My friend has just graduated from university. She’s has given up searching for job, so she has decided to work unpaid for a charity for three months, then work in one of the restaurants in Osu, to save up some money to seek greener pastures in one of the European countries. Another friend graduated last year as well. He too has moved back home and is wondering what to do next. There are many young graduates with similar stories. Is this the better Ghana promised by our political leaders?

Welcome to the lost generation – the graduates who worked their socks off, doing BECE, SSCE, WAEC, A-Levels, and university degrees, only to find jobs that hold out the prospect of real careers nigh on impossible to come by. In many cases, they’re leaving with university loans and other debts they used to finance their education. The property and luxurious ladder is a distant spot on the horizon. Welcome, too, to parents who must help with their finances, if they can, and put them up.

Meanwhile, another load of undergraduates are getting ready to begin their final year. And a further lot of school-leavers have completed their SSCE and waiting to see which university they will be attending. The latest figures show that 570 graduates are competing for every graduate job in the banking sector. In the media, more than 100 students have applied for every vacancy this year alone. Gone were the days that immediately you finish journalism courses at Ghana Institute of Journalism, you would easily find a job in any of the media houses, in the financial services, 75 students are after each available job vacancy.

Overall, an average of 107 students is vying for each graduate position. Already the sheer numbers applying have forced many companies to close their doors for this year. That’s for the private sector. The big question is what happening to the public sector? I was expecting answers from the Minister of Employment to tell me how the government intends to create jobs for the graduate students, but to no avail. Then also this year’s budget, I expected my role model, Dr Duffour, to tell us how the government intends to create jobs, but he never raised the employment issue, apart from the youth planting trees.

It seems the next four years, would be the toughest for new graduates and youth in general in Ghana. These are going to be extremely challenging times for students and the career services that support them and also their parents. Simply because you find yourself questioning whether it is right that so many pupils are being automatically steered towards university, particularly in this economic climate and yet do not find job. The big question is what is the significant of the degree if you can’t find job in Ghana?

But the funny thing happening in Ghana is, when you look around you find politicians and pastors driving in expensive cars and building Mansions, one would think Ghana is prospering. But examine them closely and what do you find? Well yet still the youth who voted for them and who pay tithes are languishing on the streets of Ghana looking for a job. To this year’s crop can be added those who did not find suitable employment last year (and went travelling and now returning due to the recession in the developed world).

Some lessons may be learned: that it’s no use society encouraging more pupils to go to university if there aren’t the jobs for them when they graduate. We’ve embarked on a headlong rush of expanding universities and the courses they offer without ever pausing to question what it is we’re attempting to achieve. There’s a commonly held assumption that a degree is essential to “getting on”. But have you realized the self made billionaires in Ghana and Africa in general did not have the educational certificates?

The current government, as part of its better Ghana, am sure would want to see more school – leavers go to university, so do the fathers and mothers who are conditioned to believing a degree is necessary; that a good philosophy. But I pray that the better Ghana agenda can provide more jobs for the graduates.

Author: Paul Danquah, University of East London

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