The debate on education is hotter than ever because it is drumming up support for girls and young women to get a chance at it. According to the United Nations Children’s Fund’s latest statistics, as many as 250 million children of primary school age are failing to learn the basics and illiterate women far outnumber their male counterparts in West and Central Africa and South Asia. There are over 50 million children out of school, yet it is the one-mega investment urban parents make for their children. Students on the other hand have started to research well on which degree will enable them to repay their student loans and actually earn a living. Meanwhile 93% of employers believe that critical thinking, communication and problem-solving skills are more important than the candidate’s undergraduate degree.
First, let us check out things at home. Since 2003 the number of students in school has skyrocketed because of the free primary education programme.
The quality is not sufficient, where it has shown that young men aged 15-29 years who had left school after 6 years of schooling, 6% were illiterate and 26% were semi-literate. This eventually is resulting in a huge skills gap, where by 50% of men and 80% of women aged 15 to 24 in the slums have no income-generating activities. Eventually they will engage in casual jobs with daily or short-term engagements. Only a very miniscule will have their talent spotted by their employer who could invest in their further education or formal long-term employment.
Kenyan university entries too have soared. The interesting trend to note is the one that is on the decline, fewer Kenyan students are studying abroad especially in the UK, USA and Australia.
Second, how many really get the job as per their undergraduate field of study? The starting point problem is that in Kenya majority of the jobs are still earned by way of referrals. According to the recent World Bank report, between 2009 and 2013, three million youth became of working age, yet the economy was able to add only 2.6 million nonfarm jobs. Kenya can not only depend on farming to create job opportunities for the youth. The majority of jobs seekers are still going to jua kali sector, in trade, hospitality or manufacturing and many of them are underemployed.
If education opportunities are there worldwide, quality varies, companies exist, jobs are available and entrepreneurs are bursting around the corner, then what is the problem? Our world is one big village and the last you want to be is underemployed- “not having enough paid work or not doing work that makes full use of their skills and abilities.” Depending on where you are born, what is your family structure, the economic background, professional abilities, financial capabilities can the whole subject come full circle. For example an interior decorator may not need an undergraduate degree to carve out their own brand, but while this maybe possible in the West, where talent and creativity are given due success, in our developing country you may be left unrecognized. But wait, depending on your personal communication and marketing skills, you may be able to kick start your same interior decorator career right here without a qualification. There are jobs that require qualifications, and while a sales person can not become a doctor, a doctor is also a sales person.
There are also hang ups of the standard of university or school education one obtains. If you are heading to win a Nobel Prize then by all means head to Harvard, but if you are not then do not get disappointed in the race for the best education. What you earn from school and how you use it in life also really depends on you. The school of life exists in the real world and I believe if you get the supportive working environment and boss, then you can flourish even if you do not have a formal education or qualification. If however it is the reverse, then my friend you are at the losing end of life and will never get uplifted except if you self motivate and achieve your results on your own merit. There are very few success stories of self made people, but since they exist never get discouraged, what you make of your life is in your hands. Of course several factors such as luck and timing can play important roles in the opportunities you receive but you are the decision maker, the learner or spoiler.