The problem of graduate unemployment in Ghana has been making headlines in Ghanaian news media, both the print and the non-print for quite some time now. The long period for which this problem has lingered on seem to suggest that it is insurmountable. This thinking has become even more profound because little is being done to remedy the situation. Politicians over the years have continuously offered empty promises on providing an antidote to this problem. The failure to provide remedy to graduate unemployment in the country has stemmed primarily from the fact that, those who have committed themselves to salvaging the situation if there are any at all have totally made the wrong diagnosis of the situation and have consequently provided the wrong prescriptions. The result of this failure is that graduate unemployment in Ghana has gradually become endemic. Contrary to the thinking that governments’ failure to create more jobs in the country is the sole reason for the high rate of graduate unemployment, I think that the institutions that have been mandated to train these graduates for the job market have also played a huge role in denying the graduates they train the opportunity to be employed.
Currently, there are close to about six public universities mandated to train the human resource so much needed for the development of this country. Aside these public universities are a number of polytechnics and private universities who have all being accredited to complement the efforts of the publicly funded universities in training the youth of this country. Ultimately, any Ghanaian youth who find himself or herself in any of these institutions expects to land him or herself a well paid job after four or less years of training. They however end up in disillusionment because the so called well paid job never exists in the country. The few that exist are already full. They therefore tend to vent their frustration on the government of the day. Folks, the problem is not so much with the government, it also has to do with our training institutions! If we have any qualms let us raise it at them too.
Ghana’s education since independence has continued to be predicated on the colonial style of education where people were trained primarily to work as clerks and attendants in colonial institutions. Thus the focus of educationist have not being to train people who can innovate, create, invent and more importantly employ themselves when there is the need to instead of relying on government or some one else to employ them. Universities and other institutions of higher education in the country parades and teaches an array of courses ranging from archeology to zoology. However the approach that is adopted in teaching these courses leaves much to be desired. The theoretical content of the courses demands that students ‘chew’ and ‘pour’ what they are taught in their lecture rooms at examination halls. I am afraid to state that this trend cut across our educational system right from Kindergarten to the highest level. The consequence of such ‘chew’ and ‘pour’ approach to teaching and learning has produced graduates who lack in analytical and innovative thinking which is much needed in the job market and are thus rendered less useful.
It is interesting how our educational experts who are tasked with the responsibility educating and structuring our educational curricula are quick to point accusing fingers at government for the short falls in our educational system when they themselves have done very little to salvage the situation. The University of Ghana, the premier university in the country run courses from archeology to botany. But perhaps with the exception of the medical students who by the nature of their course are given hands-on practical training, the rest are all trained perhaps to pass exams and leave the confines of the University for others to enter. They train the largest number of political scientist and yet we have an array of political problems begging for solutions. The simple reason is that students are trained to use political jargons and quote philosophies, and not how to relate these jargons and philosophies to practical political problems. Consequently, when it comes to providing practical political solutions to political problems, they have little or no idea. Can this be the reason for our failing political system? In the same vain, historians are trained to memorize historical facts with little or no ability to relate their facts to contemporary problems and provide answers to nagging questions that has its roots engrained in history, and this apply to almost all other courses that are taught at the university and other universities across the length and breadth of the country.
The situation is even worse with the so called sciences. In spite of government’s call to our educational institutions to endeavor to provide sound technological education, it seems the call has fallen on deaf ears. Otherwise how can we explain the inability of our so called science students from whom much is expected to produce even a common electric heater. At best, a mechanical student from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology can explain how a car or any mechanical device functions, but can hardly fit a loosed nut or bolt of the same device. If this embarrassing situation is not a function of the ‘chew’ and ‘pour’ nature of our education, how else can we explain it? Yes governments have failed to provide a clear cut direction for our education, the consequence of which is the myriad of problems we have with our educational system. But this does not also prevent our educationist from restructuring and packaging our courses to reflect the needs of the students they train and the society for which they are trained. What use is an educational training that denies its participants the ability to function properly in society and to contribute meaningfully to the growth of that society? Governments will promise to provide remedy to graduate unemployment, but not until our educational system has been restructured to meet the needs of the individuals who are trained and the society for which they are trained to function in, graduate unemployment will continue to persist and perhaps become a major disincentive to receiving formal education if it has not already become.
My humble proposal is that the content of the courses that are taught in our universities, polytechnics and other institutions of higher learning should be redesigned to provide as much practical training as theoretical. Teaching of courses that would not bring immediate benefit to the country and whose job prospects in the country are non existent should be suspended. Much attention should be devoted to training agricultural oriented technicians and officers to provide support for the agricultural sector which is the life-line of the country’s economy and hands-on practical entrepreneurial training should be incorporated into our educational system from the lowest to the highest level. Again, the focus of our education should be redefined to emphasize the training of creative, innovative and critical thinkers and to de-emphasize preparing people to pass examination. This way we are more likely to produce graduates who will have the ability to search for solutions to societal problems and hence create employment for themselves. Is it not common knowledge that the all time big entrepreneurs of this world are people who identified societal problems and provided solutions to them? There are so many problems in this country. What is left to be done is to train people who can identify these problems and provide solutions to them and people who are afflicted with these problems will be ever ready to patronize their services. This way graduate unemployment will be a thing of the past.