It is every child’s dream to go to university, perform well in their chosen fields, graduate summa cum laude and ultimately land the job of their dreams.
Sadly, many colleges and universities churn out thousands of graduates every year but with no prospects of securing employment. Because of sluggish economic growth, many companies are no longer hiring, which results in many of our fresh faced graduates roaming the streets with no jobs.
Thato* graduated from the University of Botswana in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree and a 3.9 GPA. Seven years after graduation she is still a teacher’s aide at one of the prestigious schools in Gaborone.
After a series of failed attempts at finding proper clerical work Thato found herself doing odd jobs with no permanent contracts, benefits or security./
“I tried to apply for a Post Graduate Diploma in Education, but the Department of Student Placement had stopped awarding scholarships for the course; and my parents were not in a position to pay for my tuition. So I had to rough it out with my under graduate.”
For Thato the worst was having to look to her parents for essentials like toiletries, air time and even a good pair of shoes when her meagre earnings ran out. She however considers herself extremely lucky to have had working parents.
“It could have been worse considering that both my parents have a steady income and were able to take care of me. There are others from less fortunate backgrounds who were immediately saddled with the responsibility of being sole bread winners after graduation.”
Family gatherings are also taunting. Thato revealed how she loathed those unscrupulous aunties who would constantly ask her when she is getting a proper job. These words cut so deep because Thato felt she was being abused.
“I did not spend my time lounging at home sponging off my parents. I tried my best and I am still trying to make it.”
The incessant comparison to her over achieving friends and family also did not help Thato’s situation at all. Om various occasions she cried herself to sleep asking for some kind of divine intervention to get her out of the rut she was in.
“I found myself dodging former school mates on the streets. It would be a Tuesday afternoon and I would be in my jeans and canvasses running into an old friend in a tailor made suit paired with 9 inch stilettos probably walking to her fancy sports car from an important business meeting. That just broke my heart,” she says not looking at me but rather past me as if she was in a twilight zone having to dredge painful ordeals. And if by chance she did run into them she would awkwardly explain that she was in between jobs and hadn’t really found what she was looking for.
If looks could kill I wouldn’t be alive to tell Thato’s story from the ominous look she gave me when I enquired if she had tried to utilize the existing youth assistance programs offered by government. “I probably have the business prowess of a gnat, not everyone was made to excel in business and I do not have any illusions about my abilities,” she explained.
Thato has since learnt to manage her limited finances and is renting a tiny apartment in the outskirts of town and she remains hopeful that one day she will land her dream job.
Sadly Thato’s story is not an isolated incident; many graduates face the same torments of escalating unemployment. A qualification does not guarantee prosperity and the fact that with the mushrooming of universities and colleges one cannot swing a cat and not hit a degree and diploma holder makes it that much harder for them to get jobs.