Lately, I have been having deep thoughts about formal education. For years, financial success and social success were made possible by obtaining an undergraduate degree.
And if one wanted a key of a higher grade, he/she could throw in a master’s degree too. However, I wonder: does this all still apply in this age?
In March 2017, the media reported that 87 per cent of graduates can’t find jobs. For a country where 80 per cent are under the age of 30, this is disturbing. More so because I feel it has little to do with how hard these pupils are studying.
The learners are taking notes, revising and cramming harder than before, and they are studying for longer hours. It has now become the norm to see children walking to school in the dark, or see them in traffic at 8pm, waiting to get home and embark on homework.
Recently, on a news bulletin, I saw children as young as five years being enrolled in the forbidden tradition of coaching. How can it be that after years of this kind of hassle there is no light at the end of the tunnel for 87 per cent of yearly graduates?
Now, I am not trying to demean the education system. But I do not believe for a second that formal education alone is enough to bring you to success but, rather, formal education needs to be combined with so much to survive in this new world.
I once heard a great speech from Prof George Mondo Kagonyera, a former chancellor of Makerere University, who said something profound.
Please allow me to paraphrase. ‘Education is not an end in itself but, rather, a door that opens your mind to obtaining information about so many things, so many possibilities, a way of polishing your mind so that you may find your course and work towards it.’
I completely agree. When I hit the streets to hunt down a job, I realized that along with my IT certificates, I had to quickly combine them with a degree in timekeeping and discipline, a degree in public speaking, a degree in integrity, a degree in confidence and the list goes on.
These might all seem trivial but through my time as a trainer, I have seen what a difference it makes to speak to an individual who looks you direct in the eye and answers your question boldly as opposed to the individual who looks down and whispers their answer towards the floor.
When you hear many of the stories shared by human resource managers, it goes something like this; ‘We received five CVs from students who graduated with first-class degrees but the minute they walked in and we asked them to tell us about themselves, that was the beginning of the downfall for the candidate.’
It is very heart-wrenching to have an individual before you who has so much potential but they have only theoretical training and no soft skills. Today, we are looking at entrepreneurship as Uganda’s way out of poverty. Entrepreneurship requires sales and marketing skills, networking skills, empathy, communication skills, integrity, creativity, charisma, proactiveness, even likeability. Today, we have jobs such as influencers coming up.
An obvious example is a couple that visited our famous tourist attraction, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. If you want to know a prime example of an entrepreneur who has combined all these skills to become a multi-millionaire, it is Kim Kardashian.
For a country that has been voted as one of the most entrepreneurial in the world, a country where 87 per cent of graduates are not able to find employment, a country with the second youngest population in the world with 50 per cent under 15 years, a country that is going to expand from 40 million to 80 million in the next 22 years; should we dare to try something new.
Albert Einstein said: “Insanity is when you continue to do something over and over again but expect different results.”
So, now that I have ranted on about what keeps me up at night, I am posed to ask a question. As school curriculums are being revised, should we also have a curriculum for soft skills?
Is it worth a student getting a first-class degree when they lack the confidence to stand up and say their name in front of an audience of five people?
Founder of Coding In Heels