“I want to be an accountant”- was my instant response to Daddy’s query, upon completing the JSCE exams. Traditionally, my school categorised students according to their performances in the exams. In this light, the ‘scholars’ became science students while the ‘average and low scoring’ students joined social sciences and arts classes respectively. Following this separation, it seemed plausible to choose a career that guaranteed job security and prestige (or so I thought). However, one thing was certain; I had an aspiration (from my childhood) to attain the highest possible degree. In any event, upon completing my SSCE, an interesting phase occurred- I developed an interest in Media and Communication, although I settled for a degree in English since my preferred school did not offer a degree in Mass Communication.
Albeit my career path became somewhat clearer, I realised that talent played a major role in this space considering that most TV or radio anchors were ‘naturals’ with various educational backgrounds. Faced with this reality, I decided to pursue an MSc in Media and Communication coupled with a stint in video editing. A lot of ‘little decisions’ finally led to my becoming a video editor though there was the inherent drive to have an edge in a competitive industry. Interestingly, only a few people have had the opportunity to study aspects of creative work as opposed to the industry’s learning on-the-job approach. I must state here that I am more inclined to this saying: ‘you don’t give a surgeon the tools and say keep cutting until you are good’. They have to study, practice and learn. If this is the case with surgery, why is the creative industry (which has the potential to influence society) different?
Arguably, the average Nigerian youth does not seem to regard the creative industry as one in which they can build a career. The system has made people feel that the creative route is an easy option for the ‘dullards’ since anybody can do it (or so they think). In addition, prospective creative workers take courses in professions they can return to in the event that their creative sojourn does not thrive. In spite of this, many would consider a medical doctor’s transition to a career in acting as insane.
On a lighter note, I have taken this perceived ‘insanity’ to another level by quitting a stable job for an academic role, teaching a creative work in a university. This is happening against the background of a popular parlance among young people, “I think when I am done with my career, I will become a lecturer in order to give back…” Then I ask, ‘why should I give back at the twilight of my life?’ ‘Yes, the experience is needed, but why can’t I have both?’ ‘That is having the practical aspect of being a filmmaker while primarily teaching others and learning at the same time.’
In the end, many of us have a lot to figure out, but there is a bright future in this thriving industry. To ensure that we mitigate mediocrity, we need to take the study of creative arts as seriously as science-related courses. This has to begin from the foundation- primary level education. We need to cast aside the wrong notion that the creative arts are meant for the ‘dullest’ students. Talents have to be harnessed from the outset and opportunities given for the in-depth study of creative courses particularly in higher institutions of learning. The National Universities Commission (NUC) is on the right path with the unbundling of Mass Communication into different programmes to accommodate the evolutions within this field. Although there exist various challenges within the creative sector, the prospects outweigh the problems.
– Nkem Ikeh (MSc FT8)