How would you feel as a parent, after investing all your resources into helping your child attain the highest level of education only for him/her to sit at home idle after graduating from school? This is because the government says there are no jobs.
How would you feel as a youth, after taking your parents advice that “learn hard in school so that you’d get a good job and make me proud” Only for you to finish school and be told by employers that, the educational system you went through hasn’t equipped you with the requisite skills to merit you a job?
Unemployment is not only a national issue but also a global issue. In 2015, the International Labor Organization (ILO) warned that unemployment will continue to rise in the coming years, as the global economy enters a new period combining slower growth, widening inequalities and turbulence. “By 2019, more than 212 million people will be out of work, up from the current 201 million, according to the World Employment and Social outlook- Trends 2015” a report by the ILO stated. (Source: CitifmOnline)
Speaking at the maiden congregation of the University of Energy and Natural Resources (UENR) in Sunyani recently, President Mahama advised graduates to keep their eyes on opportunities in both the private and informal sectors, instead of the public sector. He explained that out of the 26 million Ghanaians, only 600,000 people are employed in the public sector and this means that majority of jobs created are in the private and the informal sectors.
The issue of unemployment has become so dire in Ghana to the extent that, there is an Association called Unemployed Graduates Association made up of unemployed graduates. I don’t actually know what they hope to achieve with this association.
Over the years, unemployed graduates have received a lot of bashing from different angles of society. They’ve been tagged as being lazy, feeling too proud to do informal jobs etc. In as much we try to make them take responsibility for their predicament, I think society as a whole also has to take some portion of the blame. From my point of view, these unemployed graduates are the products of what society planted in them. Almost every Ghanaian youth can attest to the fact that, while growing up, their parents or guardians advised them to learn hard, and chalk all the academic laurels they can accumulate and after that, they will be guaranteed a job. As the Bible rightly says “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Since it has been etched in the brains of these graduates since childhood that, they are only guaranteed a job if they chew,pour and pass their exams. What do we expect them to turn out to become? There’s no way you’d plant a tomato seed and expect to reap a mango fruit. The “book long” graduates we produce are the fruits of the “booklong” seeds we sowed in them during their childhood. If these graduates were taught in their childhood that, they are the solution to the problems in society. If they were brought up with the mentality that, they were created for a purpose and that purpose is to impact society positively. I believe these graduates who were kids by then would have thought of creative ways of giving back to society rather than demanding from society.
From my observation, I’ve realized that Our society generally doesn’t place value on jobs in the informal sector. While growing up, the carpenters, mechanics, tailors, TV repairers were not accorded equal respect as the teachers, lawyers’ bankers etc are accorded. They are mostly looked down on in society. You dare not tell your parent you want to be a carpenter or a mechanic. They’d tell you to dream big and aspire high. We paint a picture of the informal sector being reserved for the poor, or underprivileged. And now we want University graduates to venture into an area that we made them believe was only reserved for the poor in society? A sector we regard as meant for only people who were not academically inclined? We now have the temerity to label these graduates as too prideful to go into the informal sector?
I remember the founder of Kama group of companies Dr.Michael Agyekum Addo during a personality interview recounted how he made sure his daughter learned the art of hairdressing during holidays and his son worked in a mechanical shop during holidays. I was astonished by his revelation but when I pondered over it I realized he was just training his children to gain some skills in addition to their formal education. How many parents in Ghana can have the guts to subject their loving children to apprenticeship in hairdressing and Car Mechanics?
Even currently students in the polytechnics are looked down on because of the courses and level of certification they’d be awarded (HND) after their tenure of education. I remember some relatives of mine discouraged me from going to the polytechnic few years ago because they claimed with an HND certificate, the probability of gaining employment is slimmer compared to a degree. Even though there was an aorta of truth in their assertion, they could have prioritized the course I wanted to offer over the certificate I’d be acquiring at the end of the day. This is a general Ghanaian mindset.
Proverbs 18:16 says “A man’s gift maketh room for him and bringeth him before great men.” My understanding of this verse is ‘A man’s talent maketh room for him and bringeth him before great men.’ God in his own wisdom, imbibed in us some unique abilities which most people call talent. Some people refer to it as creativity. These abilities when maximized can be the solution to some problems of humanity. Unfortunately, some of us aren’t able to exhibit our abilities through no fault of ours but society. Not until recently, you dare not tell your parents that your future ambition is to become a Musician when you are from a well to do home. You can be as lyrically inclined as Kendrick Lamar or having a soothing voice as Adele but since your parents had the money to send you to school your dream of becoming a Musician wouldn’t come to fruition. This is because, Musicians in Ghana are perceived to live a life of promiscuity or abuse drugs. Sometimes, our parents try to use us to correct the mistakes of their past. That is why you’d see a Ghanaian parent wanting the child to go into a particular field of profession because they missed out on the opportunity to traverse that career path when they were in their prime. Our lives have been tailor made before we were even born. Some parents pre-determine the schools their children would attend, the courses they’d offer at every stage of their education and they even determine the career their child will pursue before they are born. So when the child is born, they start prophesying their wish for him/her right from the delivery ward of the hospital they were born in. As a result of this, the child is not given the freedom to explore his/her talent or pursue whatever he/she has a passion for. Just like the one with one talent in the Bible, their talents get buried not through their doing but their parents. Some unemployed graduates we call lazy and unproductive are products of this parental dictatorship.
Our educational system also doesn’t make enough room for creativity. It has a particular paradigm and if you don’t fit into it, you are a failure. If you are not the type that can memorize what you were taught and reproduce the same thing the teacher gives you, you might be on a highway to failure. Our educational curricular is not cut out in a way that, by the time a student gets to the University the student can unearth his/her talent and make a career choice out of it. No wonder a student finds him/herself in a quandary when trying to apply for a course in the University. That’s why you’d find students offering courses they don’t have a passion for. How do you expect these graduates to become useful in society if you’ve not created that conducive environment for them to unearth their usefulness?
In 2015 the Head of economic Division at the institute of statistical social and economic research (ISSER) Dr. Charles Ackah said Ghana is sitting on a time bomb due to the worsening graduate unemployment situation in the country. Speaking in an interview with Citi News, Dr. Ackah insisted that one’s tendency to land a job is now highly decreased by higher education, hence his caution.
“Actually, it is related to education. The more educated you are, the likely you are going to be unemployed” he said (Source:CitifmOnline)
One would ask, what is the way forward? In recent times, graduates have been told to create jobs for themselves since there are no jobs available for them. Most people understand this as setting up businesses of their own but the fact is, it’s not everybody that has a business acumen. As the saying goes “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” Since these graduates have not been trained with the aim of creating their own jobs, it would be difficult for them to do this.
I believe Proverbs 18:16 “A man’s gift maketh room for him and bringeth him before great men.” Is the solution. Let’s believe in the power of our dreams. Let’s give children the chance to follow their passion. Let’s create a conducive environment to unearth the various gifts God has placed in us. Let’s support and encourage children to be creative.
If every student can explore whatever gift God has placed in them, we all can make a living out of it.
This is to my fellow colleagues out there, just as DJ Khaled would say in his song ‘Legendary’ “ Don’t let nobody stop your dreams! keep winning! rise to the top! keep your head up! Young world! The world is yours!.