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The number of interns that pass through my office is often times worse than a revolving carousel in full speed. The space spits them out much faster than it swallows them. They do nothing, they learn nothing and in the end, leave with nothing. In fact they have become a part of the office fixture, that we loose track of their names talk less of knowing where they come from.

A few days ago, I went on a tirade about how most of the interns spent large chunks  of their days twiddling the ends of their waist length hair extensions and pressing buttons on their phones till night started to encroach on daylight.

One of the interns heard my tirade and later came up to me to express a few concerns. She said she didn’t really know what she was supposed to be learning for starters. Secondly, she wanted to know if it would  be ok for her to ask me questions, and then thirdly, she asked

“would you promise not to shout as me if I ask you a question? ”.

I was quite stunned at the assumption that she believed she would be reprimanded in any way for asking a question and then I realised that I had taken for granted my exposure to self study, self learning and critical thinking.

Whilst some may see her concerns as perhaps another intern’s excuse to be redundant, unassertive, and waiting around to be delegated duties rather than constructively thinking of where to add value, fill in gaps and create your own learning targets and outcomes; being raised on an educational system that is summed up into ‘Cram and Regurgitate’ doesn’t leave much room for dialogue, debates and knowledge seeking through the means of asking questions or even thinking in general. As a result, the theory that “there are many ways to skin a cat” becomes a much farther distance from its reality.

On the issue of being reprimanded for asking questions, perhaps the culture of hierarchy comes to mind. In our society, hierarchy has always been the order of the day. Elders at home are to be revered as age is seen to come with it’s own acquired knowledge, wisdoms and many times enormous egos. You do as you are told. You act only when you are instructed. You do not question authority. You definitely do not answer back. Though the culture does serve its purpose, with little to no regard for the grey areas, the aftermath is beginning to seem less than favourable.

With souring youth unemployment and ever shrinking mortality rates for start-ups, a university degree has become the most basic and elemental short listing criteria for even the role of a data entry clerk. My only assumption is that a basic university education can guarantee that an employee has experienced some level of independent study which allowed for room to “Think”.

It isn’t just a Nigerian problem but a global issue that skills set aren’t quite matching up to the working opportunities available but with an ever increasing thinking gap, we may just continue fixing square pegs in round holes.

I eventually explained to the intern, that one of the reasons for her work placement was to seek knowledge, and in order to do that, questions and questioning  were an integral part of the process.



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