By Adebola Rayo
In recent years, unemployability has become one of the leading causes of unemployment. Yes, you read that right – our youths and graduates, are simply unemployable. A good percentage of people who spent years acquiring degrees in our Nigerian universities come out unable to string correct sentences together or put into practice the basic skills they supposedly acquired.
The situation has been blamed on lack of quality tertiary education, and most of us who studied in public universities for our first degrees would agree that the quality of education is subpar compared to what our counterparts in private universities or universities abroad received.
And why is this? Is it that the lecturers aren’t qualified? Well, they mostly are – when they actually spend time in classes and not on strike. However, when you have twice or thrice the approved number of students in an institution that lacks the necessary infrastructure to make their learning well-rounded, you’re bound to have quite a number of them slip through the cracks.
In Nigeria, we are constantly complaining about the paucity of infrastructure in our institutions, and calling on the government to ‘do something’. Yet, we are not willing to pay the kind of fees that would allow for funds to make a difference.
Recently, students of Lagos State University (LASU) have been complaining about a fee increase from N25,000 to N250,000. The school fees have been N25,000 since 1999 – 15 years ago! They haven’t been adjusted for inflation or for current realities like educational and technological advancements. Yet, the increase has been met with furore, with people calling for a reversal to N25,000.
What is interesting is that the cost of education in private universities in Nigeria is at least twice the current amount, and the cost of education in foreign universities ranges from $2,000 to $20,000 per session, that is between N350,000 and N3,500,000 per session. From this, you can tell that despite the tuition increase, LASU is still offering affordable university education.
So, the questions is: Do we want quality education or do we want cheap education? Do we want well-rounded graduates or do we want half-baked graduates?
How does a reversal to N25,000 ensure that LASU graduates bridge the gap between themselves and their universal counterparts?
A lot of people crying out against the LASU fee hike fail to consider the totality of the situation. Some argue that we do not have an enabling environment like some foreign countries do, where student loans are available to help students put themselves through school.
The downside of those loans is that long after graduating, people are left with huge debts. However, according to the Lagos State Government they have put in place a scholarship scheme to ensure that any citizen of the state who gets admission into LASU but cannot afford it can still get an education.
With that in place, it is sure that anyone who merits a university education will get it.
Nigerians must also accept that universities are not for everyone. Some people’s skillsets and aptitudes are more suited to technical colleges or vocational centres. Such people must be made to see that it is ok to embrace that because they would thrive better with those skills than with a conventional university education.
Too long have we laboured under the assumption that a university education is the sole determiner of a person’s fortunes. Men like Abraham Lincoln, Henry Ford, John Rockefeller, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg have thrived without a university education. When President Yar’Adua was elected into office in 2007, he became the first Nigerian president to hold a university degree.
We must begin to take emotions out of our considerations and do what is best for our children. It starts from realising that we MUST pay for quality or take advantage of alternatives without cutting corners that will continue to leave us with unemployable graduates.
And if we do decide to take the step to enter university then we must accept that quality education comes at a premium.
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