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Fumbi O: Apprentice – Not Punching Bag or Slave! Let’s Do Better, Please

Fumbi. O



It was one of those momentary family gatherings in my house this past holiday – those august gatherings that turn out to be an avenue to gossip on all family issues and also argue loudly on almost everything. In the spirit of the arguments, my cousin raised a question asking our opinion about a particular matter. She was at her hairdresser’s place when she overheard the tailor whose shop was next door to that of the hairdresser telling the stylist how her workers are unserious and how she was tired of all these apprentices and their un-seriousness. She simply scolded her apprentice for doing something wrong and she has failed to come back to work.

My cousin said she picked interest in the discussion and asked what the lady did. She knew the apprentice in question and knew her to be quite well-behaved. The tailor then replied “don’t mind her o. She cut a particular piece of cloth wrong and then I disciplined her.”

The hairdresser then joined in the conservation saying how all apprentices are the same, and they all tend to slack off on their duties. The hairdresser said that the tailor was even lenient; she outrightly flogged them when they misbehaved.

It was at this point that the tailor finally opened up and said “exactly o! Just because I beat her, she stopped coming to work. Nawa o”

My cousin who was now very irritated had to ask “but isn’t this lady in question married and already has a child?” She decided to keep quiet since both bosses obviously found their actions justifiable.

Now the question for discussion was, whether it was right for a boss or trainer to beat an apprentice in the course of learning a trade – under the guise of disciplining the person. Bear in mind that this apprentice is an adult, and probably a parent in their own right.

One of the people at our family gathering was already getting so agitated at this issue, because she had had a firsthand experience. She had signed up to learn tailoring from someone in her neighbourhood. It was a backup plan after a long period of job hunting after graduation; for the better part of the first few months of this training, all she did was go on errands. She was asked to do menial tasks, and there was little or no actual learning. One day, the woman attempted to “discipline” her and she objected to it and called her out.

She found it rather insulting and time wasting that all she did was go on errands and now she was going to beat her too? She wasn’t having it at all.

Some of the older folks at the round table argued that these things were the custom of the trade, and it was the norm. According to them, when you sign up to learn a trade in the Nigerian setting you have to subject yourself to going on errands, serving punishments and even getting beat by the Oga – your age, marital status or degree notwithstanding.

They even went further to say upon collecting the form for the training they is an implied agreement that you will subject yourself to all forms of treatment during the course of the training.

Of course, we the millennials were not having it at all, and our argument was, there should be mutual respect between a trainer and a trainee. It is understandable that the boss can get upset; sometimes oral scolding is allowed. The boss even has the right to terminate the contract – if he or she finds the behaviour of the apprentice to be unbecoming. However, it is not proper for the boss to subject the trainee to physical punishment. We even went on to argue that the apprentice was paying for this training, so that should give it some level of professionalism.

At the point the older folks just concluded that we were just speaking English. They insisted that the moment you decide to go learn a skill you have to leave your degree or marital status aside; even more, you have to become subject to a fellow worker who is a senior apprentice.  As the person is your senior at the trade, they can also discipline you.

Then I gave a scenario where a young Lekki babe who has graduated from a private university, married to a fine fellow Lekki dude. In this age of entrepreneurship, everyone is getting a skill, so she then decides to go learn hairdressing or tailoring or any other trade. Then the Oga decides to beat her, because she did not go and buy tread on time. Hmmm, trouble is loading.

We concluded that most of these practices probably wouldn’t take place in more ultra-modern areas. Perhaps it only happens in rural areas. It would be harder to subject an elite youth to such treatment.

After a lot of advocacy about how these people should know better, and should have refined their training policies, I knew my rant wasn’t going to change anything. We then went on to discuss how ridiculous some of the “freedom” lists are for this trainings.

I saw a freedom list recently and it looked as if the boss was getting ready for a traditional wedding. They insist that until the workers meet up with the demands, they cannot give them the certificate of learning. The apprentice is not allowed to graduate or set up their own business.

Less privileged people they end up working for these bosses for years, trying to work off the freedom demands.

I sincerely think this is a very archaic practice. I rounded up the arguement by submitting that, the best way to avoid all these unpleasant things  is to go to a proper institutes. When you decide to learn a skill, go to a proper catering or baking school, a structured fashion school, a salon that has a training centre and so on.

These places may be a bit pricier than Iya Sidi’s shop down the road, but at least you are sure that you won’t be going to buy bread and beans for the boss for the first one month. No one is going to tell you to kneel down and flog you; plus there is a structured training syllabus, so your trainer cannot decide that he or she is not coming to work. You won’t be wasting your time and money. Finally,  no one is going to ask you to bring crates of Maltina and tubers of yam before giving you a freedom certificate.

Quality and convenience would always cost a bit more, but is is often worth it.

I am not saying these local shops are not just as good, but when it comes to training, I think they are ill-organised and structured institutes are a better alternative – especially when you need to pick up a skill within a limited time span.

Photo Credit: Antonella865 |

Fumbi Olaolu is a graduate of International relations from Covenant University. A God loving nerd who likes all things fashion and business, talks a lot and likes to be the boss at everything. I try to find various means of expressing the myriad of thoughts in my head. If you would like a front row sit into my world, visit my blogs at Amie's Thoughts or  The Casual Writer, On Instagram @missfumbi :)


  1. le coco

    January 27, 2017 at 3:35 pm

    Trying to explain to Nigerians that Hitting people is wrong is such a waste of breath.. Why Hit another person? If u rnt happy with the service.. written warning, termination of contract, suspension etc etc….

    Our people think the fist is the answer to everything.. I remember an aunt of mine tried using tht rubbish mentality in another country . JAIL WAS HER NAME after the incident.. ..

    To the writer. just a quick point.. just because the tailor in question is married with answer child shldnt matter… She is answer person.. MARRIED OR UNMARRIED… CHILD OR NO CHILD.. you don’t hit your employee

  2. funmilola

    January 27, 2017 at 3:52 pm

    this is exactly what I’ve been trying to say when people ask me why I’ve not started sewing, i enrolled in this tailor’s shop owned by a guy who is actually very good at what he does and educated. only for me to go and watch every single day,keep watching he/they say, no practicals, except to fix buttons and run small errands… no teaching structure at all. I just can’t wait to gather enough money and enroll in a proper training school, that’s my dream this year.

  3. Bellemoizelle

    January 27, 2017 at 4:36 pm

    I finished secondary school in 2004 and wanted to learn hairdressing but I didn’t because I would be bad apprentice . They go as far as washing the bosses clothes when I don’t even wash my mom’s cloth. I currently in a fashion school learning and it’s going well can’t imagine learning in a local shop as u wld probably run errands for months achieving nothing.
    La vie est belle….

  4. Ajala & Foodie

    January 27, 2017 at 5:42 pm

    I believe we all need to teach our children to see and carry themselves with dignity and respect. My mum was in the habit of always enrolling us in one training or the other. I remember back in those days of computer lessons, my mum had signed me up during one long vacation, but while others were sent on errands and were “disciplined “. I was never for once treated unjustly. I never had to say anything to any of the instructors, but it was all in the way my parents had taught us to present ourselves. My late sister got signed up with a hair dresser, while my bro went fishing (although I doubt my bro learnt how to fish but that was how he learned to swim) but it was the same thing. Not once were we sent on a silly errand or worse “disciplined “. When you come in dressed properly, instead you of “maing and siring” you address people as Mr or Mrs or by name not Aunty or Uncle or Sister…you have already started laying the foundations of how you will be regarded. I never sat around and gossiped either, so they knew I was there to learn and go home.

  5. Ruhamah

    January 27, 2017 at 9:44 pm

    you are very right Miss Fumbi. There should be mutual respect. I enrolled recently in a tailors shop and i must say she is very different and really proved me wrong. she teaches well and is simply amazing. Thank God for that.

  6. Rozay

    January 28, 2017 at 10:36 am

    The guy that taught me how to paint houses always respect me and I also reciprocate in that manner because of the way I presented myself to him even though I didn’t pay him for the lessons, he sometimes offer me transportation allowance when we work on a big project . The only person that ever view me as an apprentice is his jss 3 drop out colleague who has the archaic view of training apprentice. I guess it goes down to presentation and manner which we related with the trainers when meeting them.

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