Graduation is the proudest moment in the life of every student. The family proudly watches on while you, beautifully dressed and gowned to look the most intellectual among your graduating class, heroically walk towards the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Aryeetey and other dignitaries, to receive a glorious handshake, as the reward for your years of rigorous academic life is thrust into your hands. The praise, celebrations and once-in-a-lifetime proud and happy family moment begins. Beautiful, isn’t it? But I insist! I am afraid of shaking Professor Aryeetey on my day of graduation. As a matter of fact, thoughts about graduation make me feverish. Now let me cure your perplexity. The handshake from the Vice-Chancellor signifies to me one thing and one thing only: I am ready for the job market. But the question I have always aggressively pondered in my mind is: IS THE JOB MARKET READY FOR ME?
Ever since the new cancer (corruption is the old) of the state called ‘DUMSOR’ redeveloped under the tenure of this government, businesses have been crippled. Retrenchment has become the new fashion in the business world, and none can fault them as they have to stay afloat. If giants in the market such as Coca Cola, Mantrac, Cadbury Ghana, Fan Milk and quite a few others are seriously struggling and laying off workers in their hundreds – some of whom are breadwinners – how much more the man who operates a mill at the corner of a market, or the barber in Mensah Sarbah main hall (best barber on campus, does my punk for me), or the cold store at bush canteen, which we collectively call Small scale and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
Coupled with this cancer is the high cost of doing business. Interest rates are around a whopping 31% while all sorts of taxes have been slapped on businesses. Fuel which is now crucial for already dying businesses because of dumsor sells at a record low on the international market, yet government refuses to reduce fuel prices. Businesses which will provide us jobs are sinking, and sadly, some have already folded up. The environment for business is the exact opposite of congeniality.
The public sector is no different. There is a freeze on government employment except for the health and education sector and in the rare cases a replacement is needed when someone passes away or retires. The frightening bit is the expected retrenchment of some workers in 2017, as part of conditions attached to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement entered into by the government. You can now surmise the unemployment that will be created from now to 2017.
This is where my dread for the Vice-Chancellor’s handshake stems from.
After shaking hands with the Vice-Chancellor, symbolizing the end of my grueling 4-year academic journey, is this the Ghana waiting out there for me? Am I going to roam the streets looking fruitlessly for a job? What opportunities exist for me to establish my own trade, and even if they exist, will this unfriendly business environment empower me to succeed?
You may not fully appreciate my frustrations, maybe because your dad is rich and can definitely pull some strings for you, or you may be on the next available flight immediately after graduation for a better life outside, or perhaps through intense bouts of prayer and fasting, God’s unlimited favor secures you a job. But this population will always be a microscopic few compared to the tens of thousands churned out every year from all tertiary institutions in Ghana. What then becomes of our fate? This is where I become extremely bitter from the very core of my being for such reckless and insensitive management of the country by the government, and for plunging us into such a dire situation.
I totally refuse to be a part of the popular or if you like, the unpopular Unemployed Graduates Association of Ghana, or sit at home with the couch as my office and the remote control as my pen after years of combing the whole of the city fruitlessly looking for a decent job or trying to start a business.
BUT THEN, WHERE ARE THE JOBS?
WHERE ARE THE OPPORTUNITIES?
The writer, Jonathan Asare, is a Level 300 hundred student of the University of Ghana and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org