Yesterday, tens of thousands of nigerian youths completed their service year, otherwise known as the NYSC. I remember mine like it was yesterday, except that it was. After returning home from the Passing out Parade on June 16th, I found out that a bomb had gone off inside Police Headquarters in Abuja. It felt like an escalation of the violence then, and the UN building was attacked on August 26. As a result of the insecurity, Passing out Parades were canceled all over the country. This was not surprising, after all the President didn’t dare celebrate Independence at the Eagle Square after a bomb threat from MEND.
Speaking of bombs, Nigeria is sitting on another one as regards youth unemployment. Many of who finished service yesterday will join the multitudes looking for jobs already. On the one hand, the jobs are inadequate. On another hand, many fresh graduates lack the skills to occupy the existing jobs. As the population of young people increases, the onus is to re-industrialize and make enterprise easier. Nothing else is good enough.
Our educational system needs to be made relevant too. It is the same complaint in most parts of the world. No longer is it enough to cram and regurgitate facts. Routine jobs will go to the area of the world with the lowest cost of production, or will eventually be done by machines. We need to allow the natural creativity of young people come through, so they can be competitive in a ‘flat’ world. If the resources are there to pursue advanced degrees in Nigeria or overseas, they should be pursued. It is not a guarantee, but it certainly helps. Identifying a talent that makes you stand out is also better than sitting your hands.
So, as I think about the fate of the latest entrants into the labour market, I hope they find ways to be productive. For all kinds of reasons.