Despite government’s commitment to ensure graduates are absorbed into the job market, dozens of unemployed graduates took to the streets yesterday to air their frustrations at being jobless after many years of sacrifice, sleepless nights and huge amounts of money spent on getting an academic qualification.
At least 26 percent of graduates who finish their tertiary education end up unemployed, a tracer study conducted by the National Council of Higher Education (NCHE) in 2011 revealed.
The tracer study, which covered graduates from the University of Namibia (Unam) and University of Science and Technology (NUST), states that 11.7 percent of graduates from Unam who have completed their respective courses have not landed any job, while 14.4 percent from NUST have not found employment in the fields of public administration, social security, tourism and other commercial sectors.
According to the study, the factors that have the highest effect on unemployment among graduates range from the chosen field of study to personality, grades obtained for the degree, theme of the thesis, scope of subjects and the graduate’s area of specialization.
NCHE will as of October conduct other tracer studies, among others, to help provide information on the speed at which university graduates acquire jobs and the degree to which they are prepared for the high-skilled job market.
Wearing their graduation gowns, graduates from various local institutions congregated yesterday from as early as 06h00 to complain that they need to be absorbed into the labour market.
They complained that government’s directive to freeze about 25 000 vacant posts in the civil service has severely affected their chances of finding a job.
According to them, their action has nothing to do with politics but was meant to bring their plight to light, citing poverty and hunger.
In April, Prime Minister Saara Kuugongelwa-Amadhila expressed government’s commitment to ensure graduates in the country are absorbed into the labour market.
At the time, Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said an ad-hoc ministerial committee was recently established to investigate barriers to graduates finding suitable jobs and to facilitate the absorption of graduates in the labour market.
The committee is also set to investigate issues of employers requiring candidates to have experience on top of the required academic qualifications.
“The committee has broad terms of reference including, among others, to make recommendations on providing exposure to graduates through internship, job attachment and cadetship before entering the labour market,” Kuugongelwa-Amadhila said.
Most of the unemployed graduates had studied at Unam, NUST, the International University of Management (IUM), College of the Arts (COTA) and the Namibia Institute of Bankers (IOB).
Some graduates said they are government loan-holders, hence they need jobs to be able to repay their loans.
One of the organisers of the initiative, former student representative council president at IOB, Simpson Nangolo, said they find it difficult to be absorbed into the labour market as they lack the years of experience required by employers.
They claim that the longer they are unemployed the more difficult it becomes to retain the knowledge they acquired at university.
“We are also responding to the call of President Hage Geingob when he said ‘no one should feel let out’. The placards we carried show signs of symbolism – this was not a picketing as some people indicated on social networks. It was a symbolism to show what we can do to improve our social welfare,” Nangolo spoke on behalf of fellow unemployed graduates.
Kuugongelwa-Amadhila at the time discouraged graduates from flocking to Windhoek in search of jobs, saying that rural areas and poor and neglected communities also need the skills that graduates have acquired.
“Therefore, start small and serve your communities through local job opportunities, even though these may not be on the level that you hoped for, but at least it is a beginning,” she said.
While there may be fewer available jobs as a result of the ongoing lacklustre performance of the global and local economies, the prime minister advised graduates to be observant for new opportunities and avenues.
The graduates said education is a key to success, but at the end it “becomes a lock” because of the hardships they endure after leaving university or college.
Some said they have resorted to unwanted activities such as prostitution and crime to survive. They are demanding that industrial attachment, internship and cadetship be accorded all graduates, so that they can be exposed to a work environment and ethics to help them cope in real-life situations.
“The initiative was done today to awaken unemployed and unemployed graduates to come on board and address issues affecting them. It was just a starting point,” he said.
The graduates called on the private sector to assist government in its corporate social responsibility to make them marketable and employable, saying they not only want to be employed but want to create employment for others as well.