I stood there staring hard at my mum while she eagerly awaited my disappearance. If anyone had walked in on us at that moment, they probably would have turned back in a breath. We looked like two angry bulls about to lock horns till the death. I needed her to understand my stance. After two minutes of intense stares and extreme silence, save the running water, I mustered some pseudo courage to continue my speech.
“Mummy I want to drop out of school.”
Several mind and mirror rehearsals did not stop the sound of these words from seeming distant in my own ears. As I made an effort to voice them to a different pair, they constantly echoed in my head like they came from a hall with awful acoustics three streets away.
Without turning around to look at me, my fairly-educated mother slowly dropped the soapy dishes in her hands, turned the kitchen sink tap on and rinsed off the foam on her hands. I could tell she was trying to analyze the bombshell I had just mindlessly dropped on her. For about sixty seconds, I watched her rinse off some dense imaginary foam off her brown hands. What is she thinking now? Will she care to understand what I’m about to say? I started to ask myself.
“Bruss!! What did you say?”
A second call and I suddenly realized I had been lost in thoughts. Going by the stern look on her face, if she had had to call me the third time, it would have been with a resounding ‘love tap’ to my face. It had taken a lot of pseudo courage for me to utter that statement the first time and she had to torment me further by asking for a repeat. The entire episode was going to be harder than I thought. Mind you, my name is Ambrose but I guess you wouldn’t know if you had gone with her shortened version.
“Mummy I said I want to drop out fro…”
“I know. I heard that one. What does it mean?”
“That I want to leave the university. I’m tired of attending lectures where the lecturers just come to debase the students with the first half of their time and then spend two-thirds of the remaining half telling us how they are supposed to be earning more than what the school pays them because they are ‘whizkids’ before realizing that they were supposed to talk about some abstract concept that they cannot even explain for themselves to understand. There is no point to that mum. And I don’t even like the course they gave me.”
“Ehen?! Ambruss, is that all? Can I say my own now?”
“Do you even have sense at all? No, don’t answer. I can see you don’t. So, after two years in the university, you have grown wings because you now have bear-bear and the first thing you can think of is dropping out abi. Because you are the one paying your school fees okwia? See, leave my front before I change my mind o. Nonsense. He wants to drop out. Mtcheww.”
I stood there staring hard at my mum while she eagerly awaited my disappearance. If anyone had walked in on us at that moment, they probably would have turned back in a breath. We looked like two angry bulls about to lock horns till the death. I needed her to understand my stance. After two minutes of intense stares and extreme silence, save the running water, I mustered some pseudo courage to continue my speech. Mumsy could tell I wasn’t going to back down easily, so she didn’t bother to stop me.
“Mummy I know you want me to go to school and get that degree, but I need you to understand that there’s almost no usefulness to that piece of paper in today’s world. Look at Dad. He toiled for years, trying to get a medical degree and when he finally did, what did he do with it? Or is he treating televisions and administering drugs to freezers in his shop? Mummy I have bigger dreams than just finish school and get a safe job. I don’t even want to work for anyone.”
“Ambruss but don’t you think it’s important to get the degree and get a job before you start chasing your dreams? There are people who get jobs at the school gate on the day of their graduation. Abi you don’t know? That’s my own prayer for you o. At least, so that you can be giving your siblings small money first and even buy me some Hollandis? You are still young na. You have time.”
By that time, mother was getting less frightening and more emotional. I knew I had to tread carefully thenceforth.
“Mummy I know but have you seen the labour market? It’s the worst in centuries. There are about a hundred thousand over-qualified applicants to every available job and this number keeps increasing because more people are in the business of studying hard, getting good grades and then searching for good and safe jobs where there’s none. Only a few of them, like Dad, have been able to wake up, give up that chase and create something for themselves. Mum, I want to create something for myself now and not depend on anybody.”
“Chai. Chi-moo!! They have killed me. So these people have found that I’m too strong for them and are now fighting my son se. No o. Not when I’m still the leader of prayer warriors unit o.”
“Mummy, what are you talking about? No one is fighting me. Actually my eyes are now open. School is training people to become mentally dependent mind slaves. All we do is learn how to be other people’s workers. No one ever talks about doing your own thing. It even starts from going to class. Whether you like it or not you must go or you will lose some marks for attendance. Lecturer doesn’t even want to know whether you have eaten or are not feeling fine. I don’t want any of that. I want to own my company and run it. I have too many skills I can’t afford to sidelined because of BSc. in Biology. Mum please just see things my way. I don’t want to be like everyone else.”
“This boy wants to bring shame to me o. So if you drop school now, what will you be doing? You will now come and sit in this house and eat ten people’s food abi? Or you will go and learn mechanic like mama Nduka’s son?”
“No. Mummy I am a writer and coder. I work with my computer. All through my year two I didn’t ask you and dad for money because I was getting jobs on a regular basis. I even have a remote job that pays about 70k every month since May. I’m not tied to any office seat and I like it.”
“Chi-moooo. Ambruu… You are now doing yahoo yahoo!”
Despite the seriousness of the moment, I caught myself chuckling more than twice. It was amusing just as much as it annoyed me that she thought I was a scammer. I was forced to retort, “Mummy!! I am not doing yahoo yahoo. Ah ah. I work legitimately. No scams. I develop apps and websites like Facebook and also write stories and articles for people and they pay me. No one wants to know if I have a degree. So long as I can deliver.”
“But is that one a real job? No office. Na wa o.”
“Chai Mummy. Oya what is a real job? See it’s something I love doing and I get paid for it. Actually it’s not a job. It’s my paid passion. It’s my work. It’s my dream to build a company out of it and I’m already saving towards that.”
“Na wa o. This boy you have gone far o. I don’t even know my son again. God will save us from these children. But what if people ask you about your school or even me sef?”
“Mummy it’s not their business. I’m not living my life to please people. Anything I do is for me first, my family next and that’s all. Anyone can think what they want. They didn’t bring me to this point so it doesn’t matter what they think now. If they like they support me, if they like they don’t. Moreover education as I’ve come to see has gone beyond the four walls of a classroom. Education is about what you teach yourself, what you allow yourself to learn. Who the teacher is doesn’t really matter. Even life educates.”
Defeated, my mum just sized me up and stopped at my eyes on the return trip. Then she said, “so you have a plan already ba?”
“Yes mum I do. It’s important to have a plan before taking this path. I know how hard things might get if I drop out, much more without a plan. I won’t be taking this step if I hadn’t carefully thought out a strategy. I will continue with this my career while I do a degree in something I love, part-time online, just to be certified, not to find work. Some people need to go to school for their future to be better but not everyone.”
“Even at that, I’m not convinced o. But what can an ancient uneducated woman like me do na. All these computer children these days, someone cannot talk to you again and you will hear them. It’s alright. May God help you. When your Dad comes back you will use your mouth to tell him. But Ambrussu if I hear that you join gang… maakachukwku …I will use my hand to kill you before police reach you. I promise you.”
I laughed, heartil,y to my own surprise. I guess it wasn’t her statement that cracked me up but the peace that came with pouring out my mind and intentions to someone I cared about and not getting a death penalty for it.
“And we will still do that fasting and prayer on top this matter o. I have a feeling all those witches have a hand and my spirit does not lie. Don’t argue with me.”
I looked over at her, mouth agape, too dumbfounded to even start an argument. I just let my face say it all.