By Ahmad Adedimeji Amobi
When Saadu Yusuf Olatunji graduated from the faculty of education at the University of Ilorin in 2012, he didn’t know his first-degree certificate wouldn’t play any part in getting him a job. Now 32, he says that had he known what he knows now, he wouldn’t have bothered pursuing his second degree.
Olatunji is among hundreds of thousands of graduates in Nigeria whose degree certificates have failed to guarantee them a decent-paying job. Instead of finding a job in the field they studied in, they are forced to make do with menial jobs.
Olatunji, for example, studied and aimed to be a university professor, but after graduating, couldn’t find a job that suited him. He now owns a shop where he types, prints and photocopies documents for the students of the University of Ilorin. “I graduated with a second class, upper division result. I studied educational guidance and counselling, but I’ve been into this business before school,” he explained.
The shortcomings of Nigeria’s education system have shaped a generation of graduates who no longer count on their degrees to better their quality of life. “See, the moment you’re in school, you should already be looking for another means to live. Certificate is like flag. It gives you the respect, but job, it can only come through opportunities,” Olatunji said.
In 2017, he finished his master’s degree with a Phd grade, a grade used for “those that scored above 60 percent.” But the economic pressure is piling up and his degree hasn’t helped him thus far. “I married not too soon ago, and I have a kid,” he told Sahelien.com.
Nigeria is the seventh-most populous country in the world with an estimated population of about 206 million. The country is the most populous country in Africa and has one of the largest youth populations in the world. But the unemployment rate of the youth is dragging down its economy.
Professor Mahfouz Adedimeji, vice chancellor of Ahman Pategi University, a private university in Kwara state, said that the pursuit of education is not the problem. “It is the systems that support it that fail,” he said, arguing that the government should do more to rejuvenate higher education. “It’s crucial to get appropriate human and material resources in shape for education to achieve its aims, goals and objectives in every context,” he said,
One of the underlying factors causing young graduates’ problems is that they were not in their program of choice to begin with. This is the case for Oladunjoye Kehinde a 26-year-old graduate of transportation management and technology at Federal University of Technology, Minna, who was unable to study her first choice, computer engineering. Many students who don’t get into their programs of choice will continue with any given course because university admission is not cheap.
There is a limit of students each department of each university can take yearly, and admissions officers sometimes flout the rules to give special treatment to their friends and personal contacts. Some students who write JAMB (an examination written to determine admission) and score above the cut off mark get denied of the admission because those who score below have connections with officials who help them secure admission.
Kehinde, a graduate of information and transportation technology, had to hustle before she could start a business and feed herself. After completing her one-year service at the National Youth Service Corps, she used the last payment of her monthly allowance paid for serving the country, and a loan she took, to start up a business. “I am into business presently. I sell shea butter product,” she said. “It was during my service, the last allowance I collected, when I was coming home finally and I was thinking of what to do, and I collected a loan and started it. There were a lot of business ideas in my head but I just picked that,” she explained.
Sulaiman Fawaz, a Nigerian economist, explained that the planning is that the government should “revamp the educational system by thorough investment.” He further said that the government should create an enabling environment for “gradua-preneurs.”
Hundreds of thousands of graduates and post-graduates like Kehinde and Olatunji are fighting to provide for their basic needs without the help of their certificates after spending strenuous years in university to get them.
“As education is about making change and solving problems. I think the mentality of seeking white collar jobs has to change in students and graduates of universities,” Professor Adedimeji said. “To make education succeed, it has to be adequately nurtured by every part of society. If it is not properly nurtured, its goals in the recipients won’t be achieved. It is therefore imperative to create systems and environments that will provide quality, functional, balanced and standard education.”