Career Guidance is a concept often abandoned in our education institutions. The few times I recall our career guidance teacher walking into our classroom in my high school was during the first day of orientation in our tenth grade and when my class poorly performed in our mathematics mock examinations in our twelfth grade.
On the first occasion, I shared my dreams for a career in the space science industry. At that time, I was obsessed with Astrophysics which I taught myself using the astronomy books available at the school library. I would trace different constellations in our beautiful night skies, and some of my friends would join in outside my dormitory. I thoroughly enjoyed learning and teaching others with minds as curious as mine. Unfortunately, when I shared my dreams, I was laughed at by the guidance teacher, including some of my classmates. He told me to find a career better suited for our country because such dreams were impossible to attain within our environment.
The second time as mentioned earlier, was when my class failed our mathematics mock exam in our final year of high school. The talk was harsh, from what I recall. It centered around how we were never going to get into the top educational institutions in the country with our poor grades. Our dreams of becoming doctors, accountants, lawyers, etc., were going to die if we did not improve and work harder for our final examinations a month away.
On both occasions, I left our classroom feeling discouraged. The first time meant I changed the trajectory of my life entirely. I did not dream of becoming anything else that was not in the space science industry since I was 5years old. The second time, my chances of becoming a Neurosurgeon which was my newfound career after reading Ben Carson’s books were becoming slim. In their capacity, my high school organized career talks once in a while. I only recall two occasions during my 5year stay there. The school’s location and access to resources played a role in this.
Career Guidance is a salient concept in our educational institutions because it focuses on developing and nurturing one’s passion. Therefore, we cannot abandon it no matter the circumstance of an institution. For instance, during the first occasion, the guidance teacher should have encouraged me to remain open if the situation proved difficult for me in the future but keep dreaming. I would have loved to hear that instead of total discouragement. The gaps in different educational institutions that limit their investment in pupils’ career guidance will always be there. It is vital that despite this, we collectively work together to find creative and innovative ways to keep the young generation’s minds curious about what they can become. THE WORLD IS THEIR OYSTER!
To this effect, on July 8, 2022, the Paideia Project in collaboration with Space Generation Advisory Council (SGAC) Zambia and the United States Embassy Zambia through the American Spaces organised a career guidance session with the pupils at Jacaranda Primary and Secondary (Combined) School in Lusaka. This program was titled: Meet a NASA Astronaut during which Dr. Michael Barratt shared a presentation about his journey in the space science industry. We were fortunate to be joined by Astronaut Captain Victor Glover as well right before he left for his “space walk” at NASA Neutral buoyance Laboratory.
Specializing in internal and aerospace medicine, Astronaut Dr. Michael R. Barratt has two spaceflights to his name with 199 days in space over a single mission. He continues to use his experience over the years in the advancements of aerospace medicine. He has been extensively involved in medical and human factors applications for new space vehicles in the Commercial Crew and Artemis Programs, including space medical risks and research efforts. PLEASE WATCH MIKE’S PRESENTATION ABOUT HIS EXPERIENCES WITH NASA, CAREERS IN SPACE SCIENCE AND THE Q&A FROM OUR IN-PERSON AND ONLINE AUDIENCE DURING OUR CAREER GUIDANCE EVENT BELOW:
Special thanks to: Astronauts Micheal Barratt and Victor Glover, John Stephen and Kimberly Nahas from Johnson Space Center Astronaut Appearance Office, Paul Gordon, Austin Ngoma and Justine Mulenga from the US Embassy Zambia, Chisengo and Nicolas Musakanya for the graphic design behind the event’s official poster, the pupils and teachers present from Jacaranda Combined School, and the space science community that made it in-person and the online audience as well, and finally my mom for her never ending support.
Dedication: To my late father, Constantine Malama Mwamba. My biggest space science cheerleader.
May your minds always remain curious! – Mwenya Mwamba