Posted by / Tuesday 23 January 2018 / No comments

English-speaking West African degrees, now to the dogs?

By Austin Parker
A few decades ago, university education in West Africa was provided mainly by the governments of the respective countries. As a consequence, access was limited to the few privileged ones who could make the cut off point, who were really connected and probably, the children of some staffs of the universities concerned, through protocol allocations. Today, English-speaking West Africa is witnessing an unparalleled improvement in access to higher education. Many universities have been opened and have been accredited to run programmes in various fields of study.  

Another phenomenon, which has added a new dimension to university education in English-speaking West Africa, is Private universities. They have trended a path which was hitherto unknown. Until the entry of private universities, there were no flexible hours such as organizing lectures in the evenings and during weekends to cater for workers who might want to further their education but are constrained by their work schedules. The Public Universities, not wanting to be muzzled out of the market lived up to the competition by introducing distance learning degrees and sandwich courses as well.

These universities have churned out and continue to churn out graduates into the streets of the individual countries. The result is that, over the years, because the respective governments have not been able to adopt policies that could absorb these graduates, and because the enabling environment was not created for the private businessmen/women to create more jobs, a lot of the graduates have remained jobless many years after school.
Teacher, Education, Educator, Reading
In the English West African countries where the Private Universities outnumber the Public Universities, there is a further fear that their proliferation has diminished the quality in higher education. It is argued that the quest to go into the provision of private university education is largely fueled by the desire to make profit. For that simple reason, the motivation for profit maximization could influence the players in the industry to sacrifice quality for profit. Therefore, improved access to university education is detrimental to English-speaking West Africa.

The protracted civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone, is argued to have created a deep crater in the provision of university education. Even in these countries, much has gone under the bridge after the war and normalcy has either returned or is returning. Private Universities have emerged and are also churning out graduates every year. They even have the added disadvantage of the fact that the recovery efforts of the succeeding governments after the wars have not taken them completely out of the woods. So jobs are not readily available for all graduates that are minted from the universities every year.

The fears that are raised above are not completely baseless. There is no way a rapid change in any sphere of life can be free of issues. The problem of graduate unemployment in English-speaking West Africa, where thousands upon thousands of graduates are poured into the streets every year to look for jobs that are almost non-existent is a huge problem to worry about. Secondly there is a widely held view that, to a great extent, a country is as good as the Universities that produce her future leaders. This being so, anyone would want to question any developments that could throw degrees awarded by universities in English-speaking West Africa to the dogs.

All is not however gloom. One of the greatest assets of any nation is its people. Through education and job training, the aptitude of all of the people can be improved, and continually refined. We must therefore embrace any opportunity to improve the human capital of the nations, no matter how negligible.  There is a lot to gain as a nation in West Africa if the training of our human resource goes beyond high the school level.  Though this might be just a drop in the Ocean, we can still argue that the universities, so established, also provide employment to some sections of the society. This is because, the universities that are proliferated need both academic and administrative staff to keep them running. Finally research has shown that the developmental challenges and the kinds and number of manpower needed in West Africa are very huge. Therefore, the number of graduates that are produced annually is highly inadequate.  

Library, La Trobe, Study, Students, Row
For all young people who are entering university, a few things are worth noting however. Yes, the world has grown more competitive. Yes, jobs will not be waiting to welcome you once you walk out the gates of a university waving a brand new degree, but when employers go into the labour market; their shopping lists include certain qualities which they want to see in prospective hirelings. They look, for example, for people who are proactive and resourceful, people who have drive, self-reliance, and are willing to learn. They shop for people with good oral communication and presentation skills, the ability to prioritize, ability to solve real problems, people who are flexible, loyal and results oriented. They look closely at people with ICT skills and knowledge of additional foreign languages (French, Spanish and Chinese, Arabic among the most relevant). This cuts across all sectors.

 As a student in the university or in the senior secondary school about to enter the university or aspiring to enter, you need to develop the qualities mentioned about while you are schooling, especially in the university. When you do this, your prospects in the job market would not be as bad as people would want you to believe. 

One of the ways of getting ahead of your peers is to read. When you read you learn in a matter of days what someone studied and researched and perhaps tested over several years.

Do not throw your hands in the air, when you put your head to it, success is guaranteed.


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