Every year federal and state, public, as well as private varsities, churn out graduates in thousands into the labour market after their compulsory one-year National Youth Service (NYSC) scheme but not all of these scholars land decent jobs.
Quite disappointedly, these bright lads would find out that their degrees are inconsequential as there are many people like them but no corresponding number of job vacancies. And so the catchphrase 'school na scam' is perhaps borne from a place of regret of wasted years and efforts.
Unemployment in Nigeria is not slowing down
A report by the Nigerian Bureau of Statistics (NBS) on its website noted that the unemployment rate in Nigeria as of the fourth quarter of 2020 stood at 33.3% while youth unemployment stood at 42.5%.
An analysis of the report also showed that the jobless rate for women was 35.2 percent compared with 31.8 percent for men.
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And as disturbing as these figures appear, the number of graduates every year keeps increasing.
How Nigerian graduates engage in a 'rat race' yearly
Save for those who go to school to 'fulfill all righteous' because they have a good job already waiting for them, it is the desire of the vast majority of Nigerian youths to secure well-paying jobs with their degrees.
It is almost as if every Nigerian signs up for a disheartening 'rat race' without a choice.
The rat race starts with the admission-seeking process. When you finally get into your preferred higher institution, you expend resources and effort to come out top of your class.
While in school, you hear stories of first-class graduates who have finished over 3 years before you without decent jobs, but you tell yourself that your case would be different when you round off your program.
Hurray! You graduate with a second-class upper and begin eying some white-collar jobs while working out your youth service.
Then as soon as you pass out of NYSC, you begin submitting applications only to find out that there are no vacancies at that time. So, you settle for a teaching job of N35k while learning a skill.
Some 3 years down the line as a teacher, you learn of an opening and happily dust your certificates and CV - you think to yourself, there's no way I won't be picked for the job.
All of a sudden your high hopes are dashed as the company won't pick you because of your inexperience - Where would you get '4 years of working experience from?'
Then reality sets in and you realise that your life is going to be no different from the stories you were told back in school of promising graduates roaming the streets without decent jobs.
You have lost out in the rat race. Some by a sheer stroke of luck, something religious folks call 'grace' or human connection become victors in the rat race. And this cycle repeats itself yearly with no apparent end in sight.
It doesn't matter if you attended a private university, college or polytechnic.
Desmond Edet, a mass comm graduate, who earns a living as a gardener
Like many optimistic youths, Desmond Edet graduated from the University of Calabar with a degree in mass communication in 2012 and moved to Port Harcourt with hopes of landing a well-paying job.
Desmond told Legit.ng that the only job he found then was a N30k teaching job.
In the course of that hopelessness, his aunt who is a gardener advised him to consider going into gardening and he keyed in. Now, he is the CEO of his gardening enterprise.
“I studied Mass Communication at the University of Calabar. I graduated in 2012 and I served in 2013 in Bayelsa State. So when I came to this town to look for a job, the highest job I saw was N30,000. This pushed me to go and learn handwork. I wanted to learn furniture, but my aunt who is into flowering work told me there is money in the work. So what I did was to learn the work,” he told Legit.ng.
Never in Desmond's mind would have imagined that he would end up in the gardening profession, but that is his reality. He is not earning with what he spent resources in studying in school.
Afam Kings Dozie quit UNIZIK in his 200 level
Perhaps, if Desmond knew he would end up a gardener, he may have done what Afam Kings Dozie did.
Afam Kings Dozie is a successful Nigerian man in his own right. In a recent interview, the young man who refurbishes vintage cars for a living told Legit.ng that he dropped out of Nnamdi Azikiwe University in his 200 level.
Kings who was studying mechanical engineering then said what was being taught wasn't what he needed.
Taking his destiny into his own hands, he moved to India to further his knowledge in the same field and now makes cool money with it.
Kings said that dropping out of school became his inspiration. On how it inspired him, he said:
"...Because the mind of challenging my peers in school was a reminder."
Mofe Etenabe, a microbiology graduate who is proudly a shoemaker
For a Nigerian lady, Mofe Etenabe, who read microbiology in school being a shoemaker is not something one should be ashamed about.
"It's just so sad that, especially the older generation, they don't know that these fields are now polished. They are not like the way people see it. It's not the shoemaker you see on the road hitting table. It's better now. It's refined now. Now we import leathers, we import a lot of things."
While it cannot be a statement of fact that schooling in Nigeria is a scam, one thing is sure - people will continue to drop their degree certificates for occupations that would put food on their tables.
Way forward to these recurring challenges
It is not enough for dons and government officials to whine about how Nigerian graduates are unemployable at every academic event they are opportuned to speak at.
Infact, as a matter of urgency, a state of emergency needs to be declared in that regard.
An academic think-tank committee should be set up by the government to revisit the current curriculum being used by public and private universities with the aim of updating and reorganising it to meet current job demands and trends.
Also, the government should adopt a practical and compulsory skill acquisition approach for Nigerian students while they are in school so that they'd be better experienced to immediately become job creators as soon as they graduate instead of going for another skill acquisition programme.
The government should also set up some form of funds that would finance graduates in setting up the businesses they acquired practical knowledge in while in school.