PAINTSRECENTLY, I have been thinking about the pitches used to play football around the world; the lusciousness of its green, its ever perfectly mowed state neatly arranged in squares. Over time, I have become very curious to know how much of its grass is natural or synthetic.

Now if the grass is synthetic, why does it still have to be green? If it’s blue, grey or purple, it wouldn’t affect how the ball bounces off right since it’s the texture that matters.

The only thing is that we might need to adjust our eyes and get used to this new colour. I ponder and wonder… Growing up in Nigeria, you are subtly told the career path that is expected of you: Doctor, lawyer, accountant, engineer and all other professions that fall in between.

Daresay you wanted to be a musician, dancer, actor, footballer, model and they would have taken you to the river to pray out the spirit of uselessness. Thankfully, the tides are changing and those once upon a time frowned upon gigs are now the coveted jobs of the future.

The creative economy in Nigeria is rapidly expanding where on the average, for making an audience laugh out loud for the night; the remuneration is almost as high as the annual salary for an entry level banker.

What happened? Instead of the grass being only greener on the other side, it became yellower, bluer, redder or any other colour of your choice available on the palette. Over the past three months I have been working with a lot of young people in the entrepreneurial space, which is directly aligned, to my passion, life goals and ambitions.

One thing you must know about young Nigerians, like most young people around the world, they want an opportunity, not a freebie.

They feel good about themselves when they are able to earn an honest wage or have access to finance that will enable them develop an idea or grow their small business.

Most of them are the black sheep of the family, the square pegs in the round hole, the ones that society couldn’t keep in a box and place a label on them. Intelligent, energetic, full of ideas and frustrated by the education system with its empty promises and have instead chosen to create a road for themselves where there was none. Our educational system in Nigeria is set up to make its graduates perpetual job seekers and never job creators.

The robotic way we have been taught to succeed is to go to school, memorise to pass exams, get into university, and cram some more, graduate with good grades that will hopefully get you a good job. There is no emphasis on creative thinking like asking if synthetic grass can only be green. You will be deemed a troublemaker and reprimanded for interrupting the teacher’s class.

Skills and talent development is when you are able to regurgitate the textbook answer back to the teacher regardless of your level of understanding of the subject matter.

Analysing gaps in a market and taking advantage of the opportunity, let’s not even get started on that because it was never taught.

The government is finally realising that getting a “good job” narrative is backfiring because the jobs are simply not enough to go round.

There are now talks of introducing entrepreneurship as a course into the secondary school curriculum. If this actually happens, this will be a laudable step forward in the right direction.

However, it mustn’t stop there since Nigerian education is more theoretical than practical. These schools should also start taking advantage of their alumni network and cajole them to becoming mentors to students showing interest in their area of expertise.

The students must also be more proactive in figuring out what it is they really want to do and not wait for their teachers and parents to feed it to them.

The Internet has made access to information and knowledge readily available than ever before and they should use it to research their areas of interest. Contemporary education is important in terms of the knowledge that helps you polish your cognitive skills and the networks you gain but it no longer guarantees a cushy job with benefits.

Developing a skill set that will add value and which people are willing to pay for is of utmost importance in today’s knowledge economy. Only 20 years ago, the entertainment industry in Nigeria was non-existent. The pioneers and players are the brash, brave and bodacious ones.

The ones that weren’t scared to follow their dreams; saw a gap in the market, plugged into the opportunity and created a multi-billion naira industry.

The ones that decided to paint their own grass, refused to allow society make decisions on their behalf and succeed while making their own rules. Just imagine what we would have lost if Don Jazzy ended up as a banker. Now imagine all other unheard talents stuck in their daily routine of unfulfilling and dead-end jobs.

• Nwagboso is country co-ordinator of a USAID project called Women and Web Alliance and co-founder of IfooAfrica. Email:; 0805 620 4889

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