• Sunday, March 03, 2024
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Overrated Higher Education: Rising above unemployment


Why is the foremost excuse of an average unemployed Nigerian graduate, ‘There are no jobs in Nigeria’? Why do graduates with a propensity for greatness limit themselves to the government’s negligence? To whom have we traded our inherent touch of independence, passed down to us by our forefathers? I mean, an avalanche of them, evidently, were uneducated, yet, successful farmers, fishermen and traders. Who says you cannot be a success or high achiever without Higher Education or a University degree? Why tag yourself valueless for your inability to earn formal learning within the four walls of a University? What happened to our sense of creativity and hard work?

We often portray Nigeria as a geographical entity with immeasurable problems but fail to realize the opportunities embedded in these identifiable problems. We have revolved our career’s success around gainful employment in big companies & organizations; banks, International Oil Companies and the like, forgetting that we have more graduates than jobs even for Ph.D. holders. We comfortably think ‘oh, until I’m employed in one of these companies, I cannot make a difference’. We give more attention to making good grades in school and far less to personal growth and development – we quixotically assure ourselves of the ‘effortlessness’ of securing our dream jobs upon graduation with those good grades. Yes, that’s great, but then, that explains why over 60% of our graduates, first class degree holders inclusive, are stuck on the unemployed rung. We say to ourselves, ‘I couldn’t afford to go to the University or complete my Education, thus, it is impossible for me to be as great as I ordinarily should be’.

Well, guess what? Folorunsho Alakija, Nigeria’s wealthiest woman never saw the four walls of a University. Orji Uzoh Kalu was rusticated from the University for his participation in a protest. Femi Otedola (Chairman, Forte Oil), Razak Okoya (Chairman, Eleganza Group of companies), Cosmos Maduka (Chairman, Coscharis), Innocent Chukwuma (Founder of Innoson Group, Manufacturers of IVM motors) and a host of other billionaire Nigerians, most of whom hailed from humble backgrounds, built gain enterprises without a degree. Who says you cannot have that dream of yours actualized?

Higher Education, University Degrees, academic excellence are overrated. Don’t get me wrong, they’re vital, highly imperative, but surely not prerequisites for success as often portrayed by many. If after successful completion of a 4, 5, 6-year program, a job placement comes easily, then, we could tag Higher Education as the perfect magic pill or our most valuable product. But if even after accumulation of degrees and certificates, one is still left at the mercy of employees, then, we could draw a resolution on otherwise.

Graduates apply for jobs in choice companies year-after-year, and WAIT to be called up either for tests, interview or possibly, instant employment. Very many say they’re being patient. Patience is not just sitting around waiting; patience is not inactivity, waiting for something to happen; patience is not being passive and waiting for a miracle; patience is foreseeing, scheming, doing everything possible to rise above your situation with faith and belief.

Don’t limit yourself in anyway. Don’t revel in idleness. There are many things to get busy with. The world as a whole is inundated with problems beseeching solutions. Opportunities flutter the streets waiting to be explored. Think. It is better to try and fail, than not to try at all. What do you know how to do best? What skill(s) do you think you possess? What is that prowess that you discharge effortlessly? Baking, writing, dancing, styling, teaching, playing football, cooking, public speaking…what? Build on it to your benefit. Grow into your fullest potential. Great things start small. Take the risk to get off your comfort zone and get your hands on something, no matter how petite. If you fail, try again. The most successful people I know are those who take big risks which often translates to spectacular flameouts, yet keep pushing until they attain their pursuit of success.

If you think an automatic postern to success is your school certificate, think again. If you think your brief educational background is a hindrance from being who you wish to be, go back to your drawing board for a reconsideration. A handful of high-achievers are school drop-outs. Find something to do and do it well.

To undergraduates, bless God for the opportunity you have and maximize every bit of it. Grow yourself in every way possible, not just your grades. Join or create a club; from doing so, you will learn not just teamwork, but a chunk about yourself. You will learn how to relate with people amidst diversity and how to take responsibility. You will develop leadership skills, new ideas, independence and generally, how to look beyond your situation and enjoy the experience of making a difference. Attend seminars, read widely, identify problems, think of practical ways to solve them and make attempts to. Contest for leadership positions, even if you lose, you will learn something about politics. Start up a small business if permissible or make efforts to learn the brass tacks of setting up one, the experience will come in handy in the nearest future.

The truth is, everyone has the potential for greatness – school-dropouts, undergraduates and graduates. You can be anything you want to be despite whatever situation you may be beset with. You could be an employer even at a young age. Yes, you can, by thinking, identifying opportunities and taking actions. Entrepreneurship is not exclusive to a particular age bracket. It is not an overnight rags to riches fairytale either; it entails living a few years like most people won’t, so that you can spend the rest of your life like most people can’t. It requires hard work, diligence and persistence. Open your mind’s eye to the opportunities around dressed in overalls and looking like work.

In a world filled with uncertainties and inevitable pressures, it is of the essence to note the below empirical points:

• Education is NOT a yardstick for success.

• Academic excellence is overrated. Not only in Nigeria, but beyond. I mean…Bill Gates was a school dropout, Lawrence Ellison, Steve Jobs, Henry Ford, Mark Zuckerberg and many other successful entrepreneurs/billionaires were too.

• Success is a product of hard work & grace.

• School is NOT a gateway for the escape of poverty.

Nigeria is a land of plenty. Africa is blessed with lucrative business opportunities, amidst mineral & natural resources. You are too intelligent to restrict your success to your academic performance. Our forefathers were not educated, yet, they were successful enough to solely carter for their large extended families through farming, trading, building et al. It starts from the mind. Think of what you can do and just do it.

Someone once said, “Life requires more than the ability to understand a concept, memorize it, and reproduce it in an exam. School rewards people for their memory. Life rewards people for their imagination. School rewards caution, life rewards daring”. Don’t limit yourself to the classroom. Don’t help yourself with excuses that could make you comfortably idle away. Think. If you aren’t making waves, you aren’t kicking enough. You do not need a University degree to be successful, so we graduates should count ourselves privileged to have education as an added feather in our caps. Do something. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, walk, if you can’t walk, crawl. Just keep moving”. It’s better to try a hundred times and fail, than not try at all.

Chisom Uzoh