Ensuring the Future of Nigerian Youths

By KAYODE SOTE

 Education is the means by which people develop their mental knowledge to think rationally and systematically so as to respond effectively and creatively to their world of existence and thus satisfy the curiosity and aesthetic impulse of human beings. Over the course of history, education has developed progressively to recognise the value of intellectual exploration of human mind in order to standardise the behaviour of mankind. The success of developed countries is based on this basic principle and thus the need to provide qualitative education for their children becomes imperative and a non-negotiable task.

Nigeria as a nation, therefore, needs to learn from that deliberate policy of the developed world in order to create a well-informed, knowledgeable and modern society. Knowledge is indeed the light which illuminates and uplifts the human mind to greatness devoid of superstition, hallucination and fear of the dark ages. Meanwhile, the present education system in the country needs a complete overhaul as it goes beyond mere discussion. In fact, the government should perhaps declare a state of emergency on education to enable all stakeholders go back to the drawing board to re-package an articulate and deliberate policy to make knowledge economy our major export resource to the world.

There is no gainsaying the fact that education is the key to the future development of the country and it is, therefore, the mutual responsibility of the government and parents to provide qualitative and comprehensive education for our children at all cost. It is neither a privilege nor a favour but a social and moral responsibility for the ruling class to do just that.

Significantly, it is important to look at the present status of the nation’s education policy and standard vis-à-vis its relevance in today’s reality. May I ask this pertinent question: With worsening unemployment especially amongst the Nigerian youths, where are the jobs? A recent report by International Labour Organisation, ILO, shows that the proportion of the world’s unemployed is increasing steadily and stands at about 195 million. The problem of youth employment is very evident in Nigeria as thousands of youths are churned out annually for whom there are no meaningful and/or relevant jobs. The sub-Saharan Africa ranks amongst the highest with an unemployment rate of 10%. Statistics from the Manpower Board and the National Bureau of Statistics in 2010 showed that about 122 million youths are unemployed in Africa, and of the 80 million youths in Nigeria, 64 million are unemployed and 1.6 million are under-employed. About 41 per cent of persons between ages 15–24 years are unemployed and 17 per cent of persons of between 25 and 44 years of age are unemployed.

Further analysis revealed that 24 per cent of persons with secondary education are unemployed while 21 per cent of persons with tertiary education are unemployed. The implication of these statistics is that joblessness and unemployment ravage the able-bodied youths of this country with either secondary or post-secondary education. The Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN, reported that in the last five years, 834 firms and 37 factories in Nigeria closed down due to unfriendly operating environments (power shortage, high cost of production, poor quality of manpower, etc).

The nation’s growing rate of unemployment in today’s harsh economic environment and government’s insensitivity to the plight of Nigerian youths especially graduates from the tertiary institutions nationwide is worrisome. It is indeed a sign of our time, which confirms that going to school for the sake of acquiring a certificate is made worthless by the changing economic climate especially in Nigeria of today. Thus, to be relevant in today’s competitive climate of employment potential, certificates must carry creativity behind them and therefore, there must be an added power of passion for sustainability alongside competence to produce a competitive advantage.

In simple terms, given the reality of the job market in Nigeria, every student must have a double approach. You must align your college pursuit with your interests, talent and passion as you pursue your college degree in order to add value to the development of your potential and, therefore, there must be a value change in your academic pursuit.

However, there is need to re-calibrate our educational system to produce job creators instead of churning out “certificate-carrying job seekers.” No matter what statistics you use, the simple fact is that there are no jobs; therefore, we must focus on job creation within an enabling environment. The framework needs a systematic re-engineering to harness the available massive potential, especially among the Nigerian youths, rather than suppress the edge of creativity through the system that awards empty certificates. Research indicates that our greatest room for growth is in the areas of our greatest strength. Any potential you have is of priceless worth when developed into a value-adding product and/or service. Among other advantages is the potential that is enduring while creativity and motivation are inherent. Within this area, you can create a job for yourself and others even before graduation. You can focus on the development of your potential through formal or informal education rather than become a trailer driver for long distance haulage of cement, sugar, pasta and salt on our poorly maintained roads which are indeed death traps for a PhD certificate holder!

Furthermore, it is important to refer to last World Economic Forum 2012 where the founder and chairman of the forum, Professor Klaus Schwab, shocked the world with his declaration that “capitalism in its current form no longer fits the world around us, rather, the success of any nation and business model for competitiveness in the future will be less based on capital and much more on talent.” This transition he described as “moving from capitalism to talentism.”

Now let us look of the latest “buzz” word in the global world of education, “entrepreneurship education.” Entrepreneurship is a factor in micro-economics and its study dates back to the works of Richard Cantilon and Adam Smith in the 17th and 18th centuries. The study, however, became more prominent in business and economics when Professor Alfred Marshal in 1890 proposed the four factors of production as land, labour, capital and organisation. He further posited that organisation is the coordinating factor, which brings all the other three factors together while the driving force behind organisation is entrepreneurship. Wikipedia free encyclopedia describes entrepreneurship as a process of identifying and starting a business venture, sourcing and organising the required resources and taking both the risks and rewards associated with the venture.

The word entrepreneurship is derived from the French verb ‘entreprendre’ which means “to undertake.” Literarily, it refers to an individual who undertakes innovations or introducing new things, finance and business acumen in an effort to transform such innovations into economic goods, services and financial gains and personal satisfaction.

The purpose of entrepreneurship education is, therefore, to promote and encourage early business interest amongst the youths by energising their entrepreneurial spirit and creating the mindset of self-employment – passion, talent, gift, skill and interest.

There are examples and referrals all over the world where the adoption of entrepreneurship education for the youths has boosted the techno-economic dynamics and overall national development through the emergence of Small and Medium Scale Enterprises, SMEs, in such countries. Such notable examples include but not limited to:

  1. India, which developed a deliberate isolationist policy that shut its doors to the outside world to encourage local production of consumer and producer goods and functional services without regard to excessive aesthetics and finesse. The overall effect of the policy provided the opportunity for the country to develop its indigenous technology at the informal and tertiary levels through appropriate research and development (R/D) with self-esteem and national pride. The emphasis on entrepreneurship education encouraged the spirit of invention and entrepreneurial development that facilitated the country’s rapid technological growth and development. It is reported that India is the most successful and well developed Small and Medium Scale Enterprise in the world through a well-developed policy on entrepreneurship education that has encouraged excellent entrepreneurial spirit.

Statistics reports that as at 1994, SMEs contributed about 94 per cent of the total number of industrial establishments and about 31 per cent of industrial employment in India. Currently, it is estimated that the sector accounts for 39 per cent of the manufacturing output and 33 per cent of the export of consumer goods and services the country. Available data also shows that SMEs employ an estimate of 31 million persons spread over 128 enterprises and the labour intensity is almost four times higher than the large enterprises in the country!

  1. Singapore: provides another example of a country with good entrepreneurship education that has resulted in quantifiable innovation and enterprises created by indigenous entrepreneurs.
  2. The success story of China today is tied to its entrepreneurship education policy where any child that cannot cope academically in the junior and middle schools is sent to the technical school for vocational and occupational trainings as fitters, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, masons, etc. The Chinese policy does not permit the learning of these vocational skills by apprenticeship like in Nigeria as proper training is ensured in the technical colleges by adequate exposure to theories and practices of their trades.

4          The United Kingdom, UK, has a well-developed SME sector. Available data shows that 20 per cent of the employment is in the government public services, 10 per cent is in the multinational companies and 70 per cent of businesses are SMEs providing 54 per cent of employment and providing over 50 per cent of the country’s GDP. There are 3.7 million SMEs in the UK, which is equivalent to one enterprise to every 10 people of working age.

Our dear youths, as you are making effort to excel in your studies that may eventually lead you to become graduates in various disciplines and/or entrepreneurs in diverse areas of business interest, a lot of resources both in money and time have been expended by parents, government and your humble self in order to secure hypothetically your meal tickets for a life in abundance. But unfortunately, this may not be because today’s reality does not guarantee that. Available information and statistics indicate that only about 10 per cent of jobs are available for over 400,000 graduates that pass out from the yearly National Youth Service Corps, NYSC, programme. My recipe to the ever-growing rate of unemployment among Nigerian youths in the labour market is, therefore, self-employment. Perhaps, the question agitating your minds, if I may guess correctly, will be: how do I become self-employed after obtaining my first class, second class upper, second class lower, third class or even ordinary pass certificates?

Experience has shown that there is no relationship between being a good student and being a successful entrepreneur. If anything, there might be some correlation between people who were bored or annoyed with school and people who succeed in their own businesses. Also statistics and research have shown that if graduates decide to go into business for themselves, the straight “A” students may not necessary have any advantage over others. Academic smartness does not guarantee success in business or life generally because the attributes of entrepreneurship are not taught or tested for in colleges.

Many people don’t know if they have these naturally endowed attributes (ambition, creativity, tenacity, risk tolerance, intuition and personality) until they take that small step that may result in a giant leap for a successful entrepreneurship.

* Excerpts of a lecture delivered by Sote, an engineer, at Ijebu Muslim College, Ijebu – Ode, Ogun State, recently.

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