I had the opportunity of meeting and interacting with some young school leavers, who have finished their secondary school education but are yet to gain admission into higher schools of learning. Some of these young ones wrote their SSCE this year while the others sat for theirs last year and some two years ago. Two of these people didn’t sit for JAMB this year (they were among those that just finished secondary school this year) but the rest did and were hoping for something good to happen.
The thing I noticed about these young men and women I’m talking about here is that most of them do not have anything they are doing to keep themselves occupied as they wait for the next stage in their academic pursuit. I was, however, impressed with the ones that accompany their parents and other relatives to carryout some business transactions. But I didn’t see any of them that was learning a skill or working somewhere for a pay.
I also noticed that these young men and women are not sure of what they want to study in the university. All they wanted was to ‘enter school’ and move away from home. I wasn’t so happy about this because I could only see history repeating itself – people going to school to get certificates that spelt ‘degree’ without knowing what to do with them.
I made out time to have a heart-to-heart talk with some of them. I found out that there are those that have businesses they want to go into, while some have skills they want to learn. But they are afraid of voicing out their desires to their parents. For example there is one that wanted to learn tailoring as he awaits the admission ‘lists’ but he always accompanies his father to his shop, where he sells cements and other building materials. He was more like the sales boy that doesn’t earn a salary. Another one wants to learn how to install satellite dish but he was asked to stay home and study for post-UTME. The one that tears my heart the most are those that can’t say what they want. For this group, JAMB and university admission is the only way out, unless their parents decide on something else.
So, I kept asking myself a lot of questions. What if JAMB and Post-UTME decide against these young ones’ dreams of entering a higher institution this year? What will be their plans till next JAMB and Post-UTME screening? Will they continue to hover around the streets till they ‘make it’ into the university? Why hasn’t the federal government decided on how to keep these young ones occupied till they decide on what next to do?
What of the parents? Till when will they understand the importance of skill-acquisition? When parents start allowing their children to acquire the skills they (the children) want, not the one the parents want.
But I want to ask, if parents will not voluntarily let their children go for trainings on entrepreneurship and skills acquisition, can’t they be mandated by the law to do so? Is it impossible to mandate these secondary school leavers to have a compulsory one-year skill acquisition programme before being allowed to sit for JAMB examination? I mean, if the FG can mandate graduates to carry out a one-year NYSC programme, it can also mandate secondary school leavers to carry out a one-year industrial training, or something like that, before they are allowed to sit for JAMB.
This may sound outrageous but it is worth looking into. However, I believe my reasons can explain it better. Some of the advantages of this programme, if adopted, include:
a. This type of programme can expose these young school leavers to the different occupations within the country (this information is denied to most Nigerians until they find themselves in the labour market). This will help them to choose the courses they will study in the higher institution based on what they want to do when they graduate. In other words, they will go for further studies in their areas of interest, and not just go into the university to acquire a certificate.
b. This programme can be planned in such a way that it will keep these young men and women busy until they succeed in gaining admission into higher institutions or are matured enough to start their own businesses. We all know what happens to ideal minds. Besides, keeping them busy will save them from frustration and depression that may accompany idleness.
c. I believe that the capture them young adage applies here too. A lot of talents are wasting in Nigeria because they weren’t harnessed at the right time. If a programme like this comes up and these youths were exposed to different professions, they can go to the areas they are good in. If they find out that they don’t like what they chose, they should be allowed to change it until they find what they love doing.
d. Most Nigerian youths knew what life after school is during their NYSC, or even after it. If I am asked, I’ll say that we don’t have to wait till that period to teach these young ones what life in the business and corporate worlds is like. They will use that period to learn how to be good employees and entrepreneurs. This means that the popular apprenticeship system can finally be utilised by the government to raise future entrepreneurs and corporate men.
e. The approved age for university admission during our days was 18 years. But today, because children are being pushed out of secondary schools early, we are beginning to see underage undergraduates. Of course I know that they may be doing well academically, but is it wise for someone to be in the university, a place for adults, at the age of 15? Anyway, I believe that if this compulsory industrial attachment programme is adopted, these children will be matured enough to go into higher institutions, which is a place meant for the intellectually, emotionally, mentally and socially matured.
Anyway, our job as citizens is to suggest, and that of the government is to apply. Someone on a television programme on Saturday accused the Nigerian masses of not bringing up ideas that the government can work with. I don’t believe that to be true anyway because if there is anything Nigerians loves doing, it is sending ideas upon ideas out to the government. Let the government think of ways Nigerian youths can be made productive before they all run out of the country.