Public Universities’ Fees Increase: A Blessing

This is not the time for acquiring certificates.  We all know the statistics and see the real-life after-effects of our university graduates with their A4 envelopes containing their CVs on our streets; in our text messages with requests for “urgent 2k”; in the current sex hook-up culture for financial and security benefits, and in the rate of financial fraud, ritual killings, and illegal drug smuggling.

Reports emerged recently that public universities’ fees across Nigeria have increased by as much as 200%.  Nigerian youths, particularly those who are forced to pay fees themselves or rely on the goodwill of others outside of their nuclear family, should look at this situation as a sign to double down on embracing entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurship is about identifying problems and solving them for a price.  Do that for seven to ten years and you’ll be hiring university graduates, guaranteed.

There are Nigerian PhD, masters and first-degree holders working for Nigerians who barely graduated or never went to university at all.  This is a relic from the colonial times that we haven’t fully shaken off: when a Nigerian could comfortably work for a company for 30 years and retire from there, living off their pension or using their considerable gratuity to springboard the final stage of their lives.  It’s also the result of a culture that traditionally looked down on service jobs, meanwhile, service jobs play a huge part in keeping Nigeria moving.  You need your hairdresser and barber to fix your hair; you need cleaners to clean your offices; you need carpenters to make your furniture…and so on and so on.  Many Nigerian youth have created these service businesses and employed others to assist.  Hence my clarion calls to double down.

There’s a lot of fear in looking entrepreneurship in the eye and telling it that you’re going to embrace it, particularly when a young person sees their peers earning livable salaries in air-conditioned offices and the young person in question has attended dozens of interviews with no call-backs or can’t get interviews.  “Don’t they know I’m a graduate?” he or she will ask themselves, frequently.

Welcome to the real world! Where getting an air-conditioned livable salaried job goes beyond having a degree! Soft skills such as emotional intelligence, time management, managing up/sideways/down, public speaking, business writing and business administration, just to name a few, should be taught in all Nigerian secondary schools, public and private! Teaching them at university is too late because not everyone will go to university, but everyone should go to secondary school! In developed countries, many youths enter the workforce as entrepreneurs or at the bottom of a company at 16, 17 and 18 years old, either because they cannot afford to go to university, or they don’t want to be saddled with the debt of the fees after they graduate in their early twenties.  This debt will take years to pay back, and they’d rather not add it to their problems.  Before anyone points out that those are developed countries I’m referencing while Nigeria is a lower middle-income economy, how do you think they became developed? Not all office jobs require a university degree.  But in Nigeria, even micro-enterprises are looking for graduates, thus depriving a large pool of Nigerians who can read and write from being employed.

Dear young Nigerian feeling down and out because of the general status quo, do not let the fact that your country/parents/secondary school/university has failed you, remain in this position.  Develop yourself! Look for problems around you, where you live, and go about solving them.  Success is a result of many failures and years of hard work.  What you start off doing is not necessarily what you’ll finish with: Leo Stan Ekeh, the owner of Zinox Computers, started off trading ladies’ clothes; Nnamdi Ezeigbo, the owner of SLOT, started off fixing computers; Victoria Bolanle Oginni, the pioneer of the pure water business in this country, started off selling lollipops.  Nigeria is your oyster!

Obinna Inogbo, Principal PR Executive, Worktainment Limited, Lagos

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