Choices are a part from of our lives, even as little babies. They shape our lives, whether we agree or not and we are solely responsible for the choices we make.
That said, there are several influencing factors to these, some of which also call for making choices. All these determine how we turn out in life.
At the age of 12, Don Wanyama, senior press secretary to President Yoweri Museveni, was influenced by his mother.
“My mother, a teacher of Literature influenced my love for reading because she had several abridged book versions. This drove me to reading more and widely, and in the end, Literature was a subject of interest at my A-level. This drove me to doing journalism and later on practising it.”
Wanyama is thankful that he chose to read because owing to this choice, journalism is now putting food on his table and paying the bills.
Ms Rose Naiga, headmistress of St. Mary’s Senior Secondary School Nkozi, shares how family can influence the course choices students make.
“In case the family is science-oriented, they want the child to follow suit. However, inasmuch as some have done as their parents desired, they are unhappy and usually do not perform as well as they wish. On the other hand, students who have the liberty to choose add ability to desire. In so doing, they end up in employment that they desire and have great results rather than going for last resort jobs which would hamper their performance,” she says.
Ms Naiga adds that owing to family influence, some children also miss out on university admission because the courses their parents drove them to choose have a very high cut-off point than they scored, which leaves them sad.
Dr David Musoke, a lecturer at Makerere University School of Public Health is, however, thankful that his father supported his course choice: “I have made some choices that have influenced my education and career over the years but probably the most significant was pursuing a career in Public Health (at the expense of Engineering, having received a government scholarship to do Civil Engineering which I turned down).
This decision was certainly influenced by my Dad who, despite earning a meagre government salary at the time, was happy to pay for me to pursue a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Health Science at Makerere University on private sponsorship.”
Having graduated as the best student in his class in 2006, Dr Musoke was retained to support teach as well as do other academic activities at Makerere University School of Public Health.
Thereafter, he received a Commonwealth scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at the University of London (UK) and later a doctorate in Public Health at Cardiff Metropolitan University (UK).
Choice of friends
The type of friend one gets matters a lot as each person comes from a different background; low, middle and well-to-do, hence influencing you differently.
“While those from middle income backgrounds are usually reminded by their parents to concentrate on books, those from well-to-do families usually have a lot and some do not take academics seriously. On the other side, those from low income families battle with inferiority complex because they are low on resources,” explains Ms Naiga.
She advises that students get focused friends. "It is easy to sort these because the focused students will readily follow the school timetable while the others will be adamant to follow the rules and skip classes. As such, study the children around you, how they make use of their time as well as their life priorities before you choose who will become your friend.”
Apart from friends, we can be influenced by mentors. Dr Franklin Wasswa, an Oculist and General Practitioner at Kisiizi Hospital COU, counts himself lucky for discovering a personality to look up to.
“This was a dentist who worked on my horrible dental formula and while I barely knew much about him, his personality and skill level attracted me to be like him. Seeing him for more than 10 years kept my dream of pursuing a career in medicine alive, a choice I have never regretted.”
Dr Wasswa did not give up. Even when he failed to get an opportunity to study medicine in Uganda, his zeal got him moving to the US.
Nonetheless, he has made some bad choices which he says stem from not knowing himself.
“I learned that I am more innovative and hands-on hence better off in an innovation charged career, for which medicine is no mistake. However, I wish I had known that I was meticulous with my hands. Then I would have specialised in surgery.”
He also regrets turning down an opportunity to specialise in geriatric medicine in a prestigious university in the US. “It was an opportunity I know I will never get again but missed because I didn’t seek enough counsel. It would have been a better marketing specialty in an aging American population,” he laments.
Bella Amukule, is set to join university but there are several choices, both good and bad, that marked her secondary school life, mainly A-level.
“I regret wasting so much time in Senior Five, instead of reading. I am sure I would have had better grades that year.”
Looking to make up for her mistakes, Amukule chose go for extra lessons in Literature during her Senior Six. “These really helped me improve my understanding of the subject, hence better grades.”
Another choice Amukule is thankful she made was when she had a big crush on a boy who picked someone else as a girlfriend. “I felt terrible but decided I was not going to sulk and do all those awkward things girls do. I moved on and it felt so much better.”
Ms Naiga highlights other choices that students make.
Optional subjects: Once they reach third term of Senior Two, students need to make choices to add to the seven compulsory subjects. "However, sometimes, students make choices based on interest rather than ability. In the end, they fail to perform as expected because their academic prowess is lower,” she shares.
Talent development: Most schools have a variety of activities that would help a student discover and develop their talent and while it is compulsory in some schools to go to the sports pitch, drama or whatever activity is available, in others, it is one’s ability and choice that dictates.
“The more open minded the child is, the better for them to participate in various activities and identify their talent. Even at workplaces, employers are looking for people who can add more value to the company besides academics,” Ms Naiga says.
The activities are also an avenue of exposure in the form of trips and activities. Apart from developing one’s talent, these students get the opportunity to compete and
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Choice in answering questions: Writing tests and exams is part of school life.. “We advise students to pick the easiest questions but some go for the most complicated ones. This is not just the national exams but also termly exams where they spot instead of reading widely to have the ability to answer any questions therein. In the end, failure is imminent,” Ms Naiga mentions.
Boy-girl relationships: Naturally, in secondary school, there are feelings for the opposite sex and Ms Naiga says they try, through counselling, to advise students that boy-girl relationships are not ideal at the moment.
“Many that go on with them fail to perform well academically as they are trying to serve two masters at a go. So the choice here is to do away with these relationships until a time when one is ready,” she advises.
Just like we enjoy clamouring for our rights yet forget to do our duties, so it is with choices. But we ought, with sober minds, to make every choice because tomorrow will avail us with a platform for accountability.