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Despite millions of graduates, Nigeria’s development not positively impacted

Despite producing thousands of graduates yearly, Nigeria is yet to witness commensurate impact in terms of development, Daily Trust on Sunday reports.  Every year, higher…

Despite producing thousands of graduates yearly, Nigeria is yet to witness commensurate impact in terms of development, Daily Trust on Sunday reports. 

Every year, higher institutions of learning in Nigeria churn out thousands of graduates across different disciplines with certificates that should qualify them to become a competent workforce that would contribute to national development, but the reverse seems to be the case.  

This is in addition to other thousands graduated from prestigious universities in Europe, United Kingdom, Asia, Africa and other parts of the continent. Although many stay back in these countries to seek greener pastures, others return to Nigeria to secure meaningful employment.

It is no longer news that Nigeria has the highest number of education migrants across the globe. And this is not far from the challenges of incessant strike, poor infrastructure, inadequate lecturers, securing admission into choice schools, among others faced in the tertiary education system in the country, thus, raising the question of quality of graduates.

One major challenge for many Nigerian graduates over time has remained that of securing jobs that tally with their courses of study. Many have been forced to take jobs outside their field of study as you see an engineer working as a teller in the bank or teaching in the classroom.

The debate on not securing jobs has been blamed on the quality of graduates produced from the tertiary education system in the country.

Many argue that the quality of graduates produced is low and does not meet the standard of industries for employment. Others, however, opine that there is nothing wrong with the quality of graduates, adding that Nigerian graduates outshine their counterparts outside the country, which could be the reason for the current brain drain being experienced in the country as a result of migration.

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has linked unemployment in Nigeria to the phenomenon of jobless growth, increased number of school graduates with no matching job opportunities, a moratorium on employment in many public – and private sector institutions and continued job losses in the manufacturing and oil sectors.

The ILO maintained that the recent economic growth in Nigeria has not resulted in a rapid reduction of poverty or in the creation of sufficient decent jobs for the young and rapidly growing labour force. 

Meanwhile, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) pegged the number of unemployed youths in Nigeria to 25 million.  

 An undergraduate in the University of Abuja, Ferdinand Azu, has high hopes of securing a job after graduation but is scared of the reality on the ground where many with good grades are yet to secure a job. 

“You know it is everyone’s dream to graduate from the university and secure a good job so you can live a meaningful life and give back to your parents and the society. I am scared because I have seen a lot of graduates who are yet to get good jobs and I get worried because I do not want such fate to befall me,” he said.

He said he won’t mind leaving Nigeria if he failed to secure a good job. “I cannot suffer for years in the university and come back and still become a burden to my parents and relatives, we have to find a way,” he said.

Azu, however, disagreed that the quality of graduates is the problem in securing jobs in Nigeria but lack of industries and corruption as good jobs are reserved for the privileged.

Blessing Oche, a graduate of Business Administration, said she worked as a Banker after graduating 15 years ago, and after she lost her job she was not able to secure another job.

“Being unemployed is not easy because no one planned to graduate from the university only to come and sit at home looking for what to do to survive. I always have a dream of working to a certain time and saving up before I could establish a business of mine, but losing my job barely two years after I gained employment scattered my dreams,” she said.

Blessing, who now engages in online marketing, said that sometimes she regretted going to university, saying, “I feel it is a waste of time because what I am doing now doesn’t require a university education; even with a secondary certificate I can do it.”

Why many are unemployed

A Professor of Education, Curriculum and Instructions, University of Abuja, Prof Emmanuel Ndam Danladi said, “Development is the ability to utilise available human and material resources to improve the life of citizens and promote happiness and progress. Underdevelopment, on the other hand, is the inability of a people to harness the available human and material resources to improve the quality of life of the citizens that leads to frustration and social instability.

“When you juxtapose the conceptual analysis above and the millions of graduates that our universities have turned out over the years, you will agree that there is no scarcity of manpower in Nigeria. Rather, we can easily conclude that there has been ‘unwise’ use of the graduates by the government,” he said.

He further said that if on the other hand the problem is the quality of human resources, then, “we can trace the problem to poor funding of university programmes that have failed to impact positively on graduates. ‘Better soup na money buy am’.”

For Professor Ben Ugheoke, an individual is productive if he or she finds a place they can apply themselves and their talents effectively, saying, “As it were, the Nigerian economic environment is unable to absorb graduates from the various tertiary institutions in the country. Thus, you have a large number of graduates chasing after very few or unavailable job opportunities in the organised sectors, be they private or government.”

He said the prevailing economic conditions did not favour business entrepreneurship,  thus, it is difficult for graduates to venture into businesses here and there. 

An educationist, Michael Sule, said most Nigerian graduates are unemployable because they lacked employability skills. And no emphasis is laid on entrepreneurship in the school curriculum and the quality of training is not in sync with the situation of the society, as well as corruption on the part of the leaders.

“In Nigeria today, most graduates do not know the rudiments of the course they study because they are more after the certificate than the knowledge. Some illegal means like sleeping with lecturers, paying for assignments and good grades and using influential parents or relatives to get through their studies, so how can such a person be employable.

“The unfortunate reality is those who do not work for the certificates occupy the workforce while those who strived remain unemployed,” he said.

Why Nigeria is not growing – Experts  

Experts opined that lack of connection between research and learning is responsible for Nigeria’s low progress despite hundreds of higher private and public institutions across the country.  

A national secretary general of the Academic Staff Union of Research Institutions, Professor Theophilus Ndubuaku, said the neglect of researchers and research institutions by successive Nigerian governments was responsible for the world’s poverty capital status of Nigeria.

“It is true that Nigeria is among the most, if not the most endowed countries in the world, in terms of quantity, quality and diversity of natural resources. However, since it is globally acknowledged that research is the key to development of any country, it is not surprising, therefore, that neglect is responsible for the socioeconomic retrogression of Nigeria,” he said.

Similarly, a professor of Natural Resources, Law and Policy, Abdullahi Shehu Zuru, also identified lack of connection between research institutions and industries as the major cause of Nigeria’s low industrial and economic growth. 

The way forward

The solution, according to Professor Ugheoke, is a possible re-jigging of the existing configuration by doing some things differently.

“Highways in the country may be concessioned with some rigid framework that would provide employment for citizens and revenue streams for the government. Same goes for the energy sector. Rather than run a national grid for power supply we could develop micro grid systems, managed under some rigid framework that could generate employment for citizens and revenue for the government,” he said.  

He said the money the government would have used in developing the infrastructure could be channeled to repositioning other sectors like health, education etc for greater efficiency and effectiveness. 

“If this is done, the number of graduates roaming the streets would be reduced and the society would become a safer place to live,” he said.

An educationist, Mrs Olusola Bankole, said there was the need for the county to review its educational objectives, which are currently driving the zeal to acquire a certificate without much emphasis on life skills for personal, family and national development.

“We need to refocus and rethink our education philosophy and essence in Nigeria; what is the reason for education? It has to be from nursery and primary school levels and we have to adopt an education-for-life approach like in some countries by impacting the life of the learner to impact society,” she said.

For Sule, the government should revive all the defunct industries to help create employment and reduce pressure on government agencies, which are crowded. 

“We should go back as a producing country, where skilled people will be built and grow instead of everyone depending on government jobs where many professions are buried due to lack of new knowledge,” he said. 

Also, Prof Danladi suggested the amendment of the Nigerian constitution to collapse the two National Assembly houses to one of 109 members and be paid sitting allowance to save money for other projects.  

He said government should probe the revenue generation sources of the country to curb corruption and fund universities, especially, in the areas of entrepreneurship and skills acquisition.

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