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Why your degree can’t take you to the Promised Land

Isa Senkumba

Why your degree can’t take you to the Promised Land

At the thought of life after school both parents and their children spit in disgust. It is true that we spend a gigantic fraction of our life in school; over twenty years of our life. During this time we may be tempted to think that life is all about school and nothing else matters.   But when the graduation bells ring we are marred with both jubilation and fear; jubilation for having attained that hard-earned qualification and fear for what is next.

Why on earth should one live in awed fear of what is next after school? Is education failing to give people a password to a happy life? As a school going child my teachers used to assure me that the roots of education are sour but the fruits are sweet.  

The authenticity of this saying may soon be doubted especially when people taste the sour roots but fail to see the sweet fruits.

Financing your child’s education up to graduation never means the end of the journey; it is a mere end of the road but the journey continues.

After graduation your child sits at the fence pondering over a tricky brain teaser; whether to remain at home or go out and face the hostile world.  The once up on a time comfortable home, with some justice, as a calculated insult and a real mockery.

Education has been known to be the best investment as vested in the mottoes of most schools. It is not surprising, therefore, that parents can fore go all other investments and choose to invest in their children’s education. The irony is that this precious investment   either takes long to pay back or does not completely provide the good life the investor expects. The rationale of our once upon a time solution to all our financial problems is shrouded in a black mist.

In the past one went to school to study, graduate and grab a dream job.  Landing into your dream job was the first decent step in your journey from Egypt to the Promised Land in Israel.  Gone are the days when jobs used to rest idle waiting for graduates like an abandoned luggage waiting for its owner. With the current unemployment in the country finding a job is like making a river flow in the reverse.

The highly competitive job market does not favour fresh graduates who are no match for the over qualified and experienced labour force.  Employers also doubt if universities can still produce competent employees. In fact even universities doubt the competence of their own students in the job market.

A team of university lecturers boarded a plane for an exchange academic program in a foreign country. Before the plane took offer from the airport someone told them that the plane they were to travel with had been manufactured by their former students. The lecturers immediately ran out of the plane since they could not put their dear lives at risk. However, one lecturer confidently remained in the plane. When asked why he had chosen to risk, he assured them that as long as the plane is manufactured by their former students he firmly believed that it would not even take off.    

During graduation ceremonies speakers ask graduands to start businesses as a solution to the unemployment. Little do they know that not everyone shall become an entrepreneur and secondly the cost of starting a business is much higher than you expect. If the entire family fortune has been spent in educating the now graduate, where will they get the money to start a business?

There is a need to steer more students into technical schools. Although education is more important than ever, there are still a lot of jobs that require some technical training but not a university degree. Steering more students into vocational schools at a young age could generate more workers with skills that employers need.

Too many students earn degrees in arts, literature and social science while there is a serious shortage of maths, science and engineering graduates in the country.  Government should not only encourage more students to take on science disciplines but also enhance the pay of employees in the science related jobs.

More jobs can be created when government fully supports entrepreneurship development.  Infant local businesses should be exempted from taxes and small businesses be helped to find foreign customers.  Loan schemes should be created to fund small enterprises.  It is high time that universities started teaching skills on innovations and creativity, handling challenges, competency in the labour force and other much needed skills instead of pumping students with theories of dead dreamers.  

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