Namibia has 67,000 unemployed graduates

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Selma Ikela

Windhoek-Landing a job has become a highly elusive dream for thousands of university graduates who are struggling to find decent, pensionable and salaried employment.

With the global economic crunch that has impacted government revenue coupled with the government freezing entry-level jobs, employment opportunities are hard to come by in Namibia’s public and private sectors.
Unemployment figures go up yearly with tens of thousands of graduates failing to secure employment despite owning a university qualification.

Currently, Namibia has 67,000 unemployed graduates hoping to get a job in the field they studied for. This was revealed by the deputy director in the Ministry of Higher Education Training and Innovation, Nhlanhla Lupahla, during a public dialogue on perspectives of unemployed graduates held last week.

Lupahla, who was a panellist in the dialogue at a local hotel in Windhoek, said a study was requested by his minister in 2015 out of concern for the fact there is a big number of unemployed graduates.
He also pointed out that underemployment, where a student is employed in a different field to their field of study, was a serious concern considering the government invested money in a student who ends up losing all the knowledge acquired.

The event was organised by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Namibia (FES) in partnership with the Youth Leadership Development Programme Alumni Association (YLDPAA) The organisation said although thousands of students graduate, not all secure employment. The majority of these graduates are youth, hence active and full of energy to participate in the labour market.

One of the graduates struggling to find employment for the past three years is Esther Kambole who graduated with a bachelor degree in public management from the University of Namibia. Kambole described trying to get a job as traumatic and extremely emotional.

“Growing up we were told education is the key to everything. We went to school. We studied and we have the keys in our hands but where are the doors?” noted Kambole, who said for many getting a job has become a dream.

FES researcher Tuyeni Kandume, who presented her findings and recommendations of the study on unemployed graduates, said there is an over-production of graduates in certain fields, leading to some overflow as supply exceeds demand.
Kandume said there has also been a problem of prioritisation as there is concentration in certain areas and neglect in other areas of specialisation that the country needs so dearly.

“One example to illustrate this is that we are still producing more geologists than we need as we neglect the shortage of quantity surveyors, that is why we reconsider decisions and bring back expatriates in this area,” stated Kandume.

There is a mismatch of skills and opportunities, added Kandume.
She said they are informed through research that the graduates produced by Namibian tertiary institutions are often unemployed because the knowledge and skills given to them is not in sync with the demands of the local labour market.

Furthermore, Kandume said tertiary institutions seem not to do some wide consultations capturing all key stakeholders when they develop or review curricula. “For example, we recently had the problem of bioscience that was not recognised by the Health Professions Council of Namibia (HPCNA). This means that this institution was not consulted in the development of this course,” she added.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Labour, Industrial Relations and Employment Creation Bro- Matthew Shinguadja advised students to do background checks on the career they want to study as there are many obstacles to certain courses

“Human resources is one – let us agree the country is saturated in that area. If I have to go to university, I will not pursue that career because we have enough,” he remarked.

Shinguadja added it is important for the government and industry to find out what careers are needed, to inform what is expected in a few years’ time – for example, the mining industry has moved to mining under the sea and no longer drilling on land. He indicated there is a department in the ministry dealing with career guidance, advising students which careers are in the market and what are the chances of getting a job.

Commenting on the report, the director of the programme development unit at the Namibia University of Science and Technology, Dr Colen Tuaundu, said he has observed that research output has a lot of intellectually and factually incorrect statements and a lot of sweeping statements are not statistically answered to.

“It looks like the report was produced from one perspective, a very negative view of the situation of Namibia. There are a lot of things happening in terms of employment in Namibia that we really need to have in this type of research,” stated Tuaundu.

However, he added that a solution to graduates’ unemployment is to infuse entrepreneurship with innovation so that Namibians start producing things. He gave the example of chicken produced in Namibia.

“We ban the import of chicken from South Africa and produce our own chicken but we import the egg from the south and the food that the chickens eat.”

Tuaundu said this is not entrepreneurship and he felt entrepreneurship should be coupled with innovation so that people can start thinking about how they are going to get food for the locally reared commercial chickens.
It was also observed that another issue that does not help matters is that when graduates go for practicals, industry uses them to make tea instead of letting them do their internship and they then don’t acquire the requisite skills.

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