Young Ghanaian graduates on survival mode

Ghana has enjoyed a favourable image globally for its political and economic stability in the last few decades. It has seen a significant growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and a burgeoning middle class.

This seeming positive international image is dotted with internal shortfalls in education, health and employment. As the world of work becomes ever competitive globally, education has remained a key pillar in shooting emerging countries like India, Singapore and Malaysia into the core of the league of wealthy nations.

Tertiary education is the vehicle that shapes and transforms a dependable and efficient workforce in any given country. In the case of Ghana, as at April 2018, there were a total of 121 accredited tertiary institutions that train mostly young people in diverse academic and professional disciplines.

Each year, tens of thousands of young people graduate from the tertiary institutions and offer a mandatory one year national service in both the public and private sector. For many, this is the first ever work experience they gain and enjoy a monthly allowance from the government – the National Service Scheme.

After the national service is over, the reality of gainful employment dawns on graduates. Estimates from the Institute of Statistical, Social and Economic Research (ISSER) of the University of Ghana revealed in 2017 that only 10 percent of graduates get jobs a year after graduation. The remaining 90 percent whose dream of a decent job to perhaps recoup the significant investments their families made and earn some pride in their communities are left in a long term uncertainty. They are left with no option but to switch to survival mode.

Eric Acheampong, a 26 year old graduate who studied computer science at the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology has not landed a job in line with his area of study since he graduated in 2016.

“I did my national service at the Electricity Company of Ghana (ECG). It is quite unfortunate that after my national service, I was not employed as a staff. So I resolved to do this shoe business where I go to the various shoe shops and get foot wears and sell it to people I know. I still hope to get a job at ECG now PDS,” he stated.

Maame Serwaa who graduated from the University of Cape Coast in 2017 resorted to bead making after several failed job applications. “I started bead making in 2018. This isn’t what I want but my current situation pushed me into it to keep me occupied and to fetch me something to put on the table. The bead work business is quite unstable,” she lamented.

As for Andrew Coblah, a 31 year old man who completed his tertiary education in 2011, he has not found the government job that he always wanted. In order to survive the 8 years of joblessness, he has been travelling to Togo to import trousers and other clothing to sell to friends and professionals in different organisations in Accra. He has a strong word for politicians. “For me, I have realized politicians are the same. The problem is not going to change. I wish government will do something about the situation for the youth to gain decent employment.”

Many educationists and education activists have advocated for a shift in the approach of education in Ghana that builds more practical and problem-solving skills in young people to make them useful to society immediately after school. If this shift is not deliberately made across all educational institutions in Ghana, the country will continue to churn out more hopelessness today and in the future. Mental health cases such as depression will be rampant among the young generation. Many more young people may consider fraud, commercial sex work and other crimes as the only alternative to earn a decent income.

Grace Ekua Amoako