EQUIPPING OUR YOUTHS WITH RELEVANT SKILLS – AFRICAN EDUCATION NEEDS TO BE STRENGTHENED
When I graduated from the university, l knew little about writing proposal. I tell you, l can’t remember ever having touched a computer let alone being conversant with any computer application that l may need. A few years after, l thought that should be something that every graduate of Accounting, the course l studied, should be exposed to.
But we did not know better as students, not that we could do anything about it anyway. For a lot of people who graduated with me, all that mattered was securing opportunities to get white-collar jobs. I, and l imagine a lot of my classmates, came out with so much enthusiasm, like having a university degree was credential to life.
But we all soon realized that life was a little bit more than the idealism on campus. Although, having made up my mind to pursue a career in journalism from my time on campus, l did not mind an opportunity to do a few things to put the body and soul together. However, a shocker awaited many of us from the University of Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, Nigeria, from where l graduated.
As students graduated from accounting departments in those days, they ran to Lagos to seek job opportunities. We soon discovered that graduands of older universities like Ibadan, Ife, Benin had people who were already relatively accomplished in the business on whose wings the greenhorns assessed the doors of the few opportunities available then.
Alas, it took time before we were able to even get anything to do! As we most had no other skill than to apply the principle of double entry in preparation of financial accounts – Debit the receiver and credit the giver. A number of us had to go back to school to acquire other skills before we were eventually able to get into varied organizations like banks, the civil service and corporate organizations that could use our services.
I recall that one of my friends had to go bag a diploma in computer appreciation before he got anything to do, which would be after a number of years at home. Many of our classmates roamed the streets for years without giving any thought to exploring opportunities to be entrepreneurs. All we wanted was the white collar job that our university education prepared us for. Wrong way to go! I now know but it sadly is still largely the same story in Nigeria, even today!
This is why every time l hear people speak with fervour about the future of Nigeria, l wonder what they really mean. Nigeria, like most countries on the continent, does not have an educational system viable for today, let alone one contemplating the challenges of tomorrow!
Sadly, graduate unemployment in Africa is approaching an endemic proportion and the continent is not doing so much to address the situation. But worse is the prospect for the future.
To me, Africa’s education systems need strengthening with greater investment. There are insufficient colleges and technical schools to generate the needed skilled labour force. More students should be steered towards STEM subjects. That is, Science, Technology, Education and Mathematics.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) says that just one African college student in six will graduate with a science or engineering degree and that Africans must begin to pursue subjects that can open the doors to jobs in manufacturing industries today and in the future.
It is extremely hard to imagine a bright future for Nigeria, when able-bodied youths laze around idle and brimming with cumulative frustration in what is supposedly their most productive years with no hope in sight, having sacrificed years in acquiring knowledge. Yet, all they could hear is unending words of constant promises with no concrete actions. In the words of the late United States President, John F, Kennedy, “A society that fails in helping the many who are poor will not succeed in saving the few who are rich.” A stitch in time, they say, saves nine!
© Adeogun Oluwakayode 2017