For years, young people have been made to believe that education is the way forward unlocking many doors in the hallway to success. And this is veracious. Education is commensurate to growth. At an advanced level, the learning one does is not only at a professional level but also on a personal level. Despite that, rising unemployment statistics among graduates are casting doubt on whether one still needs to waste all the resources and time to further his/her study.
The higher unemployment of graduates is one of the current issues being debated by a diverse group of people in Namibia. It should also be noted that what we find as an unemployment phenomenon is the "tip of the iceberg" because of the massive underemployment and underutilisation of human resources prevailing in Namibia. Tertiary institution students spend their time and money to receive an educational edge unavailable to secondary school graduates. Therefore, when they face unemployment, they are more exposed to frosty economic conditions because they have already spent their resources pursuing higher education. On a personal level, unemployment is usually an unpleasant state that escalates economic insecurity and, when protracted has negative effects on a wide variety of life opportunities and living conditions. Many secondary school learners are no longer stimulated to further their studies because they can see a high number of graduates who are struggling to find employment after many years of sweat and blood. There are many factors which influence the development of this phenomenon. Among them are a growing number of higher institution graduates, graduates without work experience, employers who do not trust the quality of graduates’ knowledge, and excessive demands on the part of the employers. The financial calamity and economic slump in recent years culminating in inadequate growth in the job market are certainly some of the impetus for the curtailment in the number of jobs.
Poor performance in interviews is another reason for unemployment. Oversupply of job-seekers for limited numbers of jobs automatically leads to the rejection of a number of candidates who have the feeling that they are not doing well in interviews or they are not selected due to tough competition among the candidates. Quite simply, there are not enough jobs to accommodate the growing number of graduates although there is a feeling among unemployed graduates that the issue of favouritism, nepotism, and corruption is disadvantaging graduates who don`t have influential parents or guardians to connect them to the selection authorities. Low salaries and limited promotion prospects also play a large part in determining the employment status of graduates. It is also noticed that some graduate job-seekers preferred remaining unemployed to accepting a job which is too far away from their place of residence.
In the meantime, unemployed graduates are feeling the effects of the poverty statistic every day. There is growing despondency among graduates as a result of the restricted opportunities available and the waste of their limited resources on making copies and travelling to attend interviews where candidates had already been pre-selected.
The need for self-employment among graduates had been touted as a solution to the unemployment of graduates. Despite being a good idea unemployed graduates have differing opinions on the factors which discourage them from being self-employed. However, financial constraint is considered the major factor. Other reasons to a varied degree, are stated to be lack of training, lack of national policy for self-employment, lack of security and irregular earnings, as well as lack of qualities (leadership and application, necessary for self-employment). However, in this case, it is found that financial frailty is the most cardinal drawback to self-employment. If the unemployment rate is to be reduced, experts stress that students should be trained according to the needs of the workplace and do away with subjects that are irrelevant to the needs of the working world. While the relevance of degree programmes matters, the oversupply of graduates in some fields is becoming an issue. For example, there is currently a huge oversupply of education graduates, especially lower and upper primary.
Clearly, the rate of graduate unemployment has become a national crisis, with significant social, economic and political implications and need urgent measures to address the demoralizing phenomenon. Therefore, the government must control admission based on employability, promote self-employment with soft loans for graduates as well as establish fair and transparent recruitment, scrap the experience requirement for entry posts, and promotion policies for all employment sectors. It is also imperative to develop job-oriented educational programmes at higher levels of education and develop better interaction between employers and educational institutions.
*Faustinus Shikukutu is an experienced and passionate educator with research experience. He holds a PhD from the University of KwaZulu-Natal and conducted research in Gender Studies.