I had never questioned the essence of my getting an education until I got into the higher institution. When i was in primary school, and up until secondary school, I had always believed that I was going to school for various reasons; first, my parents wanted me to be somewhere while they worked. Second, I was there because I also wanted to be what my parents were, so that I’d also be going out in the morning and coming in at night like my parents did someday when I grow up. However, my rather naive thoughts began to change when I did get admission into the University of Lagos.
First, a lot of the people I met while in school were way older than I was, and this sort of put them in a position to share experiences with me. In my first year, I still held on to my goals of studying hard enough to probably graduate with a First Class in History and Strategic Studies (even if it didn’t seem like much)….. As time went on though I began to have doubts, doubts that made me question the essence of me reading more than my mates were. Doubts that made me rest on my oars in my third year, which eventually led to my finishing school with a 2.1. Not my original goal, but something changed along the way. Something I am going to try to explain now without sounding “all over the place”.
Whenever students gathered in a place to talk in school, it was always to talk about the “realities” of being a Nigerian student. First, the seemingly “bright” students believed that they were never going to graduate with a first class because of certain professors in their departments who’d rather die than see that happen. In fact, my department for one had never produced a first class graduate right from the inception of the department. This somewhat discouraged most students from pulling their weight in their school work because of the generally held belief that it would all come to naught. Well it usually did end up that way…… quite frankly; I don’t blame them for having such a mindset. However, this really didn’t affect me as much as the next reason I am about to discuss.
Another topic of discussion was also what the future held for a Nigerian student. Most of my colleagues in school had already been engage d in one business venture or the other. They were entrepreneurs who were only in school to have a degree to back what they already had. Then, there were series of discussions about how impossible it was for one to get induced into the Nigerian labor market. How some people would have graduated for almost 5years and would still be roaming the streets without a good job. It was at this point that I became scared. For one, I was yet to discover any hidden talents I had for starting my own business venture. I had no plans to “sell” anything other than my brain and how it could function in an “office” setting. In short, I wasn’t ready to leave school just yet to face the scary reality that was upon me as I drew to the end of my undergraduate years.
It is sad that a good number of my classmates ended up with passes and third class degrees after 4years of suffering in the higher institutions. I had always been a strong believer in doing whatever was worth doing at all very well. However, I asked myself, what if it didn’t all matter truly? What if the truth about the Nigerian labor market is that you get a job not based on what is on your “pali” but on who you know, or who your parents know….. I realized that if this was true, then I was screwed…. Even with my 2.1. I was never close to anyone, so how would I know someone who would give me a job! How would I be given the chance to come for an interview? Many times I had sent my C.V online in answer to various job ads, I even wrote an aptitude test once, but the best I could get was a marketing gig (which I ran from)….. I asked myself, am I ever going to get a job in an office where I only had to strategize and work my way to the top using my brain and earning a good enough pay. I didn’t want to have to go out to start trying to sell insurance or bank accounts or anything that required selling! I wasn’t genetically programmed for such.
While serving now, it has dawned on me that this is indeed the Nigerian reality. You spend four years studying English Language or Linguistics, or even Law (5years), and then because your parents are not “well connected”, you end up selling sim cards for glo, or airtel, dancing on the top of carts just to attract customers; in most cases, some people don’t even get a job at all. They end up spending their time at home after youth service, doing one menial job after the other, and sometimes, in the worst cases, turn to a life of crime just to get by. It is at this point one begins to ask, what then is the hope of the Nigerian youth who has no “helpers” in this country? Now, don’t get me wrong, I am not saying there have not been cases of people getting jobs based on their own merit, all I am saying is that the cases of such are but a few.
The Nigerian government should thus make educating the Nigerian youth a priority. I mean educating the Nigerian youth to work for the Nigerian nation. The way it was done in the 60’s. Once you graduate with good grades, it is only fitting that the government make jobs accessible to the teeming number of youths being churned out of universities these days. It is very sad that most graduates end up slaving and slaving, and as soon as they save up enough money, they find their way to Europe or America and never come back. I don’t blame them; they were not given a chance in their home country to put their knowledge to use. It is thus important for the government to open up the Nigerian economy to accommodate the graduates from different fields produced by schools. The ignorant focus on just the oil and gas sector is shortchanging the Nigerian economy seriously. These days more attention is paid getting jobs in a ‘oil company”.. if you don’t get one, you have not “arrived” and all that. What is going to happen to the other sectors of the economy????
Nigeria would only begin to experience development when we use the manpower we have accordingly. Don’t put a surveyor in a bank when he can function somewhere else properly. Agriculture, Education, Healthcare, Entertainment, these sectors are very important to the growth of the economy. I believe more should be done to improve on these sectors and others to be able to absorb the growing number of youths graduating from school today, and consequently creating a better Nigeria. Till then though, I guess we’d all have to make do, and write and pray that all would be well after all is said and done…..