Vanguard (Lagos)

27 December 2012

Nigeria: Tackling Graduate Unemployment - the Drivers Option

Jacob Balarabe pondered over the matter for a very long time before he decided to discuss it with his friends.

"I cannot believe that things have deteriorated to this level, how does it sound that one should have a master's degree in order to secure the job of a driver.

"Of course, things are that bad but you cannot blame private employers of labour," he moaned.

"I never imagined that in my life I will go and queue up for the job of a driver. What else can we do; when the desirable is not available, the available somewhat becomes desirable," Balarabe added.

But Balarabe is not the only one who is disturbed by the development, as the recruitment of degree holders as drivers by some conglomerates like the Dangote Group has similarly elicited negative reactions from several members of the society.

For instance, Mr Tony Tamuno, a businessman, decried the development and blamed policy makers as being responsible for the "aberration".

"The insult was not just to the persons who had faced unimaginable discomfort in order to obtain these qualifications but it is more of an assault on the government which has made this kind of situation to crop up.

"How can one explain a situation in which a person went to the university to get a degree and stayed many years after graduation without getting a job?

"Why undergo the rigours of getting a degree only to end up as an 'okada rider' or a barber?

"Why pursue higher degrees only to end up a tailor or a labourer at a construction site?" he asked.

Tamuno called for an urgent government intervention to tackle the anomaly, stressing that the cerebral citizens of advanced countries were often engaged as think tanks to fashion out policies that could enhance national development.

Sharing similar sentiments, Mrs Susanna Hassan, a teacher, stressed that the situation was abnormal "even though some Nigerians often perform odd jobs in overseas countries because they do not have work permits.

"When in the year 2012, master's degree and Ph.D holders in Nigeria are being relegated to work as truck drivers, what will happen to our graduates in 10 years' time; will they work as street sweepers?

"The country is battling with examination malpractice because many youths are desperate to gain admission into the university.

"Now I foresee a greater crisis and even more corruption in the education sector because people will soon be willing to pay anything to get a Ph.D degree just to become janitors in factories" Hassan quipped.

Mr Raphael Kamsiyochi, a social critic, said that although companies such as Dangote Group could have meant well by recruiting university graduates as drivers, holders of Senior School Certificate and Ordinary National Diploma ought to have been recruited for the job.

"What happens to the unskilled and uneducated members of our society when all their jobs would have been taken over by the educated ones?

"I agree that a number of people have advanced the argument that the global financial meltdown has taken its toll on all countries, including Nigeria.

"Unusual things are happening: people now agree to pay cuts instead of losing their jobs, they take up menial jobs in order to pay bills, some have lost their jobs but the truth is that it has never been the tradition in such societies.

"The aberration in the Nigerian context is that it has been our tradition because successive Nigerian governments have for a long time left the welfare aspect of governance not properly attended to.

"In Nigeria, virtually all the citizens are now providing basic amenities for themselves; they provide water, shelter and even roads to their houses.

"These are amenities which government should ordinarily provide for its citizenry," Kamsiyochi said.

The social critic stressed that the government ought to be mindful of the trend of "churning out graduates with no hope of getting jobs or creating jobs.".

Also speaking, Mr Nicolas Duniya, a civil servant, said that although the resolve of some firms to employ graduates as drivers was laudable, the "country's universities were not established for the purpose of training drivers".

He said that the graduates should instead constitute the think tank to proffer solutions to the myriad challenges facing the country

"This is what obtains in advanced countries and it places them squarely on the path of growth and development," he said.

However, Alhaji Aminu Yusuf, the Director-General of Nigerian Institute of Transport Technology, said that the "graduate" drivers would be different from other drivers.

Yusuf expatiated that this category of drivers would definitely be different from others because they were literate, adding that they would also receive sound training.

"The drivers will be exposed to theoretical and practical aspects of driving, which include orientation, simulation and test-track driving before they are exposed to highway driving," he said.

Yusuf, nonetheless, underscored the determination of the institute to achieve its mandate to stimulate and oversee human capital development in the transport industry.

"It is our inherent duty to provide human capacity for the entire transport industry through training and retraining, orientation, among others," he added.

All the same, observers insist on efforts to redress the emergent trend in graduate employment, which they describe as counterproductive.

They urge the government to intensify its efforts to create jobs for graduates and non-graduates alike. (NANFearures)

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