It’s strange how young graduates became vulnerable victims of a life of gloom, not because of personal faults or inabilities, but due to university attended.
I met with a high school friend, in a ceremony two days ago. This was a student, who it was his routine to claim all the awards of highest scorer in all the science subjects, during our time in secondary school. His academic performance, in those days, was so good that our teachers didn’t only liked him so much, but they equally held the opinion that the boy’s academic prowess will fetch him a good career with ease.
But unexpectedly, this has turned out a stalled hope not because the young man derailed from the path of academic excellence while he was in the university. On the contrary, he maintained his enviable records of excellent performance. It was not also due to his inability to secure a job, almost three years after graduation from the university. Instead, he’s one out of many young graduates whose careers have been forced to standstills by forces external to and incomprehensible by them – a typical instance of system breakdown – and are left as wasting talents, to suffer innumerable daily pains occasioned by inability to use their certificates, in a system that prescribes mandatory condition that must be met, before a graduate can work with his or her certificate.
What’s really going on? You may ask. The best answer will be to quote him directly. “I was offered admission into the Chemical Engineering Department of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, Umudike in 2012. Chemical Engineering Department (MOUAU) was introduced in 2011. We were the second set (i.e. 2012 set). I dropped my pen since August, 2017. My department has Full Accreditation. I got my statement of result few months after I graduated. I do not owe the school anything. But up till now, I’ve not served; neither has the first set. A year ago, another set was graduated.”
Does he really sounds like one who knows what’s happening or why he’s suffering? As if two sets are not enough to be subjected to such a painful life experience, another joined last year and more sets will be graduated, but the problem has not been graduated into extinction. The experience of another victim is even more heart rending. I share it in detail below
Tightly holding on to the two hundred naira given to her by her father, twenty-year-old Daniella hurried off to the cyber café. Her mission was clear: go and check your admission status. On reaching the cyber café, she paid to have her details logged into the system to know if she had been offered admission into the department of Electrical and Electronics Engineering.
After about 40 seconds, the page came up with a header “Congratulations Daniella, you have been offered provisional admission into the department of Chemical Engineering for a 5 years programme. She couldn’t hold back her joy as she screamed, quickly picked up her print out and ran home to share the news.
This was the fourth attempt at university admission and Daniella is the only child of her parents. She had made several attempts before now, to get university admission, but all were futile even though she had consistently obtained her scores in her screening examinations. Her parents themselves had given their all to it as she was their only light and hope. This was the only investment they could rely on to pay them great dividends in old age.
The joy at home was profound. Though she was offered a course different from what she had applied for, no one seemed to notice. This was a newly introduced course and she was to be among the first set of students to enroll for it in her university. With this, it was clear to the family that God had finally wiped their tears. But, was this really to be?
The next day, she was given ten thousand naira to go pay for her acceptance of the course. Generating the remita with her name on it was a delight to Daniella. She paid, picked up the receipt and happily went home.
After all necessary screening was done at her department, Daniella settled down to her studies with a goal of finishing above four points. For five adventurous years, she worked her way through school and finally went back home to happy and expectant parents. She finished among the top three students in the department with a CGPA of 4.36.
As the law of the country is, she has to go for a mandatory one-year Youth Service programme before anything else. Now 25 years old Daniella with the rest of her colleagues traveled down to their university and did their manual NYSC registration. That was three years ago and till now, she still awaits her call up letter. The young engineer is now twenty-eight.
The effect of this alone has changed a once happy and contented family to a gloomy, sorrowful home. This scenario played out last year when Daniella’s mother died of an illness that has its root in Daniella’s plight. Constant worry and shame that came from ridicule which neighbours never ceased to shower, resulted in Daniella’s mother becoming hypertensive. As a result of financial challenges, she couldn’t get superior health attention and she lost her life.
Every day, she and her father look on with sadness for the day she will be called up for NYSC. That day does not seem to be near anytime soon. No one at the school remembers or cares about them. The father now a retiree, has challenges providing for his home. Daniella now engages in all sorts of menial jobs in order to support her father. The degree does not seem to count any longer. She regrets spending five years in the university to study. She could have spent only two years to learn a trade that will enable her to take care of her parents. Maybe, her mother wouldn’t have died.
The above story is a clear picture of what is currently being faced by over two hundred graduates of Michael Okpara University of Agriculture Umudike, Abia State. These graduates are spread across several new departments introduced by the university in 2011. Since 2016 when they graduated from the university, they have not been mobilized for NYSC.
The effects of this has brought untold sorrow to the families of these students who on their own, mobilized themselves, went to the university to see the Vice Chancellor Prof Francis Otunta but were denied the opportunity. These parents were asked to apply for an appointment to see the Vice Chancellor which they did. It’s been two months now and still, their application has received no attention. No one cared about the risks they took to travel from different parts of the country to see the VC. They put their lives in line and have reaped no benefit from their sacrifice. The VC has blatantly refused to see either the students or their parents.
The affected students have tried several peaceful ways of getting help but none seems coming around. They were informed that there is a misunderstanding between the School and the Nigerian University Commission (NUC) even though these courses have all been fully accredited by the NUC with the accreditation certificate to prove. On sending a delegation to the NYSC national office in Abuja, the students were informed that NYSC has no hand in the delay. When this information was relayed to the Director of Academic Planning (DAP) Prof A. Echeme, he pointed out that the issue was from the NUC. When the student delegation was sent to the NUC headquarter office in Abuja, they were informed by NUC that their course of study had not been accredited. On return to the university in anger, the DAP was able to show the students the certificates of accreditation.
NUC later agreed to this and requested that a delegation of the VC or any major principal officer of the university should come over to Abuja to rectify the issue. Sadly, up till this date no one knows if this delegate was sent to NUC or not. The whole thing now seems like a circle of lies and conspiracies.
They have lost a lot of opportunities and future plans have all been twisted. Students have been mobilized for NYSC over four times now but for these 200 plus students, nothing of such. More students have been graduated by these departments and the number has risen to above five hundred. Because of NYSC, these ones have been restricted from pursuing the benefits that accrue to all graduates.
As the years pass, their sorrow keeps getting multiplied. With employers giving more preference to employing 25 year old persons into entry-level positions, there simply is no limit to the hardships these young Nigerians are subjected to. What seemed to be a blessing has finally become a source of sorrow in many families. It is now all depression, frustrations, regrets and bitterness for these families. Are these graduates grasses at the mercy of warring elephants? Should they suffer for things they know nothing about? Does their future really count?
Maximum damage has been done already in their lives and career. Those of them that have been waiting for the past three years for national service mobilization, would have to spend at least two more years before they can use their certificates, if they are mobilised for national service this year. That’s more trouble for the category of persons like Daniella who is now 28 years old. She’d be thirty or less after national service, assuming that she gets her call-up this year.
These young Nigerians need help. They don’t deserve what is happening to them. The root cause of their predicaments need to be urgently addressed by the relevant authorities. And it may help their already battered careers if NYSC grants them exemption.