Saturday, July 11, 2020

Botswana’s future lost in a quarter life crisis

BY MPHO KUHLMANN

Between pounding the pavement looking for a job and waiting patiently at home for a phone call inviting then to a job interview, thousands of Batswana youth are going through a period ofpsychological stress which has added a new  phrase to the mental health lexicon: quarter life crisis.

This is described as an overwhelming sense that you need to have your career and life figured several years post-graduation, but are still facing a lot of instability and uncertainty in your life.

A research paper by University of Botswana Lecturers Mpho Pheko and kaelo Molefhe – Addressing employability challenges: a framework for improving the employability of graduates in Botswana revealed that on average, graduates made at least thirteen contacts before getting their first employment. The findings from the study further revealed that graduates had to wait a minimum of 4 to 6 months before getting their first employment. The research further indicated that employment among the youth and graduates in Botswana lags behind than that of other economies with similar income levels.

“It has come to the realisation that, nearly two-thirds of the unemployed in Botswana are under the age of 30 making it quite evident that Botswana’s unemployment problem is mostly a youth unemployment problem and although there are other factors besides education that affect youth unemployment, the level of youth unemployment in the country indicates that education is not sufficiently preparing school leavers for the world of work ÔÇô in terms of skills, attitudes and/or expectations and for this reason educational providers are commonly blamed for creating the ‘unemployable graduate.”

The research revealed another phenomenon that is part of the graduate unemployment problem in Botswana; the broken dreams of first generation students. “Most first generation students decide to apply to college to meet the requirements of their preferred profession, but unlike students whose parents earned a degree, they often see college as way to bring honour to their families”, states the research paper.”

I has emerged that 69% of first generation students went to college to help their families compared to the 39% whose parents have a degree. “In Botswana, many family units are highly dependent on the income of a first-generation university/college graduate, leading to disappointments when their children find it difficult to find employment upon graduation”, states the report. 

The transition from childhood to adulthoodÔÇöfrom school to the world beyondÔÇöcomes as a jolt for which many of today’s twenty-something’s simply are not prepared. The pressure to succeed has since been immense; the quarter life crisis poses enough of a threat to the well-being of many graduates however well-adjusted they may be. The world is suddenly unfamiliar as graduates come to realize that four or more years of higher education have hardly prepared them for the decisions they will have to make and the ways in which they will have to learn to support themselves.

egardless of their levels of self-esteem, confidence, and overall well-being, young people are particularly vulnerable to doubts. They doubt their decisions, their abilities, their readiness, their past, present, and future, but most of all, they doubt themselves. The twenties comprise a period of intense questioning, of introspection and self-development that young adults often feel they are not ready for. The questions can range from seemingly trivial choices “Should I really have spent that money last night? to overwhelming decisions like “When is the right time for me to start a family?”

Dr Sethunya Mosime, senior Sociology at the University Of Botswana says millenials experience the highest level of stress than any other generation, I think suggesting a need for more conversation surrounding mental health and the pressure facing recent graduates is important. The situation also creates room for unhealthy comparisons to other recent graduates, many of whom post seemingly high-achieving photos of their lives on Facebook and Instagram. Recent studies suggest social media feeds feelings of envy and anxiety. Although there are some pretty big challenges facing young people in their twenties and early thirties, they shouldn’t lose sight of the bigger picture. The quarter-life crisis is temporary; little by little, they work through the frustration, anxiety, and uncertainty to come out more confident and capable than before.

Kgotso Sabokone is a young adult that works at Nandos Restaurant in Gaborone. “I graduated not too long ago and since then it hasn’t been easy finding a proper job in a field which I studied for. I was ashamed that I didn’t have a full-time job right after varsity, and that shame made me hesitant to spend time with peers who I thought had brighter futures. I consistently tried to avoid people, and I would ignore messages on my phone or on group chats to avoid any conversation about the future. I can honestly say I’m going through a quarter life crisis myself where the future looks bleak. People assume that just because you have a degree, you’re set and you’re going to get a job right after college. Graduates often feel pressured by relatives to secure a job, particularly parents, even if it doesn’t help them gain experience in their desired career field.”

Dineo Kanokang is a recent graduate from the University of Botswana; she is currently unemployed but searching. “Life can be tough and confusing for us millenials. We spend our younger years wishing to taste the sweet, sweet freedom that comes from being able to be the boss of our life and make our own decisions.  And then we spend our older years, grumbling about how we wish we had the delicious freedom that goes along with being young: Many young people are pushing back major milestones, some are waiting longer to get married and buy homes because of financial restrictions. We are facing debt levels and living expenses that far exceed what was faced in the generation before us. As a generation, we are collectively coping with the reality that our twenties simply won’t play out the way we thought they were supposed to.”

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Sunday Standard July 5 – 11

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of July 5 - 11, 2020.