“What an elder sees sitting down a child cannot see from the top of a tree”pass-it-on

I recently watched a documentary that profiled UK based publicist, Vanessa Amadi. The producers spoke to her family and friends in a bid to unveil the woman within. One of those people was a young lady named Whitney who had worked with Vanessa. When asked what she gained from working with Vanessa, Whitney said Vanessa trusted her with all facets of her business and so she was able to learn a lot about PR. Vanessa was asked why she was so trusting with Whitney and her reply was that she felt it was her duty to pass down her knowledge to the next generation. She said she learnt about PR from someone else and knowing she won’t do this “PR” forever she felt it was important to pass said knowledge on.

Watching that mini documentary on Vanessa Amadi had me impressed, but then I asked myself some pertinent questions. The older generation (30 and above) constantly complain that youngsters are lazy, have no work ethic and even go so far as to label us a generation of online lay-abouts. Truthfully they may have a point, young people do spend uncountable hours surfing the web or trolling social networking sites. Is it however possible that the reason young people would rather Tweet than enter the job market a few years earlier, is because the older generation is more interested in playing arm chair critic, as opposed to actively getting involved with shaping young people. Vanessa Amadi is an aberration and that’s probably because she was not raised in Nigeria.

Majority of Nigeria’s older adults who should act as role models to the next generation, prefer to do so from afar. Why exactly should a young person opt to get an out of school job when the only responsibility they will be trusted with is fetching coffee or making copies? The fact is that for a lot of young people, having to grow up in the Ipad/GSM world is a lot more distracting for us than it was for the older folks. We are after all mere kids who must climb trees to see and so it’s only normal to get caught up in all of it. If you’re over the age of 30 this question is for you “how many young lives have you helped shaped?” and I don’t mean the kids on Twitter that tell you how inspiring you are. Do you personally mentor any person under 25? Do you insist they do what is expected and stay on the right track?

At the start of this piece I sighted a popular African proverb. When young people err our “elders” are quick to throw that proverb in our faces. How about throwing it in our faces before we make the silly decisions? A young person is basically a sponge and between the ages of 16-22 we acquire the basic traits that shape our future. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t people out there who don’t do their bit to ensure that there’s someone to hand the baton to and all, but these people are few and far in between. I should also mention that there’s a growing community of young people guilty of not taking advantage of the opportunities they’ve been given. However everyone needs to do more.

If the leading generation of Nigerians do not imbibe the policy of “passing it on” the next generation will continue to waste valuable hours in the virtual world. Whitney considers Vanessa a mentor and can say “I’m here because Vanessa gave me a chance”. There are very few people in my generation who can confidently say this. For every ten young people with “misplaced priorities” there are five young people with “misplaced energies that can be redirected” and more importantly, there is one young person with a good head on his/her shoulder. If our over active and exuberant selves can be channeled to more productive ventures, perhaps there will be six out of every ten young people on the right track.

To wrap things up, dear young people do not sit and wait for the older generation to point you the right way. Truth is we all know what needs to be done and charity begins at home. Youth is fleeting and putting things off till you reach the big 25 is no longer acceptable. If all you can lay your hands on is a job fetching coffee or making copies, by all means embrace it. That grunt job is work experience on your CV and the hours you clock will help you develop a good work ethic that will help you at the more glamorous future job.

Isioma Osaje

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