Thursday, October 22, 2020

The youth are Botswana’s future ÔÇô who are you kidding?

Botswana’s unemployment crisis has thousands of faces, but it is the young ones that stick to memory.

There are those unemployed female graduates who have been reduced to smutty eight digits traded on cellular phones of lascivious louts au courant that their unchaste exploits are only one phone call and a few Pula’s away.

Then there are hundreds of unemployed graduate prudes who are waiting tables, scrubbing floors, tending gardens ÔÇô doing anything just to earn a living. Hundreds more are just sitting home waiting for that telephone call inviting them for a job interview. The call hardly ever comes. These are the trials of coming of age of a generation that is often referred to as the future. Ironically, this generation does not know how it feels to be secure in a job and confident about the future.

These are young men and women who’ve made all the right choices, burnt the midnight oil and not succumbed to drugs or alcohol or apathy. These are the kids who’ve believed in the power of hard work. They’ve shown up to school every day and done their homework every night. Now this generation which has been brought up on hope has been reduced to sad little bubbles of whine and gripe.

At list half a dozen university students are currently interning with the Sunday Standard and should be preparing to celebrate their graduation from college later in the year. Instead, most are worried about what they are going to be doing with their lives after their internship. They are alumni’s of the class of 2018, the at least 10th or so successive wave of students to enter into a stubbornly weak Botswana labor marketÔÇömarked by high unemployment, a large number of part-time workers, and many who have given up the hunt for jobs. They are competing with more than ten other groups of graduates going back to before 2008, many of whom are still struggling to get a job or find full-time work.

Unemployment in the country remains high, for example, in 2010 it stood at 17.8%, statistics further show that the youth and female unemployment rates in Botswana have been persistently higher than the national unemployment statistics (BOCCIM, 2012).

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. 

“A lot of students migrate from small rural villages and towns to the larger urban centres to attend university with the hopes that after graduating finding employment would be rather easy, a substantial number of the students can be categorised under first generation as they are the first ones to enter university. Research suggests that these students mostly graduate without certain employability skills and competencies required in the job market. Compared to second, third and even fourth generation university students, first generation students are likely to lack professional mentors who can point them in the right direction with regards to accessing professional networks that could assist them in being placed in professional attachments and internships. It is Botswana’s tertiary education system’s key responsibility to meet the needs of these students who are essentially expected to perform in an increasingly, diversified, globalized, and knowledge-based labour market (Government of Botswana: Ministry of Education & Skills Development, 2008).

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