By Ambali Abdulkabeer
During a plenary on Wednesday a couple of weeks ago, a member of the House of Representatives, Emeka Chinedu Martins, moved a motion titled Need to Grant Automatic Employment to First Class Graduates. It means that all first-class graduates in Nigeria should be given automatic employment. He stressed that the move would minimize the rate at which intelligent graduates troop out of the country on a daily basis in search of better opportunities abroad.
He also argued that Nigerians would be discouraged from seeking admission into universities abroad in the hope of getting well-paying jobs upon their graduation. But, much as fabulous as this motion appears on the surface, it will lead to a total collapse of Nigeria’s already battered university education. Here is why.
It is a simple fact that university education in Nigeria has changed from being a source of automatic access to decent jobs. In the past, people with university degrees were begged to take up well-paying jobs right from school time. Upon graduation, opportunities surfaced in numbers because there were already places in government and private institutions in need of their priceless knowledge and skills. In Nigeria today, given the terribly saturated labour market due to the government’s continued irresponsibility, graduates, including those with first-class, roam the streets in search of good jobs that are not available.
This reality is worsened by the culture of ‘job sale’ which affords well-to-do individuals and politicians the illicit opportunity to buy jobs for their children and their mistresses, usually at the expense of brilliant but poor graduates. As this continues to drive employment philosophy in Nigeria’s public and private institutions, graduates seek opportunities elsewhere because they no longer believe in the system.
Should the motion transmogrify into law, the entire university system will completely pass as where everything goes only for students to graduate with any class of their choice. In other words, one of the dangers of the thoughtless move is that the university certificates will become ruthlessly commodified. Students that know their way will graduate from settling lecturers for good grades to going to any length to secure a class they don’t deserve, thereby rendering university education more irrelevant than it has been.
Consequently, recruiting empty-headed first-class graduates into severally sensitive government institutions means that the country will be in more disaster. After all, it’s no longer news that Nigeria is notorious for the culture of placing the wrong hands in the right places or vice versa. That’s why both federal and state civil service systems are rife with people that constitute a threat to the country’s progress.
Automatic employment to first-class graduates, needless to say, isn’t a bad idea at all, but that is in a country with a serious, trustworthy and top-class university education system. But unfortunately, Nigeria’s university system is grounded in systemic crises ranging from corruption, lack of human and material resources and others. This is manifest in the ongoing closure of universities due to the ASUU strike emanating from the government’s poverty of sincerity in public education and lack of interest in the welfare of lecturers.
In lieu of giving automatic employment to first-class graduates, the government should be advised to start fixing our dwindling education system first. They should begin to place a premium on genuine education as the foundation for the prosperity the country urgently demands. The fixing should start with a cosmopolitan review of the university curriculum to align our system with the 21st century.
Moreover, it won’t be a bad idea for the government to learn from the education systems of developed countries of the world while working tirelessly and sincerely to strike an innocuous balance between our reality and what our education system deserves to be globally competitive. If truth be told, a university education that graduates cannot leverage to live a decently meaningful life is an embarrassment.
Government must cease being wasteful and corrupt. A considerable amount of money diverted to fund irrelevant projects such as elections should instead be used to rejig our deteriorating education system. Nothing is as depressing as the fact that most Nigerians don’t have a smidgen of belief in the ability of the county to make their dreams a reality. That is why they prefer staying in countries other than Nigeria.
On a final note, what kind of illogical plan deems a crop more critical than the soil that produces it? This question analogically says a lot about the thoughtlessly greedy perspectives of our leaders who are supposed to lead us in the match to make our education system enviable and standard.
Ambali Abdulkabeer is a writer and critic of contemporary writing. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.