Home EDUCATION OPINION: Is Nigeria educational system an enabler to unemployment? By Emede Ufuoma

OPINION: Is Nigeria educational system an enabler to unemployment? By Emede Ufuoma


Constantly in Nigeria there are several turn out of graduates from the National Youth Service Corp Program into the labor Market year in year out to struggle for the little vacancy that is almost not existing in the country, this situation is further made worst by the fact that most of these graduates that are produced by the system of education in the country are either unqualified or they are inexperienced.

File photo: Nigerian graduates job seekers in Lagos

It is a common requirement that you come across when you happen to view any vacancy advertorial that it will be boldly stated “3 years working experience required”  this  little phrase has kept   a lot of graduates unemployed for over 12 years and some even more. One would wonder if there is a conspiracy among job provider not to give opportunity to “freshers” or even they are unable to help the situation…. We will try to demystify the issue in this write up. if all the employers of labor keep asking for years of working experience but never giving the opportunity for fresh graduates to gain such experience from their establishment who then is supposed to create the avenue from which such people can gain the experience required to be eligible for employment since everyone wants an experienced person?

Unemployed Nigerian graduates at job office in Lagos

The unemployment rate in the country is alarming, so much that people drop their higher certificate to apply for some position that offers less than the qualification they have just to stand a good chance of having the job…what is more? Some even take up some jobs that people without any form of formal education can do, sometimes people are employed in a field where they have no training for and train for a job that they never practice a clear case of square peg in round hole. A system of education that strives more on paper can only produce people with paper qualification, qualifications sometimes that does not worth the paper that it was printed on, that is why it is so funny that in a country like Nigeria you will find a graduate that is not able to write a simple application letter without finding it littered with errors of all kinds. When emphasis is placed on what is written on a paper or even who you know before one is considered for a job how will such a society develop when it comes to productivity? Examination malpractices and sex for marks as reported every now and then would have been easily done away with should emphasis be placed on what a person knows and not who the person knows, but alas that is not the case in Nigeria.

The system of education in Nigeria to a large extent has two application; the Read, Write, Recite that is to say you are considered an intelligent student if you have a very retentive memory. Those who are able to give back to the lectures whatever the lecturer gave them in the class will be awarded with A’s and if they are able to do same with most if not all of their courses they will be awarded with a First class honors,(Degree) but outside the papers and outside the walls of the classrooms they are not relevant when it comes to productivities.

Thankfully the system has organized a way of rewarding its own so people who graduates with such results are sometimes retained and rewarded with an employment as a lecturer. The problem with this is the fact that nothing really has come out from the ingenuity of the supposed first class student, all he was able to do was to reproduce what he was told and that was it andif it happens that  such a fellow was not retained and was subjected to practical test with a person that did combination of both practical and theory and came out with a third class, the person with third class will do better…why? Because the place of practical application of knowledge cannot be overemphasized.

The second application is theory based: any system of education that deals on letters will always produce certified illiterates. When paper is all that is required to get all that you desired people will do all that is within their power to get a good paper, some may put in hard work, others may put in vises to achieve the same result. Unless knowledge is sexually transmitted, no lecturer would ask for sex in exchange for mark and no student will offer sex  or money in exchange for mark if the system deals more of practical than theory.

Everyone who is certified as a professional or graduate in a particular field would have had little or no need for paper certification if not for the purpose of it. In the artisan filed where most or all of what they do is practical based, if you are not up to date with your knowledge on that field it will not be long before you are thrown out of market, you will before long be replaced by another that knows his onions. If such was the case of our educational system where you are not just programed to graduate after spending a particular number of years or passing through some particular number of course, but rather you are required by both in theory and in practical terms be able to solve current societal problem before you are certified a graduate we will have less unemployed people in the country. Part of the reason for this is because like I earlier stated we put square pegs in round holes.

File Photo: Another jobless graduates climbing through the fence to meet up quickly for fear of the massive crowd of job seekers

I remember when I applied to study law in the University of Abuja I had a good JAMB score that was enough to get me law but I was not given on merit because they wanted to observe the quota system, since from my state of origin two people were already given I was not eligible to get it on merit. While there I met two other people who were excited about gaining Admission, one was given Theater act and the other English and literary studies meanwhile we all applied for law together. So I was wondering while I considered their issue, I was like was it that they never had a defined purpose for wanting to study law in the first place? So much so that they were denied law only to be given another fieldf and they were excited about it, one said “ in Nigeria it is not about what you read, but who you know. The most important thing is just be a graduate”  as absurd as this statement sounds that is the true reflection of things in the Nigeria of today, this is the reason why none of our institution can be said to be functioning optimally. There is high level of lack of productivity in virtually every sector because most of those manning such institutions are ill-trained or not trained at all for the job they are doing. The one million dollar questions will be… what then is the essence of being trained in a field when someone who doesn’t have training in that field can do the job almost as good? What is the difference between a professional and a lay man in a discipline if just little orientation can get you functioning in that field?

I am sure it is getting clearer why organization requires working experience because the reality is that you gain more from practical confrontations of life situations than when questions are set from the imaginations of a lecturer somewhere, who was probably fascinated by that same kind of question in his own days so he is sharing it with you also. Just like it is said in computer Garbage in Garbage out (GIGO) the example given by their lecturer may be relevant in their days but may have become obsolete, but because of the system of Read write and Recite (RWR) that we practice what we ought to have passed decades ago are still what is taught today. When these students are exposed to current realities they find it difficult to proffer solutions, you cannot blame them much because of course they were not taught with practical situations rather paper examples were given. For Christ sake how can you be giving an hypothetical question in a society where practical problems are facing us? How can you ask for paper solution to problem that is not written in papers but are currently living with us?  And when fantastic presentations are made you award a mark and certify such a fellow a graduate? This is why there are more people in the labour market than there are job because graduates from Nigerian universities are good at proffering solutions only in papers and not in real life, for this cause years of working experience will continually be asked with no one willing to take the risk of employing a fresh graduate to work for them. This is not limited to those who either Sorted (bribed) their ways through school, or slept ( sex for marks) their ways through school or those that cheated through school…no, I am talking about even those who actually read and earned a good result. Under this system it is inconsequential wither you earn or did not earn it, both the good the bad and the ugly are caught in the same web. It takes the availability of job for a qualified person to apply for it in the first place, where such job is not even available there will be what I term “job inflation” a situation where there are plenty certificate but no job so a master degree holder will gladly want to take up a job that is meant for an O. level certificate holder.

Are Nigeria Graduates Unemployed or Unemployable? I am sure by the time you get to this point you would have gotten an idea about wither or not the real problem of Nigerian graduate is the lack of employment opportunity or the lack of qualification for the available jobs… first I would like to state here that  it will be out of place to say that there is lack of employment opportunities in Nigeria, if anything I would say the system of education that we use in this country does not teach us to seize opportunities or take advantage of the plenty problems that exist in the country and solve them thereby creating job instead we are taught to take struggle for the exiting created limited opportunities in sectors that are becoming over stretched.

A country field with many unanswered basic societal problem is a gold mine for great thinkers, I dare say that there are more opportunities in job creation in Africa and Nigeria in particular than there are in Europe and America put together. Nigeria has the potential of employing the whole of Africa and places them on a living wage if only those who are supposed to harness these opportunities had proper education. Like I had earlier stated, when people don’t study purposefully they become liability to the labor market. a graduate that is unable to create a job in the field that he is certified as professional is underserving of an employment in the same field. Part of the reasons practical experience is required is because most graduates are not trained to know, they are trained to memorize and after passing exams it becomes irrelevant to know again. The reason people are always looking for jobs in Nigeria is because they are not even qualify to be certified.

When artisans are trained, after the duration of their training they are empowered with starter packs, tools that are relevant to their field of specialization. As stupid as it would appear for an artisan to own  his tools yet keep them at home looking for a place where he can be employed to be paid stipend at the end of 30days  that is how stupid it is for a certified graduate at any area of discipline to be roaming the street looking for job. Part of the reason people look for job after being trained in a particular field is because they are not sure they are qualified enough, indeed they should have such fears because most of them under the system we operate in are not qualified enough so neither family, friends, banks or even government can be bold enough to give them grants to venture as entrepreneurs, some are not even willing to try in the first place. So the crumbling for the small opportunities existing becomes more fierce than normal. If our system of education task the mind to think and process information’s rather than to memorize them most people would not study what they have studies, and their attitude towards studies would have been much better… a more balanced system that teaches student to be more responsible, that sees him/herself as owing the society the responsibility of creating jobs, and not waiting for the society to create one, then we will start making progress.

Then when schools were in grades and standards we had a whole system of educations, a system that encapsulates the total formation of the child’s mind, I am sure that was where the phrase( …in character and in learning) as we have in our certificates of today was coined from. The student was capable of representing him/herself, family, nation, wherever they find themselves, thankfully then there were more available opportunities than they were qualified people to occupy them. The reverse is the case now because in our case today the population has exploded, the economic reason is diminishing and qualified people are in hundreds of thousands. Simply logic will be “make the cake bigger if the eaters are much…” but we have a system that does not promote bakers but rather give rise to eaters hence the scarcity of everything.

The 1979 educational reform that introduced the 6-3-3-4 system that is largely still in operation today may have served a good purpose then,  but that systems has contributed to a large to why there is high level of unemployment in the country. This may not resonance well with some people’s perspective, but have you observe that for long now in reality the first (6) has lost its relevance as it is only relevant in government institutions? Then the first (3)  has almost been relegated to the level or normal inter school terminal exams? It is now so insignificant that it is hardly required during interview… though not official, but for a person holding a SSCE he is seen as a person that did not even go to school at all, gradually the system is phasing out the relevance of  all this certificate because in reality they are just papers…. They have little or no knowledge backings. As dangerous as it is for banks to prints note without a resource backing that is how dangerous it is to produce graduates in papers that are not knowledge backed.

The system is more transitional than qualitative, it is a system that driven by assumptions and not facts. The most important part is to be enlisted, once you are in every other things can be waved over. As other student of your class are being promoted you will be promoted as well wither or not you have understood enough to be promoted, the system will assume you have and upward you go. Such assumptions are the reason when are graduate will be unable to master a level he has passed because he actually just passed through it and it never passed through him.

if the system was designed and protected like was the case introduced by Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, where it is illegal for one to get a job under a program designed for school cert with a higher degree. The system is tailored to be an end to itself not a means. Under such system you will be employable even if you choose not to further and someone with a higher qualification cannot dispose you of your opportunity.

Another glaring and heartbreaking problem with this system is the fact that the system in operation is not employment friendly when seen in the light of current reality in the country. most institutions especially government institution mostly put age limits for employment around 18-27years of age,  due to circumstances of no fault of mine I did not graduate until I was 30, by that arrangement I am totally not eligible to be employed in some institutions both government and privates unless of course I know someone who knows another person at the top, or be forced to go a lie by doing age declaration. The programmed time one is supposed to spend under the school system all things been equal is 19 years that is when you add the new nursery system to the 6-3-3-4 system, depending on the age you are enlisted, plus one year jamb entrances preparation and one year service year, then if you are studying specialized field you have like one extra year. If you sum up all the years spent in the process of acquiring education, you would have spent over 23 years in school and schoolings, adding that to your age you would have been ineligible as at the time you are graduating. Now this is  based on assumption that you wrote your SSCE, JAMB at one seating and you were offered admission immediately, this is also on the assumption that  you are attending a private university where there is no strike actions ( which is an exclusive preserve of the few rich in the society) I say this in assumption because it is a common knowledge that this is not the case, some people will write SSCE almost four times, others will write JAMB up to  six times before they get what they desire, some still never gets it, then the issue of strikes and other internal demonstrations that disrupt academic calendar…so with all of this reality it is almost like the system is designed to disqualify job seekers. By the time you are gathering your 3 years’ experience you would have outgrown the age limit, this is the more reason why we should have a system that makes graduate more entrepreneurial in life than opportunity seekers…

For the unemployment problem facing this country to be solved perpetually there must be total overhauling of the system of education that we adopt, not just the system only but the method of teaching adopted in the system. The problem with the system of education is the method by which information is disseminated and the problem with the method is the system adopted. This means that both the system and the method must be fine-tuned to meet up with current reality. Personally I do not see any reason requesting for paper qualification for a job you know requires practical knowledge to achieve… am I saying to hell with certificate? Not at all, I am saying to hell with judging people by what is written on a mare paper when practical problem that they can solve is present and still lingers.

If all a person will require for carrying out a task is a simple orientation, then don’t ask them for B.sc to give them a job or determine his salary based on paper qualification and not knowledge and experience provided as relevant to the job he is doing. If most of your academic workload is carried out in practical’s then there will be little or no need requesting for practical or on the job experience since that is what you have been doing. This indicates that part of the reason the Nigerian graduate is term un employable is because most if not all they know is in papers and nothing in practice, this the employers are aware that is why they will always want to see your experiences before a job can be offered, but if your field involves more of practical then experience will be played down on to a large extent.

Government can consider making a policy on internship as part of every school program syllabus, so that each four years program will be capsuled into two years pure theory and each student will be sent to existing establishment for on the job exposure for practical experience after 18 months they will be examine based on the current realities on that field, tested  if they pass then they will be certified, if they fail, they will be sent back for their internship program until they are able to pass it. Under this arrangement, the system would have solved the problem of lack of on the job experience, certification of unqualified persons, and of course creating avenue for those  who are more into practical than theories to have better chance of being judged because there are people who can do well in practices but cannot in papers, others can do well in papers but not in practice. Beside all of the above stated benefits, if after one and half years of practical exposure to issues, with or without certification an average university graduate will be able to solve a problem if not directly, but indirectly either as a  consultant or a member of a team.

Also when this system is adopted, part of the major issues that graduates from Nigerian university will be having will no longer be lack of qualification, but lack of capital which of course has never really been the problem of the government, but mismanagement of the resource. When such happens to be the case, the government can now adopt a grouping system that will pear groups of professional graduates together with defined skills and knowledge from different filled and form them into an organization to provide one goods or services or the other. Giving a graduate 30 monthly in the name of N’power or training them to go into farming and fishery is just an indication that even the government don’t believe in the capacity of the graduates their system produces. You do not need to go to the university to do what they are ask to do in the N’power programs, in fact they limited it to university as a way of Compensating them for being a graduate. No wonder people forge results to be enlisted because all you need is a paper. But under this system, group of professionals will be organized and empowered financially and task to bring out an ingénue way or ways to solve existing problem, and unemployment will fissile out of the Nigerian system.

In conclusion I would say, the reality of joblessness is gradually rising to an unbelievable height so much so that if nothing is done about it we will get to a point where the labour market will be flooded with graduates armed with nothing but papers…desperation and frustration over the failed promises in a system that is not productive may lead to an alarming rise in crimes and criminality in the society. The best and surest way to nib this ticking  time bomb in the bud is by changing the existing system of education and methods of teaching by adopting a more practical system that deals with current realities, until then most of other reforms we are making will just be like pouring water on the back of a tortoise, or more so living in denial. Until we are will to replace their papers with a job, they will not stop replacing it with guns and criminality.

Ufuoma writes from Abuja



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