Nigerian…in Education? Why I Pursued My Master’s Degree

Wow, your girl has earned a Master’s degree. I graduated, y’all! I am officially Taiwo, M.Ed. I never really discuss my professional interests or goals within the blogosphere. And as a Nigerian, it can be difficult for members of my community to fathom why I decided to break the stereotypical trend of pursuing a career in medicine, law, engineering or a business-related field.

I am passionate about education and have been since I was a child. I can recall being that student in class that would literally read a fictional novel a day because I knew reading would make me smart. I knew reading could develop my mind and prepare me for future success. I was the student who always wanted to learn and wanted to see others (especially Black and Latinx children) thrive as well. I was/am a social justice advocate, avid researcher of current trends in education, and extremely vocal about my experiences as a young woman of color and what that meant for me as I got older. Black educators matter, friends. There’s not a lot of us and our students need us.

Yet, I was in complete denial of all of this.

Master's Degree Graduation

Socialization is quite a powerful force. This is especially true as an immigrant trying to create “The American Dream.” You grow up learning these ideas of what it means to be successful. You learn what it takes to get what you want based upon your personal experiences, interactions, and influences. Many times, these ideas of success are skewed. I am still in disbelief that I have a Master’s degree in Education. I was socialized to believe medical, law or business school were the most sensible options. Growing up, I wanted to become a pediatrician because I always loved children and caring for their well-being.

Arriving at this career aspiration was random at best. It was a healthcare profession, it paid extremely well, and it was dealing with a group I enjoyed working with. But those reasons were shallow. Though I never liked science or math in school, I still decided to declare a major in Biology during my freshman year of college. And guess what? I changed it before starting school. I was trying to place in a math class needed for the major and the placement exam went south. God immediately told me that pursuing this major would be a mistake. And when the Holy Spirit starts tugging at your hearts strings, you listen.

But, I was still being a stubborn goat. Why?:

  • I changed from Biology to Philosophy, thinking I could go into juvenile law. I took an intro to philosophy class and hated everything about it.
  • I was also enrolled in a psychology class that same semester and loved it. I decided to muster up the courage and declare it as my major once and for all. Of course, I went back to ideas in healthcare. I considered going into pediatric occupational therapy. I completed research on the career, considered shadowing OTs, looked at future graduate programs….only to realize that I could not see myself making any worthwhile contributions to the field.
  • Ironically, I ran into a Nigerian account executive at a Starbucks who struck up a conversation with me. He was in disbelief over my chosen major when he asked me what I was studying. He also wondered what my parents thought. Although my parents supported my decision to major in Psychology, the encounter with the executive really made me question myself.
  • I interned at a hospital thinking I could become a Clinical Psychologist. After one semester, I finally decided to let go of my ideas in pursuing healthcare. I also laughed at myself for thinking I could enjoy working for adults all day.

I knew I had to start being brave and taking more risks. I could no longer allow fear to grip me. I took jobs working with some of Atlanta’s most underserved students. I loved every moment I had with them as their counselor and teacher. It was challenging having to overcome remarks about my decision to enter the world of education, but I made the choice to not allow those opinions to affect me. I felt my work was worthwhile and most importantly, I felt like a servant. I felt as though I was finally answering my “why.”

A year and a half later after completing undergrad, I started pursuing a Master’s Degree in School Counseling. I know in my heart I have always been called to education and to serve children in this capacity. I know that education is often the escape for many children’s dire circumstances. I know it helps to assuage many of the systemic burdens students face (another discussion for another day!). That is where my work lies.

Master's Degree Graduation

Master's Degree Graduation

So for the person struggling to admit to their calling in life because of fear of failure or disappointing others, this message is for you. Your goals should excite you. Your goals should be utilized to further the Kingdom of God and to demonstrate His glory in your life. Christ has called us to use our gifts to serve others, as stated in 1 Peter 4:10. And this might sound crazy, but if your goals don’t make you cry or at the very least scare you, they are not big enough! Your dream should be so compelling for you that they lead you on the pursuit of what will make you happy.

I am proud to say that I am a Nigerian woman with a Master’s degree in Education. You’ll see me with a Ph.D. in a few years!

Prayer: 

Heavenly Father, thank You so much for your wisdom and guidance. Often times, we don’t answer the call to “Why” and we instead surrender to “What If”. Some of us don’t understand that fear is the absence of faith. Lord, help your child to boldly pursue and build faith, knowing that you are doing a good work and that You are faithful to complete it. Help your child to see themselves as You do. Lord, only your opinion and approval matters and I pray that your child is reminded of this right now. Thank You for hearing this prayer and for everything you are doing and will do. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

Author: Taiwo Kafilat

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