Cause of the phenomenon may lie in the values picked up through the education system

24 August 2012 A tracer study over a period of five years on school leavers and university graduates, transiting from school to the world of work, confirms long held suspicions.

One is the preference for jobs in the civil service or government.  This was aptly demonstrated recently, when more than 2,600 university graduates wrote the prelim examinations to be qualified to sit for the final civil service examination that has around 500 vacancies.

This preference has been the trend as long as anyone can remember, and not much has changed after all these years.  It would be worth asking why this is so.  Compared to the past, the private sector has grown, and there are many more avenues for employment in this sector that is expanding with economic development.

In fact, the corporate and private sector together employ almost thrice the number employed in the government, which numbers more than 20,000.

The preference then for government jobs in the civil service and corporations is obviously driven by other factors, like job security, perks, retirement benefits, which are absent in most private enterprises. Besides, it’s difficult to fire someone in a government job, even if no work is done.

But venturing out on one’s own to set up an enterprise or a business comes with its risks that not many are willing to take.  To that extent, those who do should be applauded, because they are compelled to work hard and create employment opportunities for others, although exploitation in terms of low wages and treatment are known to exist.

Yet even for those, who wish to or are forced to go out on a limb and become self employed, the means, such as start up capital, are not easily available. This, according to the tracer study, works as a big discouragement for those who might be interested to become self -employed.

There are other revelations in the study that perhaps need immediate working on.  At least 15 percent of those that join the labour force, which would number to several thousands, are those that drop school before completing class X.  This set of job seekers, who are barely 14 or 15 years, don’t get a chance even to join vocational schools and pick up some skills the job market requires, because the minimum qualification required to get admission is now class X.

But if there is a preference for government desk jobs and an aversion to self employment or working with the hands, it is because the education system grooms students to think in that way.

There is so much focus on the academic to get through, then try for scholarships and come back to a secure job.  Not that there is anything wrong with that but, in the process, those who might be skilled with their hands, or have the entrepreneurial spirit, are made to feel as second choices.

This needs to change.



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