Friday, 1st December 2023

How rising unemployment, others worsen school dropout rate

By Adelowo Adebumiti
23 August 2023   |   4:16 am
With the unemployment rate increasing across the country, many young Nigerians are heeding the wrong narrative about the relevance of education.

Students in a lecture room

With the majority of Nigerian graduates unable to secure jobs after their schooling, many are having second thoughts about acquiring tertiary education. These groups of students believe the time spent in school is a waste if, after graduating, they still have to resort to learning handwork or vocational skills to survive.  Adelowo Adebumiti examines the situation.

With the unemployment rate increasing across the country, many young Nigerians are heeding the wrong narrative about the relevance of education. To many of them, education, which is often touted as the pathway to success, is now a time-wasting effort that no longer proves crucial as an edge in securing jobs, as millions of graduates chase after a few thousands jobs in a country where job racketeering, favoritism, and cronyism largely play a big role in employment.

Available data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that the national unemployment rate rose from 23.1 per cent in 2018 to 33.3 per cent in 2020. Also, the global audit and tax advisory firm, KPMG, in its 2023 report, titled, ‘Global Economy Outlook’ said unemployment rate increased to 37.7per cent in 2022 and would further rise to 40.6 per cent in 2023 and 43 per cent in 2024, due to the continuing inflow of job seekers into the labour market. The report also said inflation would accelerate to 20.3 per cent in 2023 and 20.0 per cent in 2024.

The 2021 NBS report showed that in the first quarter, more than 60 per cent of Nigeria’s working-age population is younger than 34, while unemployment for people aged between 15 and 24 stood at 53.4 per cent in the fourth quarter, and at 37.2 per cent for people aged 25 to 34. The jobless rate for women was 35.2 per cent compared with 31.8 per cent for men.

Experts believe unemployment will continue to be a major challenge due to the limited investment by the private sector, low industrialisation and slower economic growth and the inability of the nation’s economy to absorb the four or five million new entrants into the labour market every year.

President of African Development Bank (AfDB), Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, underscored this at a lecture in Lagos, last year. In his lecture titled: ‘Nigeria – A Country of Many Nations: A Quest for National Integration,’ Adesina highlighted the high rate of joblessness among Nigerians, saying about 40 per cent of youths are unemployed.

It is, therefore, not surprising that many young people, particularly the Generation Z, that have witnessed struggles of older graduates in securing jobs, are disenchanted with the many obvious shortcomings of the labour market and are determined to avoid these problems.

For one, the country is still stuck with an unrealistic N36, 000 minimum wage at a time the living wage for workers is estimated at a minimum N200, 000.  Also, Federal parastatals and ministries hardly absorb up to five per cent of the four to five millions new entrants in the labour market yearly, leaving the private sector with the huge responsibility of providing employment for the millions of job seekers.

Many of these youths, who are mostly impatient and always eager to make money, have been conditioned to see education as a waste of time and no longer a pathway to success. This is largely due to the fact that the majority of Nigerian graduates are unable to secure white-collar jobs after many years in tertiary institutions. At the end, many graduates find themselves learning trades, vocational skills and setting up small scale enterprises to survive.

Today, this has led many students, especially in public schools, who believe the school system is a scam, to drop out. The thinking is that if at the end, after spending exorbitant money to acquire education, they still have to resort to learning vocational skills, then, the time and money spent on education is a waste. Many young Nigerians, therefore, want to avoid falling into this quagmire.

Also, with the prominence of yahoo boys, Internet scams and quick rich schemes, as well as growth of influencers, skit makers and afrobeat musicians, many young people believe education is now more of a hindrance than a sure path to success.

For instance, Afrobeat artist, Bella Shmurda, who dropped out of school to hustle and pursue a music career, in one of his songs titled ‘Vision 2020’, narrated how his mother asked him not to waste four years in school, but to work and make money because the family was struggling to survive.

Many young influencers, who have transitioned into successful careers in music, comedy and online influencing and smiling to the banks today, are advancing the same sentiments. It has, therefore, become a catchy phrase in some circles that ‘education is a scam.’

According to the 2018 Education Profile Indicators published by the Universal Basic Education Commission (UBEC), 72 per cent of children who finished primary education didn’t make it to high school. In addition, about 3.7 million children don’t even complete elementary education, while out of 24.2 million who attain their First Leaving Certificate, only 6.8 million further their academics. The report also showed that only 86.81 per cent of primary school entrants complete primary school. The percentage is even lower for early childhood care development and education (ECCDE) and junior secondary education. The completion rate for ECCDE is 35.47 per cent and junior secondary school stands at 42.27 per cent.

The data showed that primary education has the highest enrollment in the country with 27.9 million in primary schools, far higher than 7.2 million in ECCDE and 6.8 million pupils in junior secondary schools.

The enrollment rate at higher educational levels such as senior secondary schools and tertiary institutions reduces even more. For instance, 1.8 million and 1.5million students respectively registered for the 2022 and 2023 Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME). Yet, only a quarter stand any chance to enter into tertiary institutions across the country.

Speaking on why some students are dropping out of school and hold the view that education now holds little value, a teacher, Mrs. Morayo Oyin-Adejobi, blamed societal influence for the trend, noting that the society now celebrates vainglory.

She said a lot of programmes that lack morals are highly celebrated and winners of such programmes and activities that add no value to the society go home with mouthwatering prizes, while students who win mathematics, spelling bees and other educational programmes get stipends, educational materials and in some cases, a handshake.

Oyin-Adejobi observed that the problem is also a symptom of the quality of education in the country. She stated that some schools employ secondary school leavers as teachers, teaching as much as three unrelated subjects.  The educator noted that such practices discourage students making them feel like they are not acquiring useful skills or knowledge.

“In some parts of the country, cultural attitudes towards education may not be as supportive, pressuring students to prioritise other things like work or family responsibilities over schooling. Many Nigerian families face economic hardships, which can make it difficult to prioritise education, especially when there are immediate financial concerns.

“Even with a degree, some graduates may find it difficult securing good-paying jobs, which can make it hard to see the value of education received. They see their counterparts who are into cybercrime and other vices living well, while those with good qualifications have jobs that can’t even provide decent meals for them,” she said.

Education Administrator, Adeyemi Federal University of Education, Ondo, Emmanuel Taiwo Akinola, stressed the need to emphasise the importance of education to the youths.  He said the rate at which students dropout of school is very alarming and can be attributed to some factors that are presently making education unattractive to them. He added that these factors negatively impact the perception of many young adults.

According to him, the challenges in the country have conversely pushed many young people to embrace quick money making schemes, such as cybercrime/internet scam, occultism, cultism, money rituals and political thuggery among others.

Akinola highlighted factors pushing students to drop out as inability to cope with academic pressure, lack of creativity in teaching and learning mechanisms, bad influence, sky-high unemployment rate, incessant strikes, poor funding, dearth of infrastructure and unconducive learning environment.  Others include curriculum imbalance where teaching is hinged on archaic methods, and recruitment processes where ‘who-knows-who’ is allegedly placed above merit.

Akinola noted that negative influence or peer pressure are also pushing many into drugs, while bullying, poor academic performance, and parents’ insensitivity have forced many students to throw in the towel on education.

He, however, called for ways to reformat the thinking of young people to grasp the critical role education plays in the total development of an individual and how it reshapes his worldview in relation to his environment.

Akinola said to correct such negative perceptions and rekindle young people’s passion in pursuing higher education in Nigeria, there is need to promote and support the concept of ‘Education for All.’

He advised the Federal Government to redesign school curriculum to emphasise creativity and innovation, while elevating practical over old theory-based education.

He said society must encourage young people to see education as the most powerful weapon, which they can use to change the world and an investment that will not fail to yield the best interest.

Another teacher, Maharufudeen Dehinsilu-Isa, however, maintained that education is still valued by some Nigerians.

The educator noted that students that skipped school to chase after wealth often look for their educated counterparts to assist them.

Dehinsilu-Isa, however, stressed that to nip this attitude in the bud, stakeholders in the sector must begin to educate young people on the numerous benefits education adds to their lives aside from making money.

He said with education, there are limitless possibilities for those that decide to pursue knowledge.

To salvage the situation, Dehinsilu-Isa enjoined families to promote academic values and always inculcate beliefs that education is the only way to the zenith of any career.