A barber And His Burden
The barber profession is a noble one. In fact, it is one of the oldest professions in the world. In the united states, Asia and Europe, this is a statement of fact. However, in Nigeria and nay Africa, this statement is a hard sale. The word "barber" comes from the Latin word "barba" meaning beard. In the olden days when primitive held sway, the barber was a foremost man of his tribe.
In ancient Egypt, barbers were prosperous and highly respected. In fifth century Greece, barbers became leading citizens. The barbershop of accient Greece was the headquarters for social, political and sporting news. Till ThisDay in Nigeria, the barber's is like a clearing house of opinion for all kinds of people with various backgrounds and inclinations- political, social , religious e.t.c. Why won't such a profession attract graduates? Why is the reputation of an average barber low? Why is he not respected in the Nigeria society?
The average barber in Nigeria however, is to a large extent responsible for the lack of respect he suffers in society. In Nigeria, the barber is regarded as a layabout, never do well, tout, one with low intelligence and therefore unfit for any academic pursuit e.t.c. Like they say, "before people decide on what they think of your message, they first decide on what they think of you".
This writer, a graduate, who has owned and operated a barber shop for over fifteen years, can attest to the demeaning attitude of barber shop patrons towards barbers. Certain reasons can be adduced for the burden the barber carries in this society.
First, the average barber is barely educated. Only recently have unemployed graduates joined the profession largely due to frustration. The business is largely populated by illiterates and school drop outs who can hardly command respect from their patrons and the public.
Second, the only criteria a barber needs to meet, is undergo apprenticeship under a master barber. In the united states and Europe, there are government approved barbering institutions that award certificates, diplomas and even degrees. Graduates register with a body charged with the regulation and control of the business. This body evaluates the qualifications of applicants for licensure and grant licenses to those deserving of it.
Third, very few persons become fulltime barber by choice in Nigeria. Most barbers are so until they can find another job. There is low self esteem among practitioners. This is a serious problem. The profession is seriously endangered.
Fourth, the rush for white color jobs and its inherent advantages have made the profession less fashionable. In government employment, there is a work approach of more pleasure and less work. The attitude in civil service negate supervision, work evaluation and increases stagnation. But the attraction remains the hunger for fraud and the lure of a system that crucifies hard work, efficiency and merit. Who wouldn't go for it, given the chance?
Fifth, the denegration by society is discouraging to a rocky barber. Much respect is not shown to the profession. A responsible person with good education and reputation will be respected but not his barber business. Till thisday, without sounding illmodest, certain persons ask me what am doing in the barbering business.
Sixth, it necessarily follows therefore that the society sees everyone in this lowly profession called barbering as one without an ambition financially speaking and one who therefore deserves little in terms of financial remunerationS. Consider this; a man brings his kid for a hair cut and on realizing the fee is N200, he leaves in anger claiming it is too expensive. However, he takes same kid across the street and buys him loads of chocolates and ice cream worth N700. Fantastic!
Seventh, the prostrate laying economy have made the barber worth reduced. Looking good obviously is not priority of a jobless, hungry and homeless man.
Eight, power is a basic requirement in the business of barbering. Our economy is generator driven. Suffice it to say, that all the money the barber spends in buying fuel, oil and maintenance of his generator can be put into some better use. Unfortunately for him, his patrons hardly understand and consider his frustrations when he adjusts his fees upwards.
The barber is among the privileged few who can ask his excellency, the president, the governor, the king e.t.c.to bend over his head properly and he obeys. Of course he desires a good hair cut and therefore must obey. I advise young adults who i mentor to cultivate a responsible personality so they can change the attitude of society towards barbers and their trade.
A barber can be a wealthy, responsible and respectable member of the society he lives in but he must first be genuine. He must love his profession.. Once one is passionate about what he does he is bound to be succeed.. Experience has shown me that people are particular about who and where they get a hair cut.