I must do nursing
• Nurses in uniform

I must do nursing

The desire to go to nursing school is all the rage nowadays.

On Saturdays, I sit under a mango tree in my compound and try to distract myself from weighty matters by observing the mating behaviour of turkey birds (more on that some other time).

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My reverie is usually interrupted by visits from young students hoping for sage counsel about admissions to universities.

They come from all backgrounds — General Arts, Science, Home Economics and Visual Arts — and invariably, they have one agenda.

A large number of them want to do nursing.

I do my best to offer alternative career choices that reflect their talents as presented to me, but no arguments make sense to them at that point.

They are too far gone.

They have made their decision and they need validation.

Once, before I could suggest Geodetic Engineering to one of them, he was ready with his "rebuttal": “I want to do Nursing!” It's difficult to begrudge them for this obsession.

Nursing is one of the most prestigious professions with bright job prospects in the bargain.

Young people are fully conscious of the ‘employment desert’ on the increasingly tortuous road to survival.

It is also clear that far too many of us have been socialised into accepting that there is a mechanistic relationship between obtaining a university degree and a job.

It is not lost on young people that nurses, even if they have to wait for several years, will eventually be posted by the government to some health facility.

It is not so straightforward for the majority of university graduates.

Rational young people, one may argue, will not ignore this in the context of rising unemployment and cost of living.

This really comes down to the "economics of career choice", one is tempted to say.

But we have travelled this path before.

In the early and mid-1990s (perhaps earlier) many non-science students were obsessed with reading Business Administration at Legon or BCOM at UCC.

Some science students fell for the craze and switched camps.

Many secondary school leavers who did not immediately make the cut, stayed at home for years just to make the top grades that were required for the Business School Programmes.

Many of these people look back now and notice that there were many good alternatives; they were just not wise to these alternatives then.

Many have learned, painfully, that the relationship between what you learn in school and the returns is not necessarily linear.

This statement by Peter Cappelli of the Wharton School of University of Pennsylvania sits well here: “If I cannot find a powerful, fuel-efficient, easy-to-park car for $15,000, that doesn’t mean there is a car shortage.” \

So, what is my gripe?

I want to remind young people that if they do not get to study nursing, there are options worth considering, and that they can still go ahead to have brilliant careers.

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This is also a reminder to policy makers and duty bearers that if ever there was a time to accelerate action on instituting career guidance, it is now.

But ultimately, we need new pathways and strategies for jobs and livelihoods for the teeming youth.

The population distribution in favour of the youth, the so-called "youth bulge", is a compelling reminder that we do not have the option to do nothing.

Alhassan Musah,
Dean of Students,
UDS.

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