused by such a forceful push on the children has caused irreparable damage.
Some children are now rebelling and refusing to go to university.
In the so-called land of plenty and rights, children are not being allowed to be true to themselves.
Parents are at the forefront of creating frustrated students and depressed professionals lacking passion in their fields.
A generation of grumpy doctors and inefficient lawyers is being created by the selfish parents.
Knowing nothing about the rigours of law and medicine, they have the audacity to frog march their children to these ‘prestigious’ courses.
Most parents are quick to defend their actions.
“I just want her to be happy,” they say.
Children in the Diaspora desperately need to be given the opportunity to go into professions they want.
Gone are those days when one’s level of education was determined by the type of degree one has.
Today there are degrees that many of these parents never heard off.
Degrees that will equip their children with skills that will make them game-changers.
A parent knocking on my door with a tired child in tow wanting last-minute tips for his or her interview have sadly become common.
I would rather have the child come alone to seek advice because in most cases the one coming with the parents would rather not be going for the interview.
Mostly, the parents are thinking of money and status.
Doctors sign up to help people but are faced with growing mountains of paperwork, mindless compulsory modules and maddening meetings to satisfy performance indicators that make a mockery of patient-centred care.
Above all, being a doctor is more about the patient than pride.
Many doctors are burnt out, bullied and demoralised.
The work is stressful and demanding.
And these parents have no idea what they are pushing their children into.
A 2013 Beyond Blue survey indicates that doctors have a substantially higher rate of high psychological distress compared to the general population and other professions.
An astonishing quarter have considered suicide, double the comparable figure in other professionals.
Half of lawyers leave the profession before retirement age and most die of stress-related illness or cancer caused by stress which is ignited by work hazards.
These figures are not just statistics – they are my people and some are my friends.
My professional landscape is strewn with doctors and lawyers in trouble with alcohol and prescription drugs, doctors and lawyers with broken relationships and sick of work.
I have attended funerals of doctors and lawyers who left the world too soon because they could not handle the pressures that come with the professions.
A career in medicine has vast and varied promises but the happiest doctors I know have narrowed it down to one thing; medicine not merely as work, but a calling.
If people get into medicine because they love it, it doesn’t melt away the challenges but it puts them in perspective.
Passion makes the hard days bearable.
If you are a parent and your child desperately wants to study medicine, the greatest favour you could do is help him/her distinguish between a job and a vocation.
On the other hand, if your child is reluctant to take up law or medicine, step back for a moment and consider the statistics.
Forcing your child to become a doctor or lawyer might turn out to be the worst parenting decision you ever make.
Studying law or medicine at institutions such as Cambridge or Oxford universities is not the ultimate in achievement.

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