By Ivan Mafigiri Kanyeheyo
This week, Makerere University alone graduates 10,000 into the labour market. A sense of achievement and fulfillment punctuated with merry making dominates Makerere hill.
But does a university degree still hold that primary key to one’s obvious employment?
Gone are the days when a graduate would walk into a job immediately after graduation. In Uganda today, there are many degrees flooding on the street than the jobs available.
For some years now, the blame game has centred on the graduate skills gap and limited working experience as the underlying cause of youth unemployment.
For the record, however, youth unemployment pauses a serious security and policy challenge in Uganda.
Estimates indicate that only a fraction of graduates in Uganda with some form of qualification get absorbed in the limited job market. At least 400,000 graduate each year at the various public and private universities thanks to liberalisation of education.
Unfortunately, projects registered by the Uganda Investment Authority indicate that only 150,000 jobs are created annually leaving an estimated 350,000 potentially jobless.
With the rise in the number of universities and other degree awarding institutions, the quality of training intended to boost students’ skills in preparation for the job market has not been at best.
As universities struggle to break even, commercial manoeuvering has resulted into over duplication of courses, high student enrollment; widening the student-lecturer ratio breeding inadequate training and instruction methodologies that affect the quality of output.
Half-baked graduates resort to trekking the street for years looking for their first job in vain.
According to statistics, youth unemployment in Uganda stands at 62% representing 4.5 million of 7.2 million youths.
The youth unemployment problem becomes more glaring given the rapid growth of the Uganda population. For instance, according to the Uganda National Household Survey 2012/2013, 60% of the Ugandan population is under 18 years.
The daring schemes of youths enlisting themselves under the National Association of the Unemployed (NAU) with others branding themselves as “poor youths” depicts a disgruntled constituency with capacity to endanger national security.
These statistics are indicative of a ticking time bomb lest timely interventions are invoked to arrest the situation.
The unemployment solution probably lies in both making education reforms and removing barriers to job creation. Ugandans who sail through the current education system eventually feel out of place or misfits in their own rural communities.
This has tended to be a particularly damaging phenomenon to our economy with many youths resisting the prospect of working in rural communities despite available opportunities more so in the agricultural sector.
Millions of Ugandan youths are stuck in urban centres trapped in the cycle of unemployment rendering their villages to remain in subsistence farming practices, a scenario that should be altered by literate graduates to reduce household poverty.
Graduates need to have a positive attitude towards work, avoid despising jobs however small, adopt the habit of taking up volunteer or internship opportunities to boost their skills and working experience and avoid the get ‘rich quick syndrome’.
It is unwise for job seeking graduates to fancy good cars, smart phones and expensive living apartments typical of ‘Literate Peasants’.
For many, the desperate search for jobs has resulted into them frequenting sports betting companies in an attempt to earn quick money while others seek opportunities abroad only to end in prostitution and drug dealing business attracting harsh and serious implications.
Youths need to be reminded that education does not produce jobs, it only raises productivity and fosters innovation.
The writer is a student of Bachelor of Laws at Makerere University
The crippling dilemma of graduate youth unemployment