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Education and youth employment

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Added 13th April 2018 03:43 PM

Saving is a temporary cost which will yield tremendous dividends through returns on investment

Nuwagabe 703x422

Saving is a temporary cost which will yield tremendous dividends through returns on investment


By Prof Augustus Nuwagaba

What has led to the increased youth unemployment?

The critical cause of youth unemployment is attitude. As the proverbial adage asserts: “It is ones attitude not ones aptitude that determines ones altitude.” Most youth shun work particularly practical- blue-collar tasks. There is a tendency to crave for white collar jobs which are unfortunately, not available today.

The issue of negative attitude toward practical vocations has been fueled by our education system that relegates vocational disciplines. Paradoxically, German and China remain the strongest economies globally simply because of their education system that builds strong human capabilities.

Is our education system relevant in reducing the increasing youth unemployment?

Our education system has not been effective in creating employment for the graduates. It over focuses on cognitive education-over emphasising the transfer of information rather than creating skills and capabilities to learners and trainees. There should have been more focus on what we call psycho-motor education and training which focus on imparting highly competitive skills to learners and trainees. The country that has excelled in this is China whose education system is premised on duo-qualification framework. Here, learners/trainees graduate with both formal academic knowledge and practical training in areas such as electronics, plumbing, masonry, metal fabrication among others. The aim is to ensure that one is able to secure employment in all circumstances. But if you look at our system of education, we are highly biased toward academic/formal education where speaking English – sometimes better than the Queen of the United Kingdom, is more acclaimed than having a skill that can enable secure gainful employment. This is extremely paradoxical and should be stopped henceforth and adopt skill-mix development where both knowledge and skills form the core for learning and training.

How possible is it for young unemployed graduates to start income-generating ventures, yet they have no capital

The word capital comes from a Latin word “capitali” which means “head.” If you tell me that you cannot start a business because you do not have capital, it literally means that you cannot do business because your head has been cut off.” Can you imagine! It is possible to do business by starting small but scaling fast. You simply need to think big, but start with what you have. Every successful business person, whether Bill Gates with his Micro-Soft, MacDonalds, KFC, Donald Trump from Reality TV Show, CNN’s Michael Buffet, Mukwano, Madhvan  among others, have all started small, but accelerated through hard work, financial discipline and focus, to where they are now. 

However, it is true, you need an economic environment and financial regime which are conducive to do business for instance, and there is need for protection of local manufacturers and business people. There is need for affordable cost of borrowing and there must be increasing consumer demand for business to flourish. Economic activities also survive when inflation is controlled and exchange rate is appropriately managed. All these fundamentals are currently problematic in Uganda and they can frustrate potential entrepreneurs if not addressed.

How possible is it for the young employed youth earning peanut salaries to invest amidst the increasing financial demands?

Here, the problem is ostentation. Most youth crave for goods and services, which may not be critical value. The goods and services are mere wants but not requirements. It is better for the youth to first think through their needs and work within their means to secure them in regard to available standards of living they crave for. Their role is “first love what you have” and then work hard for what you may want later. Develop a strategic focus because “if you do not have a target, you will hit it.” In other words, everywhere you hit or everything you see, you will think it is a need while not! There is need to develop a saving culture. Saving is not a function of earning. There is a misconception that those who save are the people who earn more. Not at all. Saving is a discipline. You postpone current gratification for future bliss. Saving is a temporary cost which will yield tremendous dividends through returns on investment. But there is need for risk taking. The youth should not “fear” to invest. They is need to risk into new ventures, explore all possible areas of carrying out economic activities and the higher the risk, the more the returns.

Considering the expenses incurred in acquiring education and the minimal returns one gets after. Is it good for one to advance academically yet they could be better if they channeled that money in business?

It is still crucial to prioritise education as the most critical investment. However, such education need to focus on provision of training as “a producer good.” The recent socio-economic transformation in China, Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan was driven by two major factors namely: Investing in population through harnessing high quality training and the provision of quality of healthcare.

These two combined with a governance regime based on “zero tolerance to corruption” catapulted these countries from agrarian economies to highly industrialised countries. Therefore, it is not education perse that transforms a country, but focus on building human capital that matters. Human capabilities that enhance individual competitiveness are the most important elements of an education system that is transformative. Otherwise, education based on mere “schooling” may result in sacrificing and spending the little that households have, culminating ino household impoverishment due to failure for the graduates to secure gainful employment. In such circumstances, such unemployed persons cannot replace the household assets earlier sacrificed to meet their education expenses hence, plunging the households into more poverty.

How relevant is the old adage that education is the key?

Education is the key to all areas of successful human endeavour. It is the key that “liberates “a human mind. It enables one to harness resources around oneself and in our Bakiga culture “education is the best inheritance you can bequeath your children”. You can bequeath many things to your children and they all vanish but if you equip your children with knowledge and skill, you have bequeathed them with eternal riches. According to Aggrey, the Ghanaian Politician and Poet, you educate a woman, you have educated a nation”. An educated woman will look after her children well hence, the entire society benefits from health people.

What are the key 5 golden attributes for youth intending to prosper in the current globalised world
Have focus. If you do not have focus, you will move like a water lily that is blown by wind.
    Develop a winning attitude. Think positively and know that every situation comes for a purpose. “behind every dark cloud, there is a silver lining.” Your role as youth is to strategically position yourself to reap the benefits from the prevailing situation.
    Character building is key. This is because once people lose trust in you because of your character, you cannot regain it. It is like a building that develops a crack.  You can attempt to hide such a crack, but it will still show and the only solution will be to demolish the building and re-do it a fresh. Unfortunately, for character, it will be very difficult to rebuild. You can repent and have a second chance, but still, you cannot escape the initial reference once some negative aspects of your character again resurface. Good manners and character take you where your education cannot.
    Hard work. This has no short cut. Everyone who has succeeded will tell you the value of hard work. You need to know the number of hours Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg or Patrick Bitatule sleep. You will then know that as Bakiga say, “wanyama nazo nizinyama,” literally meaning that if you sleep, do not expect to wake up and earn. Where will money come from?
    Think beyond your confines. Mark Zuckerberg in his speech at Harvard University, recently said that each one in his or her vocation whether a teacher, doctor or engineer need to know that as working human beings, we are part of something larger than ourselves. There is need for work to be done and according to Napoleon Hills, the author of “How to sell yourself through life,” he asserts that; he has researched on people seeking happiness and came to a conclusion that happiness is derived from work, giving a service to other people which uplifts their welfare and there is nothing as gratifying as that. Life is better when one is happy but it is at its best when others are happy because of you.

The need to transform  our education system to make it more relevant. We need policy shift for “investing in people.” Our education system needs to focus on human capital development. We need to shift from “schooling” to individual capacity building, a phenomenon that requires heavy investment in training, aimed at skill-mix development. Imparting distinctive capability and strategic fit that can position Uganda into that country where people value work, earn from work and where love for work builds into the national value system. This would require deliberate investment in science, technology, innovations and adequately rewarding work. There should be “equal pay for work of equal value” as an incentive for those engaged in work for service delivery. Once such values are created, then work becomes a self- motive incentive, a “commodity” that will be craved for by everyone.

The writer is an international consultant on economic transformation in the African region

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