Rising unemployment: Why tertiary education should be skills-based

After secondary school, many Nigerians seek tertiary education either in the university, polytechnic or college of education. With the ever-increasing unemployment rate it has become imperative for policy formulators to consider including skills acquisition in the nation’s school curriculums; PAUL OKAH writes.

Nigerian graduates these days often regret ‘wasting’ their time in school after all since they often find it difficult to get white collar jobs. Consequently, educationists have advocated a change in school curriculum to include skills acquisition.

LASU begs celebrity student

On January 31, days after the “Vision 2020” crooner took to Twitter to state that dropping out of school is the best thing that ever happened to him, the Lagos State University (LASU) took to social media to plead with Nigerian musician, Bella Shmurda, to return and complete his degree programme.

 “I now worth over half a billion streams (550millions streams to be precise). I for still dey LASU dey wine and dine with carryovers and stranded with nothing in my pocket… Forever glad I did my thing,” he tweeted.

However, in a swift reaction, LASU felt it was important to remind the singer that he was yet to complete his degree programme. The university admitted they were happy that Bella Shmurda had over 500 million streams and still counting, but needed to return to the university to complete his education.

“Happy birthday @fineboybella. Glad you have come this far pursuing your dream. Also glad @LASUOfficial played a part in your beautiful story because universities don’t make people rich, only incubate them to find and achieve purpose. By the way, please come back to class and earn your degree,” LASU tweeted.

Interestingly, the music sensation said going back to school was out of the question as he preferred to concentrate on making money through music rather than wasting time in university.

“Four years in LASU is really nothing, better get the money, the economy is starving,’ Bella Shmurda replied.

Student’s ordeal

Writing on her Facebook page on February 7, a secondary school teacher, Mrs. Nnediebere Uzoamaka Ohazuruike, in a post she titled ‘Steps From Yesterday,” recounted how she was frustrated from acquiring a master’s degree by her lecturers in the Federal University of Technology, Owerri (FUTO), leading to her dropping out of the school to focus on teaching. 

She said: “In 2010, I purchased a master’s degree form from FUTO and got admitted. It was a wonderful experience. It was supposed to be a part time programme, but FUTO doesn’t really offer a part time M.Sc programme. At least, they didn’t then. It was a fun programme and smooth sailing as lectures and lecturers were amazing. It was supposed to be an 18-month programme and results of my two semesters came out to show my smashing courses and getting 4.2 CGP – then came the time to write my thesis. 

“I was assigned to Prof Lemchi and Prof Orebiyi, which was my greatest undoing. In my first encounter with Orebiyi, he flung my file away, saying I didn’t write his name well on the file and refused to tell me his proper name. Then the torment started in earnest. Nothing I did seemed to be good as Lemchi would approve and advise me to make progress, while Orebiyi would cancel. Of course, that is after it had taken me weeks to make contact with him. This kept on happening to frustrate me.

 “In fact, today, I don’t have a master’s degree. That has cost me a lot in terms of opportunities, remuneration and contacts. But in all, we move. A guy who was in the set before ours was failed by Dr. Ibekwe. He reported to the authorities. They all ganged up against him for having the audacity to get a panel to investigate. He also dropped out of the programme. They got away with it. They are the heads. It is in countries that are serious with their education system that a probe would be called for. I didn’t complain to anybody, I just abandoned the programme. It is a common understanding in the school that lecturers don’t want you to come and ‘compete’ with them. To them, it is good riddance that you are frustrated; so, I left for my peace of mind.”

An expert’s take

However, speaking with this reporter, a public affairs analyst based in Abuja, Mr. Abdullahi Yusuf, said one’s association in life matters a lot as even graduates publicly display their ignorance as a result of misinformation and bad association, adding that one creates jobs with the right education.

“It is laughable to hear people arguing that they would have done better in life if not for years dedicated to education, especially at the tertiary level. Where would one be in life without education? Without schools shaping your character and learning, you will be as ignorant as some folks in the village. You can actually create jobs for yourself with the right education, instead of waiting for white collar jobs and lamenting that school is a scam.

“There are numerous online groups I belong to that I sometimes get positively ‘scared’ accessing on WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, etc.  The vibe, challenges, discussions and activities going on there could make one feel he/she is not doing enough. I will always be challenged towards doing more and becoming more. 

“Your network has a way of making you jack up from slumber and work yourself into more productivity. But you have to intentionally work your way into such networks/atmospheres. If you associate with eagles, you’ll soar but if you associate with owls, you’ll howl. Self discovery will push you to intentionally detach from the wrong networks, and make you push to connect to the right one.

“Don’t settle for where you’ll be comfortably redundant; go for where you’ll be stretched out of your default comfort. Be comfortable being uncomfortable by choosing the path of continuous bliss. The atmosphere around your life is everything. Your network affects how you see life, how you think, see things, reason and act. Your lifestyle changes in accordance with your network.” 

Lecturers’ views

Speaking with Blueprint Weekend, a lecturer in the philosophy department, University of Calabar, Dr. Ubong Achibong, said it is a misplacement of priority for Nigerians to think that education is solely for money-making rather than moulding the human mind.

He said: “The motto of our department is ‘Man know thyself’, which is taken from the philosophy of Socrates, who equally opined that the unexamined life is not worth living. Negative and positive things start from the head as the thought of man is always about survival. Therefore, university education is all about how to be a good ambassador and make a positive impact in society. 

“Coming to the issue of students, years ago, the NUC introduced entrepreneurship skills in the curriculum of universities for 300-level students. This enables them to acquire skills to help them in life outside the university, which they improve upon during NYSC. However, the major issue is that the youth are impatient and are always in a rush to make it big in life. That is the reason for many preferring to go into dubious ventures that always land them in trouble, instead of imbibing and cultivating the education and values they acquired within the university community. That is why we have ‘Knowledge for Service’ as the motto of the institution.”

Similarly, a lecturer in the Sociology and Anthropology Department, Ebonyi State University, Dr. Emeka Nwokoro, believes society will become a better place if students concentrate on developing the trainings they received in school, rather than restricting themselves to the thought that education is all about getting jobs.

“Morals are daily declining in students of today let alone the eroding of values in society. You can hardly sit among students today without hearing of discussions of how to make it big through fraud and other unethical means. We got to this level as a result of families failing in the sole responsibility of inculcating moral values in their wards before releasing them to society to be corrupted.

“The sole aim of education is to shape the character of the individual for positive contribution to society. However, nowadays, students hardly read, hardly do academic research or engage in intellectual discourse. In marking scripts, you will be irritated by the type of vocabularies and expressions students use in formal academic setting. Many students just read to pass exams, not even for advancement of themselves academic wise,” he said.

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