The death of 19 graduates during the Nigerian Immigration Service recruitment exercise last Saturday raises doubts about the relevance of entrepreneurship education in the country, CHARLES ABAH and SODIQ OYELEKE write
The authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, call the courses that prepare students for entrepreneurial skills SEO 003 and SEO 004 respectively. A special unit named the Centre for Industrial Research and Development facilitates the teaching of these courses in the university.
Essentially, the motive behind the introduction of the courses in the institution some years ago is to equip the beneficiaries with skills that will enable them to survive the vicissitudes of the labour market after graduation.
Indeed, the mission statement of the CIRD is “To build a private sector-driven, self-reliant economy and an economically empowered citizenry.”
At the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Ondo State, the authorities have inaugurated two entrepreneurial courses to equip students with additional skills for the job market.
The situation is not different at the University of Lagos, where the authorities had also inaugurated a compulsory course called Entrepreneurial and Corporate Governance, which is mandatory for third year students.
Away from the universities, the need to prepare students for life after schooling in order to check the increasing rate of unemployment resulted in the introduction of such programmes in the polytechnics.
From the Abdu-Gusau Polytechnic in Zamfara State, to the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu; Yaba College of Technology, and the Polytechnic Ibadan in Oyo State and many more, some courses are taught to specifically equip students with the necessary skills that will help them in life.
Though these courses have different names in the various institutions, the undercurrent remains the same: to equip the beneficiaries with lifelong learning process to acquire entrepreneurial behaviours, vocational skills and attributes.
But what has been the impact of this initiative in the nation’s educational system, considering the incident of last Saturday where no fewer than 19 young graduates lost their lives while prospecting for job?
The deceased were among the hundreds of unemployed youths who thronged the various stadia across the country to participate in a recruitment exercise conducted by the Nigeria Immigration Service.
Indeed, following the incident, which many have described as unfortunate, issues bordering on the quality and scope of the education taught in the nation’s schools from primary to the university level have come to the fore.
While some argue that the schools are not doing enough to prepare students for life’s challenges after graduation, others think otherwise. For instance, a management consultant, Mr. Richard Maduegbuam, notes that the tutorials that students get from these institutions do not equip them well to think along the line of self-employment.
He notes, “Are you surprised that this large number of youths turned out for the Immigration recruitment exercise? The outing on Saturday is just a tip of the iceberg, considering the happenings in the labour market. Many more graduates are at home, not knowing what to do. They are frustrated and cannot think of how to survive on their own.
“I tell you that the school system that we operate is one that is certificate-driven. It does not prepare the recipients for self-employment and this explains why Nigerian graduates are always looking for white-collar jobs.”
However, according to a university teacher, Ademola Onifade, the problems confronting the youth, particularly in the area of unemployment, has nothing to do with the quality of education they have received.
Onifade, a professor of education at the Lagos State University, says the curricular offered in the schools are good enough for the students. The educationist, who describes the Saturday incident as regrettable, insists that the quality of education, especially with the recent introduction of the entrepreneurial education in schools, is impacting positively on the students.
He declares, “The curriculum is rich enough to cater for their academic needs. Take, for instance, the compulsory entrepreneurship programmes in the universities; they are prepared in such a way as to equip the students.
“But what can an unemployed graduate do to take off with the knowledge so obtained? He has no money or grant to begin any business; so, how do you want him to put the knowledge so acquired into practice? You do not start a business with nothing.
“I, therefore suggest that the Federal Government should start a welfare or social security programme to accommodate the needs of these young graduates. These young ones need loans so that they can practise the things they had learned in school. The majority of Nigerian graduates are brilliant and they have ideas; what they lack is money.”
The Director, Entrepreneurship Centre at LASU, Dr. Biodun Denloye, who agrees with Onifade that Nigerian students are doing well, however notes that entrepreneurship education in the country is relatively new.
According to him, entrepreneurship education is just coming up in the nation’s school system and the initiative will go a long way in assisting graduates as well as non-graduates in no distant time.
Even as Onifade and Denloye hold this view, the Director, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Development Studies at OAU, Prof. Adeyinka Adesina, urges the Federal Government not to play politics with youth unemployment.
He adds, “The problem of unemployment is not about politics, it is a technical issue. Government must put adequate measures in place to help the teeming talents and graduates. We also have to tackle the issue of population.
“The truth of the matter is that many people do not understand the concept of jobs creation. The youth cannot just create jobs, you have to empower, train and assist them in ways that they can succeed in any area or jobs.”
Adeshina, while trying to discourage white-collar jobs among youths adds, “The issue of youths not depending on white-collar jobs alone is the orientation we are trying to correct. We teach students how to create jobs for their survival. Jobs should be based on what you know so that skills can be applied appropriately.”
But has the incident of last Saturday dampened the spirit of those still in school? In response, a Geology undergraduate at the Federal University of Technology, Minna, Niger State, Tom Jones, says yes. According to him, it is worrisome that the country has this large “army” of unemployed persons.
He, however, notes that it is at a challenging time like this that a creative student should put on his thinking cap.
“A time like this should spur one to rediscover oneself. The 21st Century does not require desk jobs, as there are limited vacancies in many organisations. The implication of this is that youths should be more creative for them to survive.
“I must admit that with the compulsory entrepreneurship education I received from my school, I am beginning to drop my idea of working in an oil firm. The entrepreneurship courses that I took have changed my orientation about white-collar jobs and changed my orientation about working for government. It has helped me to see another aspect of life apart from reading and writing,” the final year student enthuses.
Article written by Charles Abah and Sodiq Oyeleke, originally published in the Punch.