by Moses Ilemona Ihiabe
“For the sake of this article, a formal certificate is considered as the certificate obtained from a tertiary institution; whether Universities, Polytechnics, Monotechnics or other higher institutions of learning”.
Our country has evolved. She is still evolving. She has evolved in almost every sector. She has evolved into a tragic bad on one part and an astonishingly advanced enclave on the other part. The interest of this article pertains to the evolvement between our formal certificates and their relationship with guaranteed meal tickets.
There has been an age long debate that cuts across many generations in this country about whose generation is Nigeria better or worse. Some commentators proposed that the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, Nigeria was the best. Younger generations said the 1990s and 2000s is better. Whatever indices must have been used to reach both conclusions will suffice for another fresh article. But I want to focus on what formal certificates meant between the earlier generations and what obtains in today’s reality.
It was my dad that told me about how first degree graduates were treated in the 60s, 70s and even early 80s. You may have been told similar stories of how graduates got cars upon graduation, white collar jobs were already waiting for them to graduate amongst several other pecks that seems unbelievable in today’s reality. In those days, all you needed to liberate yourself and your family from sheer poverty and consuming despondency was a degree from a tertiary institution.
Your degree or certificate was the ticket and the only ticket you needed to transfer from lack to plenty, from have-not to have. I once attended a course on Facilities Engineering, Operations and Maintenance Management and the facilitator corroborated my dad’s tale to me, he was a beneficiary of the account my dad told me. Engr X (name withheld), a graduate of University of Ibadan, in the department of chemical engineering in 1978, before he was shortlisted for NYSC, already had a job waiting in Shell, where he eventually worked for 33years before voluntarily resigning as a Lead Projects Engineer. This is only one out of several other examples. These kinds of stories were popular until the 90s’.
Then, something happened! Something that is better imagined than described. This thing that happened will suffice for a PhD thesis if you want to undertake a study on it. Let’s not go into that story.
These pecks and assurances of securing white collar jobs started fading away like a diffusing flame, thousands of graduates now have to write application letters, converge at stadiums to write aptitude tests for fifteen (15) vacant positions, amongst other unspeakable tendencies. More unfortunately is that the trend deteriorates every other day. A close comparism on what is obtainable between then and now reveals that the distance between the experience then and now can be liken to the distance between heaven and earth. Honestly, it is that far! Hence, when people argue on what use their formal certificates are if they can’t get a job with them in their own country; I listen along with a heavy heart, worried about the imminent consequence of this quagmire. This may be a title for another piece.
However, are formal certificates still guaranteed meal tickets? I will answer Yes without batting an eyelid. Are formal certificates a deceptive illusion? I will not answer No.
Firstly, jobs are still available even though they are only a few vacancies that will never go round. Hence, to the graduates or applicants who eventually get employed, the certificates have paid off. There are several ‘fortunate’ graduates whose stories support this claim. Recall that without the certificate, you do not qualify to contest in the first place. However, it is also not incorrect to say they are a deceptive illusion. This is evident in the thousands of graduates that are roaming the streets or under-employed and waiting for their miracle day, if it will ever come. This is then a two way bridge, one is wider, while the other; slender like the biblical road that leads to heaven.
What is the way to go?
Whether or not the job comes, education shouldn’t be replaced with anything. Going to school should be non-negotiable especially if you have the capacity to. Going by the current reality of this generation, disabuse your mind from considering formal certificates as the only guaranteed meal ticket. Having established that, re-adjust your mindset to be open to all options. After graduation, if the job comes; lucky you. If it doesn’t, re-strategize. There are several other options you can consider. Learn a skill; go into business (if you can), deliberately develop your gifts and passion. The education you have acquired puts you in a better position to organize your life. Start something, grow it and move your life on.
Op–ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija
Moses Ilemona Ihiabe writes in from Lagos. He can be reached via [email protected]