Minister of State for Education Prof Anthony Anwuka last week proposed a one-year post-graduation training to be offered in some specialized institutions in order to make Nigerian graduates employable. He spoke at a retreat organized by the National Universities Commission [NUC] for members of Governing Councils of federal universities. The retreat, which took place in Abuja, had the theme "Elements of Statutory Governance, Procurement and Financial Accounting in Nigerian Universities." Anwuka said many university graduates were not good enough to be employed by industries.
The minister partly blamed the un-employability of graduates on the failure of the Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme [SIWES] in Nigerian universities. He said SIWES is not playing its role in bridging the gap between universities and industries. the proposed one-year re-schooling, Anwuka said, would serve as a training ground for graduates to be well equipped with the rudiments of the course studied in the university. The SIWES programme, which was introduced in Nigerian universities, provides for undergraduates in all science and applied courses to go for industrial attachment in industries and companies relevant to their courses of study.
The minister buttressed his suggestion this way, "Law students attend Law School for one year before going for NYSC and medical students go for one-year housemanship before they are allowed to practice. So, it will be necessary for other courses to go through this process." He said "the universities are producing products that are not matching the needs of the industries." He said Lagos Business School could be used to provide the proposed one-year post-graduation training. The minister also urged the Committee of Pro-Chancellors (CPCs) and the Committee of Vice Chancellors (CVCs) to end the decline in the standards of education.
Professor Anwuka's assertion on the un-employability of Nigerian graduates is controversial and it is open to two different interpretations. It is not clear from his statement which between two factors makes Nigerian graduates unemployable. Is the minister saying that the quality of education or training received by students in the universities is so poor that graduates are not employable or that Nigerian graduates are otherwise proficient but do not fit smugly into the needs of industries?
The minister's argument that Nigerian graduates are not employable because they do not fit the needs of industries suggests that there are jobs without competent graduates to employ. This, given the deplorable state of the country's industrial sector, is not true. The viewpoint which blames the un-employability of graduates on the failure of SIWES programme in universities is also a controversial position. Many of the challenges confronting SIWES programmes have more to do with the industries than with the universities. This is because the practical training expected to be received by students through the SIWES programme is the exclusive responsibility of industries. Regrettably, many of the industries that will provide students with the desired industrial experience are either operating at very low capacity or not operational at all.
As a former vice chancellor, the minister should know better than many Nigerians that the problem with some Nigerian graduates being unemployable lies more with the fallen standards in the quality of teaching and learning at nearly all levels of the country's education system. The one-year post-graduation training proposed by the minister isn't, therefore, a viable solution to the problems associated with the low quality of Nigerian graduates.
A functional education system supported by value-added Teacher Education is one sure way of making Nigerian graduates globally marketable. While we encourage the CPCs and CVCs to re-think the SIWES programme in universities given the uncertain state of Nigeria's economy, we also remind the Minister of Education, Malam Adamu Adamu, that it is time to declare the state of emergency that he promised Nigerians earlier this year.