Is University certificate actually a scam?
In 2012, 13,000 graduates applied to become truck drivers in the Dangote group in Nigeria, out of which there were six Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), 704 Master’s and over 8,460 Bachelor’s degree holders! The company only needed 100 drivers but received overwhelming applications. In a growing economy, it is rather shocking that Ph.D and Master’s degree holders were seeking placement as drivers, a strong indication that there is something fundamentally wrong with our educational system.
A graduate of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology (LAUTECH), Ogbomoso, Oyo State, Osunleke Oludare Alaba, recently stormed his alma mater, returning his certificate and asking for a refund of fees paid to the school before he graduated. Alaba claimed that the certificate he received after leaving the institution since 2015 was of no use to him, describing it as a scam. He vehemently opined that the certificate obtained as a graduate of Agricultural Extension and Rural Development from the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology had not in any way advanced his aspirations.
Can we actually clear the air, once and for all, around the ‘school is a scam’ slogan going viral among the teeming youth population? Personally, I have a “Yes and No” answer to this. I believe strongly that any form of schooling that has not equipped you to solve problems is a scam. We should not look at education through the eyes of certificate acquisition but through the eyes of problem solving.
The Africa of the 1960s is no longer the Africa we have today. Gone are those days when every graduate had a job waiting for them. We are living in a time in Africa where ‘ready-made’ jobs no longer exist. Times are different now as being a university graduate doesn’t open up the doors to many rewarding careers as it did in past generations. Gone are those days when getting a higher school education provided more opportunities and better career options. This has become a bitter pill that we have all refused to swallow. We are living in an era where a career as a civil servant is no more a glittering prize but a time-consuming duty that can actually make dormant and unproductive your gifts and talents forever.
Opportunities in the 21st Century would not open up to people with just paper certificates, if they refuse to acquire important work-related skills. Today, there is a yawning gap between what is being taught in school and what the industries really need. By bridging the gap between what kids learn in schools and what they need to be successful in the workplace, we make them better prepared for the quick-changing reality of the global workforce. We need to redesign our educational system to put premium on skill development and talent discovery. We are living in a world ruled by digital skills like artificial intelligence, data analysis, coding etc., and the school system is greatly lagging behind. Any youth that will survive this era must look deeply within and design his or her path to destiny fulfilment. The future is only guaranteed for youths with a renewed perspective.
The knowledge that will make you excel in school is different from the knowledge that will make you excel in life. If you are not a continuous learner, the knowledge you have acquired in school can hinder you from acquiring superior knowledge that will put you ahead in life. It is quite sympathetic that the most crucial things needed to live a successful life are not taught in schools. Things like valuing relationships, discovering your purpose, following your dreams, following your passion, investing in assets, making money work for you etc. Instead we are being asked to memorize and store information that does not matter when it comes to solving problems. Why do they ask us to memorize information that we mostly will never have to use?
Many years ago, my overzealous teacher spanked me for not knowing the name of the tallest mountain in Africa, which is actually Mount Kilimanjaro. I have tried endlessly to reason out how the answer to this question will someday link me to wealth in the future. Sometimes, I am not quick to blame those who have this funny belief that ‘school’ is a scam because they find it very hard to relate the knowledge acquired in school with the present problems in the society. Nevertheless, I will always advise youths never to see school as a scam.
The purpose of this write-up is not to trivialise the school system or despise formal education. It is to show the missing link between the gown (the school system) and the town (the realities in the society and industry). I am a product of formal education, and I can never downgrade the experience that I had and the great teachers that I met. We must be willing to bridge this widening gap because the most developed countries are those that have designed their school curriculum with industry and societal needs in mind.
The purpose of this write-up is to inspire youths to look beyond their degrees and certificates, and to be more sensitive to solving problems in their communities. Your certificates and degrees do not define who you are, your ability to solve problems does
Many graduates and degree holders are becoming progressively poor because the skills required in the modern world to get rich and to be successful are not taught in schools. Do not allow school to interfere with your education. Acquire skills that will make you solve problems and attract wealth in your generation. I am repeating this clearly: You are poor because the skills that are needed for you to be rich are beyond your certificate! By 2025, we will lose over 85 million jobs to automation (World Economic Forum). That means that future jobs will look vastly different by the time many people graduate from the university. Future jobs will involve knowledge creation and innovation, and people that are only equipped with skills found in the classroom will definitely be a misfit in an ever-changing world.
Instead of graduates looking around for jobs, we need graduates with renewed thinking minds that will look inward for their gifts, talents and unique abilities and look outward for problems they can solve with it, both locally and globally. I want to emphatically say that your certificate does not make you an asset, your ability to solve problems does!
We have high rate of unemployment in Africa because our educational institutions are producing job seekers instead of solution providers! According to reports, Nigeria (the most populous African country) graduates approximately 450,000 students from a total of 170 universities annually! Africa does not need job seekers, we already have enough of them, what Africa needs are pathfinders and solution providers. We need more of innovators, inventors and change gladiators in our institutions of learning and not just certificate and degree seekers. Graduates are supposed to be employers of labour and wealth creators, not job seekers. When the rate at which a system is producing job seekers is exponentially higher than the rate at which entrepreneurs are evolving, the end result is always unemployment.
College or university degree is not your saviour in today’s fiercely competitive world. What does your résumé have that it is preferred over other resumes? A university/college degree? So do thousands of other people. How do you stand apart from the crowd? What is your Unique Selling Point (USP)? The answer is by learning other skills and giving your innate abilities, gifts and talents expression. Make yourself stand out by telling the employer that apart from just having paper certificates, you have got some extra skills and potentials that can make you solve problems. Make research on skills that can complement your education, skills that your dream job requires. Learn skills that are in demand in the market. There are many graduates who possess knowledge but lack practical skills to carry out specific tasks. Degrees do not automatically guarantee job placement, it is the acquisition of the right skills that gives an edge. Finally, I want to say that your degrees and certificates don’t attract wealth, your ability to solve problems do.