“As a group, African young people today have a higher level of educational attainment than any previous cohorts, but nevertheless face serious challenges that will erode their potential if governments do not prioritize investments in youth development.” Culled from the State of African Youth Report 2011.
By Douglas Imaralu
The malaises of unemployment in Nigeria cannot be over-emphasized. This scourge can be blamed for a number of anti-social behaviour – Militants in Niger Delta, Boko Haram, Political thugs, etc. – witnessed on a daily basis in Nigeria. According to National Bureau of Statistics, unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 23.9% during the first half of the year. In addition to the already daunting statistics of over 43million unemployed youth, an additional 1.8million people joined the long queue. What will the idle ones be engaged in?
To spark a downturn in unemployment figures some necessary steps need to be taken. Apart from the obvious solution of acceleration of economic activities, which will have a multiplier effect, stakeholders in the educational sector as well as relevant government agency need to re-strategize. That is to say, there should be more round-table discussions on how to better what the educational system offers these corporate institutions and take it beyond the table. If the relevant stakeholders – corporate bodies, Teacher’s union, students union, etc. – can work in tandem with relevant government institutions, I think we would be able to draw up a blueprint that would bring about solution to the unemployment crisis in the Nigeria. These corporate bodies must spell out the skills and qualifications desired of job seekers and government on the other hand should invest in the youth. Take inputs, study, revise and implement the necessary educational policies that will bring about the much desired change.
Additionally, in order to break from the norm of “education is the best policy”, sufficient input needs to be implemented in our schools. Education is not just a policy, it should be perceived as a tool, one that should be developed not only in a class environment but also personally. This tool should be used to empower one’s self. Thus, entrepreneurial inputs and vocational inputs should be introduced. Big time corporations and government agencies also have a major role to play in this. The idea is that most companies and agencies often out-source some of their operations. If some youths can be trained so that they would handle such out-sourced operations, it will go a long way to solve unemployment problem. Let these companies spell out the quality they desire when they out-source certain operations and what kind of operations they out-source. Youths can be trained in that area and they will deliver.
Furthermore, the onus is on the government and the kind of educational policy in operation. Vocational schools have been relegated to the background and what all youth clamour for these days is the university. Schools that train youth in various vocations should be funded and upgraded. The truth remains that not everyone is meant to be in the university, so instead of wasting 4 years doing what you do not like, taking up a vocation, that might be your passion, might secure your future. I suppose I speak the mind of a lot of people when I say most youth are forced into school just because of the supposed status it gives the parents or the youth.
Nowadays, people rarely go to school to chase dreams. Yes, a lot of youth are in school, but not for the right reasons; some go because it is the next step, others bow to peer or family pressure. The result is a half-baked graduate or one who is ready to work at any price – a lot of interviewers have been irked by this attitude. Even the NBS attributes the “rise in the ranks of the nation’s unemployed to fresh entrants to the job market and worker layoffs across all sectors of the economy in the course of the year.”
At this juncture, I must say that not only the government has a major role to play in solving the unemployment problem, parents teachers also have a definitive role to play in solving the unemployment and, ultimately, nation building. In developed countries, for example, not all youths turns out to be rocket scientists, innovators or business gurus. Some are actors, musicians, repairmen, welders etc. It however behooves the parent/teacher to take cognizance of talents and help align her child/pupil so that he/she can fulfill the potential noticed. The government’s role is that of ensuring that the proper incentives are in place to motivate teachers.
Borrowing from a suggestion by Dr. Dora Akunyili, if there are proper incentive processes in place and the educational sector in Nigeria run like a business and thoroughly based on a ranking system, it will do a lot to rev up the standards, which will ultimately lead to better quality of graduates, the effectiveness the private sector seeks and reduce the rate of unemployment.