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What Nigerian Employers Expect from Degree Holders Vs. What Nigerian Universities Produce

There’s a huge disparity between what is being taught in schools with what is being required in the outside world – and this is by no means the fault of the students.

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If you schooled in Nigeria, (or you’re schooling in Nigeria), you won’t be surprised when your lecturer enters the lecture hall holding a textbook that was published 50 -100 years ago. These textbooks were ‘born’ long before Nigeria gained independence – in fact, many existed before the lecturers were born.

While the world is more technology-based and advanced in their learning, many Nigerian lecturers are still teaching their students exactly what they taught their previous students 10 years ago. Many of these teachings are obsolete and when applied to today’s world and society, become useless.

So it’s little wonder that employers are complaining that the graduates being churned out of Nigerian universities cannot fully meet up with the skills needed to navigate the modern career space.

But, whose fault is this, really?

Let’s take this one after the other:

Today’s world has been digitized; almost every job depends heavily on technology. Banks now have ATMs and several transactions can be completed online or over the phone. Piles of paper and files have been replaced by laptops and computers. Technology – and the advent of social media – has not just made the world better, it has also birthed the emergence of new jobs roles – which means new job requirements and skills, and the urgency with which humans need to work fast-paced and upgrade their skills as much as they can.

So in today’s world, the ‘traditional careers’ are not phasing out, but they require an absolutely different approach. Let’s break this further:

Writing, in today’s world, is not the way it was decades ago. We had people write poetry, short stories, novels… then get published and get recognised based on their works. Although nothing has really changed in today’s world, it has gotten better – and bigger. The advent of technology has introduced skills like technical writing, web-writing. Many writers now shoot their poems into short videos on YouTube or Instagram, or write threads on Twitter. So you don’t necessarily have to write a book to be called a writer. This applies to banking, engineering, medicine… just name it.

Technology has also introduced things like artificial intelligence, web design, social media management, coding, software engineering, graphics design, machine learning and so many more. How many of these are being taught in Nigerian universities? Do Nigerian universities teach social media management? Yet it is one of the most sought-after job positions today.

How then do you expect graduates to know about things they are not prepared for? This means that asides learning in school, an average Nigerian student – or graduate – has to work on acquiring these skills personally in order to be employable.

Another major problem of Nigerian (federal and state) universities is that they are thoroughly underfunded. This means that an average student who is learning computer science will most likely learn only the theoretical aspect of it. Besides, are things like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and cloud technology in the syllabus?

The same goes for courses like film production. Many students watch what it is to make a film and how it’s been done, but the latest cameras and editing tools are not available in the schools. Even if they are, are the lecturers well ‘exposed’ enough to teach the students? Many of our lecturers do not even allow their students send their assignments via emails.

There’s a huge disparity between what is being taught in schools with what is being required in the outside world – and this is by no means the fault of the students.

It gets worse when you’re from a poor home.

For instance, in well-equipped institutions, students who cannot afford a laptop or good phone have access to these in the library. Unfortunately, many school libraries do not have PCs. They are just filled with books stashed in bookshelves. They are also not sound-proof, do not have air conditioners or other things to make the students enjoy reading. So it is common to find many libraries half-empty. This also means that we have a lot of students who graduate without being computer-literate. The poor ones do not have access to it at home, cannot afford to purchase one and do not have access to it at school. Unfortunately, we have more poor people than the rich in Nigeria.

All this means that before an average Nigerian graduate can be employable, he/she has to go the extra mile to learn new skills, discard (in many cases) many of the things being taught in schools – things that were only applicable to the years when Lord Lugard lived, and take internship roles to be able to fit in the ‘modern career world’.

Before we can judge Nigerian graduates for not being employable, we have to call for an overhaul of our educational sector, because rather than build students and prepare them for the outside world, it mostly breaks them. From the sex for grades issues, to students not being emboldened to speak up when their lecturers treat them wrong, to the archaic dictatorial measures with which lecturers lecture the student, the school environment does not arm students with the confidence, skills, and knowledge to take on the world when they leave school. These students will grow to become graduates and will be flung into the ‘labour market’ – confused and unprepared.

We also have to establish programs that will teach graduate the skills they need to navigate the ‘real world’. That is where internships come in. Unfortunately, in Nigeria, ‘internship’ is the new name for ‘I want you to work as a full-time staff but I will pay you only peanuts’. That is why you see internship roles with ‘you must have 1-2 years of experience.’ If I already have the experience, why will I apply for an internship position? If you, as an employer, need a volunteer, just say it. Don’t hide behind the word ‘internship’ to get a full-staff who you want to pay peanuts.

As a graduate, the world beyond school can be a little confusing, that is why it is important for you to learn, unlearn and relearn as fast as you can. There are online courses you can take, there are also professionals who share ideas and tips on social media – follow them and learn. The world is not just fast-paced, it is also very competitive. If you can, volunteer for a certain period of time, take internship positions and read as much as you can. If you have certain skills – like writing, sculpting, web development and so on, you can begin to work on it, thankfully, access to technology has made things easier.

As a student, you might be bored in that class and might be already aware that that course might not be so useful when you leave school. Good! Now is the time to start discovering what you want and how you want to get to that point. Learn things outside your school curriculum. If you don’t have access to computers in school, perhaps you could beg your coursemates to lend you their laptops for a short period of time. Or save up to buy a phone. Whichever one it is, remember that, due to the competitiveness of it all, many employers don’t have the patience to babysit you. So OYO is your case.

The bottom line of it all is that you, as a graduate, have to find your feet. The universities have just little to offer you, so go all out to acquire skills and knowledge that will make you employable.

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