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Education for all

Five bloggers, five countries, one dialogue

So many degrees, but no jobs

Picture: Emmy Chirchir

Employers seem to not know what they want...

Once I finished my thesis around this time last year, I began that most dreaded journey: the job hunt. Optimistic, full of energy, I trawled the internet, revived old networks and subscribed to various job advertising websites. The journey looked promising! I’m sad to say that more than 200 application letters later, I have only had 2 interviews and no job offers!

I’m often reminded of a song we used to sing when we were young: ‘someni vijana, kisha utapata kazi nzuri sana’ – in English it means, “Study young man, after which you will get a good job.”  It was sung to encourage people to go to school and get jobs – mostly white-collar jobs. Well, times have changed, and completing your university education is no longer a gateway to a job anymore. Scores of university students continue with their education after their bachelor studies, in pursuit of that evasive white-collar job.

One reason for this is that the job market dictates that having a bachelor is not enough anymore. The competition has gone a notch higher! I cannot remember a time in my life when I was not attending school.  I learned French at the Alliance Francaise during and after my bachelor. I also took German classes, despite having learned the language in my university.  I am still learning German at the Goethe Institute as I look for options for a PhD. A master’s is now a basic matter of course right after the bachelor studies. My brother, my mother and I have all done our master’s right after the four-year bachelor’s.

I keep wondering to myself how many qualification papers a person has to have? For example, my older brother named Fred studied law for four years, after which he went on to the Kenya School of Law for one year. This is mandatory for anyone who would like to practice law in Kenya. During that time, he also studied Human Resource Management for two years at a local college. And it didn’t stop there: He was also studying for his certified public secretary (CPS) exams at another college, which he completed after two years. But even that wasn’t enough. He just recently completed a master’s in business administration (MBA) at a university in the city. 

The question is: won’t we be old by the time we have all of these qualifications? When do we apply all of these skills that we have worked so hard to achieve? It seems the current job environment is a merciless, brutal and dissatisfied animal, always asking for more.  And just when I thought that Fred had put a cap on his education, he informed me that he plans to start school again – soon! 

Ironically, sometimes employers turn a person down for being over-qualified! I often get angry with the system here, which places such great demands on an individual yet hardly rewards the efforts made. It seems to me that the employers cannot seem to decide what they want! This is partly what leads to brain drain!

Picture: Emmy Chirchir

More investments are needed to make sure rural schools keep up

Another reason for the surge in people’s interest in more education is that there are now numerous opportunities for studying – especially at the higher education level. There are now more universities and colleges that offer degrees at fairly affordable prices. In addition, most of these universities now have campuses outside of Nairobi – closer to the people. For example, my mother did not have to leave her work and family to study for her degree because the university came to her. Only when she had to do exams or follow up on something did she have to come to the city.

The only challenge is how quality is assured such that those attending the universities outside of the main cities have the same resources and amenities as the ones in the main universities in the cities. This remains to be worked out!


May 31, 2012 | 12:00 pm