THE FACT, TRUTH AND REALITY OF YOUNG PEOPLE’S SITUATION; EDUCATION, SKILLS, WORK IN CRISIS.
“Good evening Sir, Good evening Sir”, came simultaneously from 2 young men as I tried to close the gates on my way out to have a walk, as is usually for me on Friday evenings after work, to reflect over the week’s activities – especially on this note the successful launch of the Youth version of EFA report 2 days earlier. I responded “Good evening” with smiles and shook hands with them. I inquired why they were greeting the way they were, - I mean with all seriousness. After a few words of nerve calming, they mentioned they wanted to talk with me which I immediately obliged to.
They both are unemployed graduates of Pure Chemistry and Public Administration from the University of Calabar, Cross River State and Abia State University Uturu, Abia State in the South South and South East parts of Nigeria respectively. 3 years after graduation and without work, they have applied to countless companies for employment without success and currently need about N 5000.00 ($32) to find their way to Ibadan - a city of about 136 km from Lagos to attend an interview in a pharmaceutical company the next day. They have been going round the rich residential areas since morning, raising money from sympathizers.
While we were chatting I sadly reflected over their situation and new UNESCO 2012 EFA Global Monitoring Report that centered on Youths, Skills and Work. The truth is that their university education never prepared them for the realities of the situation they are faced with, just like every other youth. They also didn’t prepare themselves for it or didn’t have the opportunity to.
They may be have greater challenges to face if they are not yet fully aware of what factors (political, environmental, social, economic, scientific, technological, and other wise) are for or against their success as young people. Weeks ago I volunteered at Paradigm Initiative Nigeria to train young high school leavers on life skills, social impact and timeline. I took special time to discuss their future with them and to do an analysis of what could stand in their way to actualizing their potentials, especially acquiring university education, acquiring the relevant skills and getting a decent job in the future. It was a very difficult but fruitful task.
The youths later told me it helped them understand that their chances of acquiring university education and getting jobs are quite slim, but leave them with the options of working harder to improve their entrepreneurial skills, managing their small businesses effectively which will assist them to further finance their education, and be gainfully self employed if no work comes after university.
I assisted them with the little I could, took their contacts and promised to get in touch. I spent the rest of my walk in wonder of:
· how many young people in Lagos, Nigeria, West Africa, Africa and the entire world are faced with the same challenge as these young men,
· how many will come out of it successfully,
· how many will not,
· what could be done to provide the skills, the jobs that they need,
· what the cost will be
· how many of such situations can be prevented if we can do the right thing, at the right time,
· what is the right thing we should be doing at this time.
Many of these questions I know can be found in the EFA new report and the very last on what you can do efareport web page.
It’s an action we must take collectively and the time is now!
Varying Job Prospects Faced by College Graduates
Recently, the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) released a survey showing that employers anticipate hiring 13% more graduating college students from the Class of 2013 than they hired from the Class of 2012, a sign that hiring has finally begun to pick up in the sluggish economic recovery. In September, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8%, nearly equalling the rate it was at in the months directly following the economic collapse. While not all sectors of the economy are feeling the effects of increased hiring, a rising number are. The chief benefactors are those with advanced higher education degrees. US students with master’s degree enjoy unemployment levels near 3%, far lower than the national average, allowing degree-holders much greater freedom to pursue their goals without the anxiety created so easily by a volatile economy. Yet, recently these benefits have been increasingly extended to ambitious learners around the globe through the use of online degree programs and freelance opportunities.
While not all college degree programs guarantee job security and lucrative employment, graduate students who choose their major based on available data can find many degree programs that offer a significant return on investment. Physician Assistant Studies programs, for example, offer mid-career median pay of $97,000 with projected employment increases at 30%, indicating far lower unemployment within the profession than the national average. Students majoring in engineering can fare even better, with electrical engineerings commonly making $121,000 by mid-career and petroleum engineers often making as much as $166,400 yearly.
A study conducted by the US Census Bureau illustrates that over the course of the average lifetime, a college graduate will earn $2.4 million, and more than $8,000 more per year that those with only a bachelor’s degree, for a 15% higher annual income. Of course, there are some majors that fair far better than others. Engineering students, for example, earn more than any other major on average, with lifetime earnings at $3.6 million. The top earning physicians or surgeons, meanwhile — often biology or chemistry majors in the early days of their studies — can often earn over $6.5 million.
For students and aspiring students in developing nations around the world, online learning provides unprecedented access to educational resources that many otherwise never would have had the chance to experience. “Today economic growth is as much a process of knowledge accumulation as of capital accumulation,” says Jamil Salmi, higher education economist at the World Bank. “The decreased importance of physical distance means that the best university in any country can decide to open a branch anywhere in the world or to reach out across borders using the internet or satellite communication links, effectively competing with any national university on its own territory.” Salmi offers as an example Cornell University, which has created the “Essential Electronic Agricultural Library,” consisting of 173 CD-ROMs storing text from 140 journals for the past four years and can be shared with libraries at universities in developing countries around the world.
The open education movement, pioneered and developed by universities like MIT and Carnegie Mellon — whose respective programs Open CourseWare and Open Learning Initiative — offer extensive content and software resources from top higher education institutions. In recent years, Coursera, which began at Stanford, has compiled lessons and course lectures from dozens of top schools, all of which students and instructors in developing nations can utilize for free and adapt as they see fit.
While online programs in higher education offer citizens of developing nations new opportunities to gain valuable job training, many are utilizing the internet for employment as well. Websites like Freelancer.com and Elance.com, which allow individuals to hire workers for short contract jobs on a freelance basis, have grown significantly in popularity in recent years. While much of the work offers come from nations like the US and UK with large, developed economies, a growing proportion of freelance workers on these sites come from nations in the developing world. Individuals with little hope of finding work locally are taking advantage of the opportunity to support their families. Out of nearly 3 million global users on Freelance.com, one-third of the all applicants come from India, while workers from Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Philippines make up an additional 20%. By comparison, 11% are from the US. “Most people in the world live on $10 a day or less,”says Matt Barrie, chief executive of Freelancer.com. “Now, by going online, you can earn your month’s salary in a few hours or days.”
As hiring in the US finally begins to pick up, revitalized job seekers will likely find they are now competing in a much evolved marketplace. Online resources have spread education and employment opportunities around the globe, allowing ambitious workers in developing nations a chance to compete with citizens of the world’s wealthiest countries. While these changes may lead to unease among some workers, the growth in economic and academic growth around the globe as well as increased exposure to cultural diversity represent valuable new opportunities for those willing to take advantage of them. By embracing educational opportunities, those in the US and around the globe can take control of their respective careers and future to a greater degree than ever before.
Quantity as against Quality; Lagos State Education Sector Challenge, Impact on Skills Development
'The quality of education in Nigeria has fallen’ is a popular saying among Nigerians especially educationists and those who had their education when things where good – before the 80’s. Drastic increase in population, corruption, scarce resources, policy instability, poor planning and implementation have been the main challenges of the sector that have impacted on the sector’s development and growth.
More recently government at different levels in the country have been somewhat reckless in their decisions, choice of programs, policy formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation with usually undeserving interests in politicizing, ethicizing and sectionalizing of issues and approach to its work; mostly without considerations to the quality of education and services rendered. A more recent case in study is the federal government of Nigeria’s creation of 9 new universities in November 2010 that cuts across all Nigeria’s 6 ‘geo-Political zones’, bringing the total number of federal universities in the country to 37. This was in a time when already existing universities are poorly funded and lacks the capacity to train graduates that has the skills and competence to compete in the labour market.
Government’s only interest is to ensure that every state in the country has at least a federal university (quantity) without any regards the capacity of these institutions to impact knowledge (quality). Its argument was to increase access to university education to the growing population of young people without adequate budgetary allocation to the sector to optimally meet its needs. Unfortunately this is the case in many states of the federation where governments pay most attention to quantity and not quality, and Lagos State is no exception.
A recent report ‘An Analysis of the Lagos State Budget (2010-2011) The Education Sector’ by The Lagos State Civil Society Partnership (LACSOP) – a platform of major civil society networks in Lagos State, Nigeria sponsored by the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development’s State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI) highlights many challenges in the state’s education sector. These challenges were discussed under the following points:
- Access to education at junior and secondary education, is low for the poor.
- Quality and relevance of basic and secondary education is inadequate for skills development.
- There is inadequate funding, the quality of education expenditures is low; and there is a lack of accountability mechanisms.
- Weak skills development not responsive to labour market needs.
It will be observed that in the above challenges the phrases ‘Quality, Inadequate and Skills Development’ appeared twice and labour market (work) once and used in terms that highlight the low funding, low quality of education which impacts on the development of relevant skills for the work.
A more striking revelation in the report is the budget breakdown/ expenditure under Basic Education Services (BES) whereN510 Million (USD $ 317,085.31) was spent on examination expenses in 2009 and 2010 while token sums ofN27, 121,284.00 (USD $ 168,622.76) andN9, 680,000.00 (USD $ 60,184.04) were spent on books in 2009 and 2010 respectively and training, very insignificant sum spent on workshops, conferences, seminars and library services.
This leaves one to wonder where government places priority in allocating resources, is it more interested in examining students on their knowledge when actually they were not taught or better still provided with adequate teaching and learning materials, no training for the teachers and more. This situation has impacted very negatively on the quality and relevance of basic and secondary education with regards to the acquisition of skills as seen in challenge (2).
It further highlights a Federal Ministry of Education survey in 2007 which reveals that 60% of Nigerian ‘graduates are unemployable primarily because they do not have sufficient skills to adapt to the needs of the ever changing and dynamic business environment’, yet it is doing little or nothing to reverse the trend; definitely not by allocating more resources to examinations than to providing learning materials. More so outcomes of the examinations taken by students indicate very poor results, as only 30% of candidates who sat for the 2011 West African Senior School Certificate Examination (WASSCE) obtained 5 credit passes.
This is a more recent indicator that the sector is very sick and needs serious intervention, no wonder the sector experiences high capital flight to Ghana, UK, USA, and lately the rest of Europe and Asian countries in billions of dollars annually - sometimes in sums that is Nigeria’s budget for education for 5 years. The Central bank of Nigeria’s governor had in a paper presentation in 2011 revealed that not less than N155 Billion (USD $963,930,330.27) is spent annually on tuition fees by about 71,000 Nigerian students studying in Ghana while Nigeria’s annual budgetary allocation in the year for the 37 Federal Universities in Nigeria was N121 Billion (USD $752,487,548.15). He went on to warn that ‘the present political structures of Nigeria are too cumbersome and economically wasteful to guarantee rapid development of the country and a state of emergency should be declared in Nigeria’s educational sector because procrastination on the issue will inflict incalculable and irreversible damage in the nation.’
This report by LACSOP was presented to the Lagos State Government for study, to help it plan better and allocate resources to the right programs, policies to better improve the outputs of the sectors programs. Fortunately, this year’s budget shows a slight increase in the allocation to the Education Sector - 13.48% from 13.09% and 13.26% for 2011 and 2010 respectively and it is hope the very critical aspects of the education sector will receive better and funding it deserves.
We only hope things to get better as we continue to engage government to do the right thing.
Developing Skills for Future Green Economy Jobs.
There is far more opportunity than there is ability- Thomas Edison.
This veracity of this statement by one of the world’s greatest inventors as the world is today is very debatable because the situation suggests the statement should have been in the reverse. In another statement he said, ‘We are like tenant farmers chopping down the fence around our house for fuel when we should be using Nature’s inexhaustible sources of energy — sun, wind and tide. … I’d put my money on the sun and solar energy. What a source of power! I hope we don’t have to wait until oil and coal run out before we tackle that’. This statement made over 80 years ago is very true today, though all the coal and oil hasn’t totally ran out but we have found that our continued dependence on them is costing us our entire world – Climate Change. Hence we are now looking at other sources of energy such as the sun, wind and tide as Edison earlier advised.
The world is today faced with very worrying rise in youth unemployment, just this year Yahoo, Sony, HSBC among other global employers of labour announced thousands of job cuts, an addition to the already worse situation. The International Labour Organization (ILO) reported just recently that there will be over 11 million global job losses by the end of 2013. A very serious one, we all hear about the cuts but no news on how to create future jobs that will absorb the growing youth population to avoid a catastrophe.
We all as youths, policy makers, government, businesses – profit and non-profit, development organizations must at this time look into the future to develop strategies, policies – (development, educational and training) that will equip today’s and future youths with the skills for the challenges of the next phase of job opportunities that future green economies will provide which will be very much dependent on the sun, wind, tide and all the rest renewable energy resources that Edison was making reference to. Its implementation should also be pursued with all commitment and resources that it deserves.
As the world meets later next month at the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, there should be a constant reminder that anything less of its outcome will not be sustainable but will also be a failure on our part to make use of such a great gathering worthwhile as the 2 conference themes: ‘a green economy in the context of sustainable development poverty eradication’ and ‘the institutional framework of sustainable development’ highlights.
That way we would also avoid the situation where ‘there is far more opportunity than there is ability’ as Edison predicted. I know we can do it, it’s up to us.