By Salim Sani Haladu
The medical industry held the most lucrative career prospects in the past, and parents encouraged their children to study medical-related courses. During those days, parents were willing to invest any amount to see their children as doctors, nurses, and pharmacists. Some even compelled their children to study these courses. Consequently, these children achieved remarkable success in these fields.
However, the landscape of lucrative careers has shifted in contemporary times. Technology-related careers have emerged as the new leaders in terms of profitability and job opportunities. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “the projected employment growth for computer and information technology occupations from 2021 to 2031 is 15 per cent, significantly above the average for all occupations”. This shift is becoming evident even to a layperson.
This change has led many parents to guide their children toward technology careers. Nevertheless, there exists an uneven distribution of this awareness within Nigeria. While parents in southern regions have readily embraced this change, their counterparts in the northern areas lag in grasping its significance. As a result, the northern part finds itself taking a backseat in technology careers.
In 2000, the former governor of Jigawa State, Saminu Turaki, established one of the first ICT institutes in Northern Nigeria—the Jigawa State Institute of Information and Technology, located in Kazaure. Strikingly, several students who enrolled in the institute did so solely to acquire a free laptop. They then sold the computer to fund their journey to Lagos, where they eventually engaged in dead-end handwork.
Furthermore, a project manager’s experience at the NITDA Blockchain meeting in Kano State last year highlighted the technological apathy, stating, “It is evident how far behind Northerners are in the world of technology.” Even in technology projects directly related to the Hausa Language, the predominant ethnic group in the northern region, participation was surprisingly minimal. I was astonished that only two of us from the North joined a Hausa transcription project I recently participated in.
Moreover, looking at the UTME cut-off marks for most northern universities reveals that tech-related courses like Information Technology and Cybersecurity have low cut-off marks, reflecting the limited number of applicants. Numerous examples abound, illustrating how Northerners are trailing behind in technology careers. The prevailing aspiration revolves around courses that promise a meagre N150,000 salary job.
A primary reason behind this negligence is that Northerners view technology careers as unconventional, failing to perceive them as real jobs. Mainly, if someone is working from home, it is often seen as a sign of aimlessness or lack of purpose. Unfortunately, some Northerners still hold the negative stereotype that individuals working in the technology industry are merely scammers.
Another reason is many people’s preference for security. Consequently, many opt to stay within their comfort zones rather than take risks to pursue greater opportunities. Most technology careers offer wages instead of salaries, which aligns with the Northern preference for security. It’s disheartening to learn that some people are even selling their farms to secure low-paying jobs, a profoundly unfortunate decision.
I recommended an IT course to a young man inquiring about a lucrative career. He expressed concerns about finding a job immediately after graduation. I suggested he consider creating jobs instead of continuously seeking employment.
With the rapid development of Artificial Intelligence (AI), there’s a legitimate concern that the careers Northerners heavily invest in might eventually become automated. For instance, professions involving routine tasks and predictable outcomes, such as data entry, assembly line work, and customer service, are particularly susceptible to automation. As AI technologies advance, they can handle these repetitive tasks more efficiently and accurately, potentially displacing human workers. It would be disheartening for someone to invest significantly in a career only to discover that their desired job has already been automated.
Prominent figures like the late Sheik Muhammad Auwal Adam Albani and Dr. Isa Aliyu Pantami are examples from the North who have embraced technology and achieved remarkable success. They’ve made indelible marks on the country’s technological landscape through innovative technology use.
Enhancing the curriculum of high schools is essential to address this challenge. While Data Processing and Computer Studies are part of the curriculum, introducing practical skills like coding and web development is crucial. Equipping students with these skills will better prepare them for the digital age and empower them to thrive in today’s tech-driven world.
In conclusion, the negligence of technology careers in Northern Nigeria presents a concerning trend that warrants immediate attention. The shift in lucrative career prospects from traditional fields to technology careers is undeniable, with evidence supporting the exponential growth and opportunities in technology-related jobs. While the southern regions have recognised and embraced this change, the northern regions lag due to a lack of awareness about technology careers, negative stereotypes, and a preference for security over risk-taking. Educational institutions and policymakers must take proactive measures to address this issue. By integrating practical technology skills into the curriculum and promoting a positive perception of technology careers, Northern Nigeria can bridge the gap and empower its youth to thrive in the dynamic world of technology.
Salim Sani Haladu is a Pharmacy student at Bayero University, kano. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.