The recent startling revelation coming from all corners that, “Nigerian graduates are unemployable!” is a fact which ought not to be customarily overlooked nor treated with kids gloves. Apart from having the stinking underpinnings of a worrisome situation, the appalling signals clearly spell danger and doom if nothing is urgently done to remedy the situation. It behoves me to write on this issue, because, as an undergraduate currently, I will eventually join the multitudinous batch currently in the labour market, swelling each day like the sands on seashores.
Let’s call a spade a spade. The fact remains-and remains as such-that, the educational certificate we come out with will be and will remain a piece of paper. Our education will therefore, unquestionably be the residue we acquired while studying. That said, I recently encountered a first-class electrical engineering graduate who cannot do a simple electrical wiring! To my utmost surprise and dumbfoundness, he had confessed to me that he has never handled screwdrivers while in school. According to him, there was no need for practicals in their school because volumes of textbooks abound that sufficiently and efficiently taught what they were to learn. Unsurprisingly though, it is a well-known fact that we have a lot of graduates who can barely pen down their names. Roadside mechanics have proven to be more knowledgeable in mechanical machines than our first-class mechanical engineering students. Our science students are only acquainted with laboratory apparatus in textbooks. Law students barely appreciate the gimmicks and rituals of the courtroom until they get to law school, which then makes it hard for them to grasp. The reason for this anomaly is obviously not far-fetched. Students’ lackadaisical attitudes towards learning has known to be the frontburner why education is on a decline in the country. However, apart from this major factor, I have identified what I believe to be three other factors which add their own grease to the wheels that smother our employability. And these three factors, I wholelabelled: P.T.A. Yes, P for Parents; T for Teachers; and A for Administrators. These three factors individually and collectively contribute their quota towards graduate unemployability.
Well-to-do parents have been known to largely influence their childrens’ choice of life careers. The poor ones more or less don’t care what their children become because they being illiterates-schooling-wise, will mostly not appreciate what their children do in school. Over glasses of champagne, childrens’ fate as to what they will become and how they will become what, will be sealed. The children will never grow up to ever think of becoming something else. Renowned doctors, lawyers and engineers will be the only examplars and models they are acquainted with. Any other ‘unprofessional’ course is forbidden to be spoken of. God forbid the child says s/he wants to become a musician or a footballer! Such professions are undignified! However, it is not hidden that people in such fields are making good money and repute. The children will then grudgingly have to read what is not their passion and interest. Another attitude of rich parents is padding the way for their children in almost everything that the child is as good as useless when s/he comes out of school. They will bribe their way to have their children be in either of medicine or law, for they believe those courses to be the most lucrative. And when the child has barely managed to scale through the university, s/he will have nothing to offer.
What is the need of sending me on a never-ending journey to find “x” in a quadratic equation, where the value of x is not equal or less than the square root of its mean, taking “y” to be a constant? Of what use is it asking me the cube root of the simultaneous equation which has tan&cos as intergers of the matrix of sine? Such was the impatience of my primary school teachers with anybody who had no head for maths. In fact, they had unhiddenly made it known to us that if you don’t know maths, you are doomed for life! Just like the eternal damnation of sinners in hell fire. Not that they were wrong by any means, for maths is very much important in our lives as we need oxygen, but where I’ve come to class one chilly morning debating in my mind, struggling with my conscience whether to accept Achebe’s killing of his hero in ‘Things Fall Apart’ or not, after an enjoyous reading the previous night and then failing to calculate the circumference of the radius of a circle which has ‘x’ as its diameter, only for me to receive strokes of the cane says much about our teachers insensitivity towards our welfare. Till date, I am still having nightmares of my maths teachers in primary and secondary school. The females with their ugly, coarse and intelligent faces, while the males with their bloodshot, crinkled and heavily-moustached faces. My teachers will never tolerate you if, should you be unmaths or unscience oriented. Arts, they believed, was meant for lazy students. But students, like me, abound that all our lives we like reading. In fact, I had been such a voracious reader, that I was picking sheets of papers from the ground to read. One day of reading a page of a written word was like one week of straight partying to me. One incident that nearly had me stopped school remains fresh in my memory. I was sitting down on my own one hot afternoon reminiscencing about the novel which I just finished reading, whether to give it a pass mark of 3 out of ten or 1 over 10, when I suddenly felt my neighbour nudging me and pointing to Uncle P, our maths teacher. Unknown to me, Uncle P had asked us to give him examples of whole numbers, and everybody else had given, until it got to me and Uncle P was the type that never repeated questions. I had turn my eyes to the guy behind me, hoping he meant him, but Uncle P would have none of that nonsense. I stood up and muttered, “3 over 10.” I said it because I knew that since it was a maths class, the question would be one that concerns numbers. I don’t know where the inspiration fell from, even till today. Uncle P’s eyes, I noticed, started emitting little sparks of fire when he called me out to receive my due reward. Whoosh! Whish! was the only sound heard as his koboko went all over my body. My eyes, ears, nose, mouth and my head were all double their sizes by the time I got home. It had to take a week of constant hot-water pressing by my mother before they returned to slightly their normal sizes. I had refused to go back to that school until threats from my father to do more of what Uncle P did took me back.
Ah! Our leaders(Administrators), those ones are as guilty as sin itself. Their barefaced disdain for education in the country is something even the blind can clearly see. Polytechnics are currently on strike, but our leaders, in their usual Hobson choice attitude, don’t give a hoot. After all, their kids are in choice schools abroad. Such a brazen display of idiocy like Hitler’s, that our leaders are earnestly trying to uphold. For Hitler was reported to have said that, his teachers, apart from a select few, were the worst people in his life, or maybe it is their own hearty conviction which begs for a credible explanation. We were witnesses to the inglorious six-month ASUU strike of the recent past, which untenably halted educational activities in the country. In short, I hold our leaders to be the major culprits in making Nigerian graduates unemployable.
The remedy of the situation is invariably the opposite of the problems herein outlined. Parents should allow their children choose what they intend to become in life, though with a little guidance. “Beyonce” is a course now offered in an American university. If you should enter any bank and say you are the nephew to the cousin of Cristiano Ronaldo’s uncle, let me see the bank manager that will refuse to do business with you. There’s no such thing as undignified or unprofessional courses. The passion to read a course should be the determining factor here.
Again, our teachers, especially the ones at our formative level, should help guide us, rather than destroy us. Until now, many of my secondary school classmates who joined sciences because they were persuaded by our teachers to do so, are still seeking admission to higher institutions. And this time around, they will be glad to accept admission from just any institution. Perhaps, its because our teachers were meant to teach us academics side by side morals, that they are unable to draw a line between both. They have to impose their ideals on us.
As for the government, theirs is like a malignant tumour. Growing worse each day. Paying only lip-service to education in the country. When a major issue, such as the one under consideration, receives little or no attention from the powers that be, then there is a great chance of impending doom.
On the whole therefore, there is an urgent need to revisit the P.T.A. That I believe would ameliorate the stark inadequacies of graduates to a large extent.
Please if you have a different view, feel free to share with us, as different opinions will be entertained.