A bachelor’s degree may have once been a ticket to the middle class, but that is no longer a sure thing.
Graduations in Kenya have been marked with so much joy and dance. It is always a merry time where families celebrate the success of their loved ones. People travel from far and wide. They pitch camp as early as 4.00 A.M just to attend a graduation ceremony and see their kin in that gown. This is usually the highest achievement for any individual who has walked the 8.4.4 road. It is never an easy journey and once you complete your 16 years of studies, no doubt you deserve a crowning. Congratulatory messages are received in the form of money- probably the most amount the graduate will receive a decade later.
Whatever lies in store after the song and dance remain a mystery. Every graduate usually looks forward to a decent job and a good life after school. However, what they face in the real world is something talked about only behind closed doors. Graduates are tasked with the job hunting…commonly known as ‘hustling’ especially in the streets of Nairobi. These youths are making a change
Despite being the most educated generation to emerge from schools and universities, youths in Africa are twice as likely to be unemployed by the time they get into the outside world. Countless Curriculum Vitaes have been dropped and offices visited on a daily basis. None of these works out in favor. Graduates remain to toil and struggle to make ends meet. A majority of graduates now work in jobs that do not require a bachelor’s degree. Very few of them earn a sustainable living from the manual jobs they engage in.
According to the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET), almost half of the 10 million graduates churned out of the over 668 universities in Africa yearly do not get jobs. It further states that unemployment is a general problem in Africa and there must be a partnership between the government and the private sector to address it.
Who is to blame?
For decades, young people have been taught that education is the way forward, unlocking many doors in the hallway of success. And this is true. Education is tantamount to growth. The learning one does at the tertiary level is both for professional and personal growth. However, the rising unemployment of graduates is alarming.
Are universities not adequately preparing students for the job market or are the number of graduates too high for the job industry?
The disconnect between education and the job market
There is a large gap between what and how universities teach and the experience of actually working in the job market. Most university courses tend to be theoretically heavy, with very little practical experience or teaching provided. Furthermore, the very structure of exams and testing, in itself, often focuses more on a person’s ability to memorize their course work than the ability to take information in and apply it to different situations.
The reality – students are able to parrot the theory, but often have little understanding of how to apply it in their daily job.
The reality of the job market
There is a gross lack of adequate growth in the job market. There are not enough jobs to accommodate society. While there is an increase in job opportunities, it is eclipsed by the number of job seekers. Over 10 million students graduate every year and are in search of job opportunities which are scarce.
A day in the life of an unemployed graduate
Unemployment has a dismal cause and effect relationship with society. Poverty and crime levels are on the increase. There is a despondency amongst the youth as a result of the restricted opportunities available. They have indulged in all sorts of hustles just to fend for their needs.
Going to college today ruins more lives than it creates. Most college graduates are burdened with student loans and unemployment, which has become a norm in most African states. Others are struggling to escape a heavy debt burden incurred in a failed effort to obtain a college degree. The World Bank reports that Africa has the largest youth bulge in the world, and the number of youth is expected to grow to 42.5 million between now and 2020.
The dignity of education is lost. Unless the government steps in to create and empower the youth, we shall keep channelling negative energy into our education and classroom moments shall be overshadowed with illegal and sickening deeds. Making college a good investment rather than making it affordable will go a long way in ensuring quality education and skills to prepare graduates for the real world.