Ordinarily higher education should enhance one’s wellbeing.
Graduates should be able to stand tall in the society but that is not always the situation especially in Nigeria where graduates take up demeaning jobs. Experts give reasons for this trend and offer solutions.Olabisi Deji-Folutile writes
Maryam has a degree in Library Science from a reputable university in Nigeria but works as a security guard. She earns N26, 000 a month. She is not entitled to annual leave, medical care or any other welfare package. Though disgruntled, there is little she could do for now. “I hate it when people call me a security guard, I am not happy doing what I’m doing at all, I’m here because I can’t find a job,’’ she told our correspondent.
But as bad as her case may seem to her, Maryam is lucky compared to Mathew, a graduate of accountancy from a state university in the South-East. Tired of remaining unemployed after years of graduation, he opted for a daily paid job. He carries blocks for bricklayers at construction sites and gets paid based on the number of blocks he is able to carry.
“I try as much as possible not to work in areas where I’m likely to be recognised. Things have been a bit better with my family since I started this work. I have a wife and a daughter to take care of; I can’t afford to remain idle,’’ he said.
Interestingly, his wife is also a graduate of Business Administration. She too has stopped searching for job and now sells second-hand clothing materials.
Numerous tales abound of graduates working as retail officers, commercial taxi drivers and motor cyclists. There are also reports that some graduates end up as cart pushers.
Just recently, one of the indigenous Nigerian companies placed a half-page colour advert soliciting applications from qualified graduates to be employed as truck drivers. In the advert, titled, outstanding opportunities for 2,000 graduate drivers, successful candidates would be in charge of the firm’s haulage trucks. They are to be trained and later given driving licences that would enable them drive trucks.
The Federal Government spends about N365, 000 yearly to subsidise an undergraduate in a university. The cost is higher for courses like medicine, engineering and architecture.
Many have been forced to ask: what is the true worth of a degree from Nigerian universities?
A former Executive Secretary of the National Universities Commission, Prof. Peter Okebukola, said, ‘’The worth of a university degree is the depth of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values associated with that degree which the graduate bears as a consequence of his/her training.’’
He, however, explained that any degree earned through sloppy training cannot endow the holder with respectable knowledge and skills for the world of work or for postgraduate studies. “For instance, a BSc degree in engineering from many part-time programmes and programmes run in satellite campuses, cannot endow the holder with respectable knowledge and skills for the world of work or for postgraduate studies. A good university degree should be worth a self-created job or gainful employment by others.’’
To him, several factors explain graduate unemployment (no job at all) and under-employment (riding “okada”) in Nigeria though he said the phenomenon is global. “One of the explanatory factors is the gloom in the global economy with a reflux effect on the national economy,’’ he said.
According to him, the absorptive capacity of the labour market in Nigeria has shrunk significantly in the last 10 years, making it increasingly difficult for graduates to secure public and private sector employment. This, he said, has translated into about 30 per cent of graduates of Nigerian universities being unemployed or under-employed.
To show the global dimension of the problem, he said about the same graduate unemployment rate is reported for most Asian countries. “In the US, 2012 data from the Office of National Statistics show that nearly 36 per cent, or more than one in three recent graduates are employed in a lower-skilled jobs compared with 26.7 per cent in 2001.
“Also, according to the 2012 Global Employment Trends Report of the ILO, young people continue to be the hardest hit by job crisis with 74.8 million youths being unemployed in 2011, an increase of more than four million since 2007. Last year in the UK, 8.9 per cent of those who left universities were without a job about a year later as graduates.’’
The second reason, according to him, is oversupply of graduates in many fields leading to a glut of graduates who are unable to find jobs in their areas of specialisation. He said, ‘’A scan of choice courses by candidates applying to our universities through the Joint Admissions and Matriculation Board shows preference for management sciences, arts, law, engineering and medicine. Mismatch between manpower requirements and enrolment into these courses has led to a glut in the stock of graduates.
“The third reason is limitations in opportunities to secure start-up loans for small businesses by graduates desiring to set up their small businesses. Fourthly is the high cost of overhead even when such businesses are set up. Cost of diesel, cost of maintenance of equipment will run such small businesses out of the market. Related to this is the fifth factor of unfair competition with cheaper imported products especially from China.
“The sixth factor is the deficit in creativity of many graduates in exploring income opportunities. The seventh factor is the deficit in entrepreneurial training offered by our universities. The eighth reason is the increasing use of IT leading to shedding of jobs earlier deployed through manual operations. An outstanding example is the banking industry that has had to lay off several workers in the last year or two with increasing use of technology for its operations. ‘’
Also, a Professor of Sociology, who is the National Commissioner, Independent National Electoral Commission and Chairman, INEC Board of Electoral Institute, Lai Olurode, said, ordinarily, higher education should serve the purpose of fulfilment. “Well, higher education should correspond with one’s wellbeing. When you have a higher education, you should be able to stand tall in the society. It should confer a state of high-class status,’’ he said.
He noted that around the world, especially in developed countries, less than five per cent of their population are graduates. “But here in Nigeria, less than one per cent of the population are graduates. So these people with higher education are a special breed. There is a relationship between education, awareness and economic wellbeing. But now, it’s the opposite. Having higher education has become a norm. The fallen education standard has affected the quality of education. The sector has gone down. You have university graduates who can’t construct simple sentences.’’
On what could be responsible for the trend, he said, “We have lost the essence of education, not just higher education, but education in general. During the time of our parents, education was concrete. People in standard four or six can be compared to our Master’s holders of today. Quality is what has gone down. Also, the calibre of teachers and lecturers is also going down. Low-budget allocation is also another factor.
“Those who manage the sector are not helping matters. They don’t believe in the sector, that’s why they send their children abroad. It has reached a stage where everyone wants a degree at all cost. There is greed for education; they just want the degree at all cost. We operate a system where students are over examined. The philosophy that is inner satisfaction in receiving an education has been lost.
He, however, blamed parents for the ugly development. “Unfortunately, parents too are to blame. They believe in paying high fees rather than searching for an institution that really builds a child. Now there are so many private institutions awarding first class degrees any how. Yet, less than half of these first class degree holders can hold a job. Our graduates of today haven’t got what it takes. A large number of them are more focused on their certificates yet they can’t defend the certificate.’’