Yesterday, I was astonished to watch on screen a campaign of young people in Uganda dubbed “wHAT nEXT?” fortunately, I watched it from a foreign country where I had gone to make a four days professional mentorship presentation to both university students and managers in one of the institutions in Tanzania. I was challenged because my mentees doubted my inability to offer the good I offer to them and not to my country Uganda. I said to them, “a prophet of God is never respected at his home area”. It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education. I have rather asked myself, what went wrong that those in gowns are demonstrating and those with no gowns are working? Could it be that there is a problem or our quality is wanting? Many questions KWEGAMBA.
I have decided to write the “What Next” in this was because not all was good for this campaign. Indeed whereas I am an advocate, I am against these non resultant and reactionary endeavors. First of all, governments world over don’t create sustainable good jobs. Even when they create, they create not even 5% of the jobs. Let me say that the young people went to school, got education but did not learn. I run a business that gives me money. It doesn’t pay rent. It is what I studied at the university. For I know that if these young people had gotten an education, they would rather than asking what next, be asking how to start. If they started trading the skills they have. I for instance saw them with campaign skills. Let them organize campaigns about ills of society, mobilise local resources in our amidst and we challenge poverty together. This doesn’t call for a job or money. It is just how we use our social networks and mental energies. We can start with the skills we have and generate resources and be employed by ourselves. I keep calling upon young people to remain self-funded as much as possible.
Did the what next campaigners think of marketing their skills, trades and professions? Did they appreciate the difference between employment and employability? Did they reflect on who is the leading employer of this economy? Did they reflect on what we who could employ them look at? Did they have rather a political message?
For instance, if I was to employ, I for sure would not even shortlist any of these demonstrators for my company. I would not recommend them either for employment by any standard to any employer. They demonstrated that they lack a set of values of humility, humbleness, skills, competence, humbleness, politeness, communication, creativity among others. These are the values we employers look for. I have this morning asked a colleague here in Moshi Tanzania if she could employ any of them. “These would poison our team” she said. Now let me say that based on her opinion, the What Next demonstrators where poisonous and a danger both to themselves and to the institutions they studied from. Precisely, they said it clearly that they passed through school but were not educated. Our institutions of learning should interrogate what they are offering.
I am not here to challenge the quality of education. I mean, we are challenged especially the degree awarding institutions in Uganda. Can we learn that we eat not the degree but that the degree does? We eat not the certificate but what the certificates can do. Let us focus on the private sector. Focus on the private sector empowerment not government. For now, instead of our smartly dressed graduates defiant youth engaging the government for jobs, I wish they engaged their government on how they empower or disempower the private sector. I pay PAYE that is over 2 million and this could be used to establish private sector propelling programs like industrial parks in each district. It is irritating to see my government giving youth handouts. The very reason the graduates are hunting for jobs. Another handout. I am always convinced that “only the paranoid survive”. The youth are right to mistrust their government. Especially now that their economy is being challenged but their money is being splashed to the political slaves who chant the name of the sole giver.
Young people in Uganda need a new mentorship and orientation. I am an employer and interviewer for many professionals in Uganda. Sometimes I find it so difficult to employ but also to recruit our graduates. Some are very good at speaking good English. I asked one fellow from Tanzania today to interrogate the message on the what next campaign and nothing like a skill they were trading. I wish the placards read like “I am skilled in …. say development of an App, web design, carpentry, financial literacy, marketing and the like” then I task employers to engage the young people with what to do. May I also ask us to look at ourselves as our generational solutions and our failed African governments as facilitators. Once we look at our governments as solutions to our problems, then we become the direct victims of the process of our own empowerment. We as young people have the power to change things around us. The power we have is to be the best version of ourselves can be the very power we have and use not to be our best.
I therefore insist that the “wHAT nEXT” Youth demonstrators were not dressed like skilled but educated graduates. The skilled would appear like us who paid their school fees. Would appear like the men and women working to make ends meet. The skilled would be in the garden. The skilled would be thinking of how to create a job for themselves and not secure a job. The skilled would be focused on solutions not blaming their government for their unemployment. I can for sure say that the educated have become the problem and have replaced the problem we face. Look at wherever you are. The illiterates are the ones working. They are the ones creating solutions for the problems of society. They are the ones employing graduates. Have you seen the entrepreneurs who own radio stations, bus companies, Safe Boda, contracting companies etc? They are either P.6 graduates or S.3 dropouts. I feel every student should receive a dose of entrepreneurship and post school mentorship. The next time I am writing, I will write about professional transitional management from school to the world of competition and the world of solving development challenges.
In summary, your degree doesn’t stop you from doing farming. Your degree doesn’t stop you from vending goods and services. Your first class degree shouldn’t enslave you. Your degree should not discourage you from doing odd jobs. The degree should not remove humanity and make you just a proud good English speaking human being
Bbiira Kiwanuka Nassa believes that whereas the government has a primary role in creating a facilitating environment for employment, it is not the only employer we all should look at.
The writer is a junior citizen, a lecturer in one of the universities of Uganda, an employer and consultant who also does recruitment for many private sector and non state actor institutions in Uganda.