Addressing the dwindling fortune of Nigerian graduates
A graduate by definition is a person who has successfully completed a course of study or training, especially a person who has been awarded a first academic degree in a higher institution.
According to the 2006 provisional census figure, Nigeria has a youth population of over 80 million, or 60% of her total population. Of this population, more than 80% are unemployed while about 10% are underemployed. Data provided by the National Manpower Board and Federal Bureau of Statistics indicate that only about 10% of the graduates released into the labour market annually by Nigerian universities and other tertiary institutions are able to secure paid employments.
According to a World Bank statistics, youth unemployment rate in Nigeria is 38%, but realistically, 80% of Nigerian youths are unemployed with secondary school graduates mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while Universities and Polytechnic graduates make up the figure. What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s Universities and Polytechnics continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates both Bachelor’s degrees and Higher National Diploma annually and job creation has been inadequate to keep pace with the expanding working age population.
What makes the situation a bit complicated is that employers of labour now believe that the standard of education in Nigeria has plummeted considerably over the past decades and that university degree is no longer a sure guarantee of effective communication skill or practical technical competence. These days, graduates who are trained outside the country are given prominence in terms of employment and are offered higher pay jobs ahead of their colleagues from the supposedly best universities in the country. Mostly, when prospective employers cannot afford to take the risk of training new employees because of high operating cost and the fear of losing a trained employee, they simply source for always available, suitable candidates overseas.
As of 1st January, 2016, the population of Nigeria was estimated to be 182, 307, 178 people. This is an increase of 1.94 % (3 465 943 people) compared to population of 178, 841, 235 the previous year. The available facilities in the universities, especially the federal and state owned ones, cannot accommodate the number of students that apply for admission, thus different measures are used to short-change some unlucky candidates. Some of the students that are admitted are not offered courses of their choice.
Gone are the days when companies and top organizations select fresh first class graduates for employment on the day of their convocation ceremony. Now, a brand ambassador for top organizations doesn’t need to go through the four walls of any institution as long as their identity can attract sales.
As a result of frustration mostly emanating from economic hardship, some graduates have lost grip on their focus and values. Some of them have given up and stooped so low as hawking fruits on the high way, riding commercial motor bicycles and working as attendants in supermarkets and restaurants, receiving humiliating salaries at the end of the month. Capitalizing on the unemployment situation in the country, some employers simply exploit these young brains by underpaying them and over using them due to their desperate need to find a means of livelihood. The situation is like a double edged sword as those with innovative ideas lack funds and access to platforms that would enable them to live their dreams.
A major issue in the dwindling fortune of Nigerian graduates is that too much emphasis is being placed on theoretical applications in most of our tertiary institutions. But for a few, most tertiary institutions in the country place heavy premium on theory at expense of practical. This explains why we have continued to produce engineers but have not been able to make any appreciable technological breakthroughs as a people. We produce engineers and other professionals that would end up seeking foe employment in government agencies where they concentrate mostly on paper works. There is clearly a failure in the school curriculum to place emphasis on practical concepts of entrepreneurship, too much emphasis are on theoretical education rather than entrepreneurship exposure.
Added to this is the fact that some of the courses on offer in most of the nation’s higher institutions are clearly outdated. We no longer have any need for them in a 21st century world. There is, therefore, an urgent need to alter the curriculum of our tertiary institutions to do away with courses that no longer fit into present day’s socio-economic reality. Indeed, we need to lay more emphasis on technical education as well as courses that de-emphasise the craze for non-existing white collar jobs. Similarly, we should make effort to promote social entrepreneurship among our undergraduates. This could be done through the establishment of internship programmes aimed at giving them the opportunity to learn valuable skills in contemporary fields such as information communication technology, fund development, public relations, program development, management and much more.
Furthermore, there is need to extend the period spent at the orientation camp by graduates that take part in the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme beyond what presently obtains. This is to ensure that, apart from the para-military training on offer at the camp, corps members could spend more time to be trained in different vocations that could make them to be economically empowered upon completion of the programme. This becomes very vital as a result of the dreadful state of un-employment in the country. It has now become quite clear that certificates alone are no longer sufficient enough for economic empowerment. Thus, every avenue through which the youth could be empowered for economic survival should be taken hold of.
It is equally important, especially in the case of public owned higher institutions that both federal and state authorities promote a harmonious relationship with both academic and non academic staff of the various institutions to encourage industrial harmony. It is no longer a secret that incessant strike actions over various unresolved issues have, in no small measure, hampered tertiary education in the country.
According to former United Nations Secretary General, Dr Kofi Anan, “education is a bridge from misery to hope. It is a basic tool for daily life in modern society. It is a wall against poverty, and a building block of development. It is a vehicle for the promotion of cultural and national identity”. It is view of this truth that all stakeholders must unite to give a new lease of life to tertiary education in the country.
Big Read |