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How many of us dreamt of becoming street vendors after graduating from school?

So, why do we find ourselves trapped in careers that we not only never wanted to do, but also actually hate and find intolerable?

Who ever dreamt of graduating from university – armed with first class passes in information technology, or any other degree – only to undergo some training in primary health care, so as to travel overseas, in search of work tending to the elderly?

Which amongst us – when asked what they wanted to do when they ‘grew up’ – proudly responded that they fervently prayed to spend entire days or nights underground, in unsafe mine shafts that could collapse at any time, scrounging for a few grams of gold ore?

How many of us dreamt of becoming street vendors after successfully completing their studies at school?

So, why do we find ourselves trapped in careers that we not only never wanted to do, but also actually hate and find intolerable?

Why are teachers and nurses now forced to make time off their preferred professions – which they longed to do ever since childhood – in order to attend to raring chickens, emitting a foul stench they cannot even stand, whose eggs they sell to augment their poor salaries?

Why is it that our elderly parents – who gave most of their lives to the economic development of this country, and are now supposed to be resting and enjoying their retirement in relative comfort – now have to undertake some tedious detergent-making, or vegetable growing projects, on account of their pensions not even enough to buy a loaf of bread a day?

Surely, why would someone like me – who has always loved writing, such that would produce a handwritten class newspaper at school, and began contributing articles for local Kwekwe publications at the age of 17 years – be pushed by circumstances to scratch my head for one income-generating initiative or another, which has absolutely nothing to do with my passion, so as to be able to fend for my family?

Yet, we hear those in power in our country boasting that there are endless opportunities for the people of Zimbabwe – of which all of us should take advantage!

What opportunities?

Do those uttering such words even understand what ‘opportunities’ mean?

If there were so many opportunities in the country – where is my ‘opportunity’ to earn a decent and comfortable living from my writing, as we witness with writers of my caliber in other countries?

Where are the ‘opportunities’ for those thousands upon thousands of graduates churned out of our universities each year – who are left with no choice, but to either go into street vending, or cross the border to neighboring countries in order to become housemaids or general laborers?

Even today, when I took my mother to the police station for them to record her statement – after her car was rammed into by an oncoming vehicle last night – I was hurt seeing our esteemed officers reduced to selling samosas, to supplement their paltry salaries.

(And, my mother is alright, as no one was injured in the accident – albeit, a bit shaken – except for the cars that were damaged).

When the government of Zimbabwe says there are numerous ‘opportunities’ in the country – do they mean all those learned and well-spoken youth who mill around bus ranks, touting for passengers – but, whose brilliance is no longer visible, as drowned in illicit liquor and drugs, due to the distress of a dysfunctional economy?

I ask again – where are all these ‘opportunities’ of which our leaders are never weary of telling the nation about?

Surely, no one in their right mind can claim, with a straight face, that forcing someone who already had his or her own dreams well-planned from childhood – into scrounging for a livelihood from something he or she never wanted to do, or even loathes – can be termed ‘an opportunity’.

A country with real opportunities allows its people to become whomsoever they desire to be – and yet, still be able to eke out a decent and dignified livelihood.

We all had dreams when we were growing up, and we still want to fulfil them.

I still want to live a good life from my gift of writing – at which many people have told me I am not too shabby!

There is really no reason for me to be left with no choice, but to try out other avenues of making money – if truly there were ‘endless opportunities’ in Zimbabwe.

That man who always wanted to play football, or to sing, or even dance – should never find himself farming tomatoes and onions to make ends meet – simply because there is no money in what he loves doing.

Or, that lady who always dreamt of becoming an engineer or lecturer – need not be forced into selling her flesh – as a result of an economy that fails to adequately cater for such professionals.

That should never happen in a country with ‘numerous opportunities’.

In other words, let us not fool ourselves, or allow ourselves to be fooled – the blunt truth is that, there are very limited opportunities in Zimbabwe – and, all of us are expected to fit into those few, if we ever hope to survive.

What, then, does this say about those who run this country?

Well, I only have two words for them – unmitigated failures!

● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice advocate, writer, researcher, and social commentator. Please feel free to WhatsApp or Call: +263715667700 | +263782283975, or email: [email protected]

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