By Joy Ehonwa
The topic of discussion for the 3rd episode of #NascoMoments on City 105.1 FM was one of great concern to every well-meaning Nigerian: The Plight of the Nigerian Graduate. The amiable host, Joy Isi Bewaji, clearly finds the decay in the educational system disturbing. She is bothered about the quality of graduates being churned out in Nigeria today and understandably so. Having studied for her first degree in Mass Communication in a Nigerian university with stuffy classrooms, under lecturers totally uninterested in their jobs and more focused on running mini businesses selling handouts, Joy graduated without ever having seen a studio, and essentially having gained nothing from the programme. Things have gotten even worse, and today an encounter with the average fresh graduate leaves you shocked by the lack of cerebral finesse.
The guest for the day was Bunmi Adeleye, a top management executive who is grooming her own businesses after 11 years in the corporate world. Bunmi schooled in Nigeria for her first degree, before going abroad for further studies, and is familiar with both sides. Skillfully guided by the show host, here’s what she had to say about our graduates today:
It is difficult to say we are grooming the quality of graduates needed to face global challenges. While we have many quality graduates, the percentage leaves much to be desired. Where the public universities failed, private universities stepped in, but there is still a lot of work to do.
When it comes to Nigerian graduates, the work ethic is especially shocking. It’s not all about getting to the office early and staying till close of work. A few of them do very well, but for most, the attitude to work is poor. In most multinational companies, employees are evaluated based on not just core competence but behavioural competence, and many of our graduates fall short. “I wouldn’t want to generalise, but having worked abroad, the “i-dont –care” attitude is jarring. Those who get into multinationals these days come in through “connections” and they aren’t serious about their deliverables. You try to make them deliver, and you become an enemy.”
Even for the core competence issues, the graduates are not really to blame; it’s the system, the universities, the infrastructure. Our syllabuses are outdated and need to be overhauled; we are far behind. It appears that the ripple effect of this is companies reserving top positions for overseas trained graduates, while the Nigerian trained ones are placed in subordinate positions, but companies do not do this deliberately. There are several routes into most multinationals: Africans in diaspora route, fresh graduate route, sometimes as many as ten, so Nigerian students in lower positions is not by design. “The MD of Africa/Middle East in the company where I worked schooled in Nigeria,” Bunmi says.
There is a lot that fresh graduates can do for themselves. It would be ideal for students to deliberately try to get work experience while in school but as Joy points out, being a student is like a full time job here. Unlike abroad where the system allows students to work, we don’t exactly have that kind of flexible structure here. Furthermore, the work and study lifestyle is not being preached at all, that’s why you see a 28-year-old working for the first time in their lives. However, with access to internet services, free online courses are now accessible. Internships and industrial training placements like they have in the sciences, also help, as does learning a trade like hair styling, bead making or nail fixing. These trades sound “arty” as Joy points out, but the truth is that we don’t have the basics, and day-to-day survival is still uppermost in the minds of Nigerians, so raising a great number of scientists who will turn rain to power is still a long way off.
The bottom line is this: while the system may not offer much, self-development has its place. If you don’t get it from your school, you will have to work hard, perhaps harder than students in other countries where they have systems in place. That is the sacrifice every graduate who will stand out, must make.
One NASCO goody bag is up for grabs for the lucky listener who gets the Nasco Trivia question for this week right: How many flavours does NASCO cornflakes have? Send your answer to 08033286604 or tweet it using the hashtag #NascoMoments and it could be you!