New Telegraph

The Anguish of an Unemployed Nigerian

I was supposed to have written this piece last month when a video made by a frustrated Nigerian youth burning his educational certificates went viral, but for another issue I felt was more pressing. But the import of the action of the man, identified as Alvin Ilenre, burning his original school certificates, including his Bachelor of Arts, secondary school certificate, NYSC certificate, and UTME result paper should not be brushed aside by those in power because of its wider implications for the country.

According to Ilenre, he opted to take the very telling step after all his efforts at toiling to garner an education to give him a bright future had come to naught, as he had been unable to land a decent job 13 years after finishing his National Youth Service! What further irked Ilenre was the fact that he found out that virtually all those in charge of giving him employment were people beneath him educationally. But due to a quirk of fate had now found themselves determining whether he would leave the unemployment market or not.

In the video, Ilenre repeatedly asked the question if all his efforts at going to school from primary to university were worth it. However, in a chat with The Punch recently, Ilenre shed light on the unusual action he took in letting off steam. His words: “I studied History and International Studies at Ajayi Crowther Univer- sity, Oyo, Oyo State.” When asked why he burnt some of his certificates, he replied: “Yes, of course. I burnt my certificates. I burnt them because I was going through some things and I needed to give myself closure.

Some of the certificates I burnt were my university, primary school leaving, and National Youth Service Corps certificates. Also, there were certificates I didn’t burn. I need to state that I’m a minister of God, a trained minister even though I won’t mention my ministry. I didn’t burn the certificates from the ministry, because I was impacted by the grace of God over there. So, I never burnt those. But I burnt the educational certificates that are useless in the country.

Explaining the drastic action he said: “The reason why I burnt the certificates is not far-fetched from the kind of society we are in and a lot of people in the country can relate to these things that we’re talking about here. It is frustrating being in a country where your certificate is not regarded. We’re in a country where a certificate has been bastardised. You know, we behave like we don’t know what’s happening whereas the country is decaying. I have a lot of points but I’ll mention a few.

“First of all, I graduated from school and I wanted to get a job, but someone was telling me to go and bring N2.5 million. Where will I get that from? Where should I get it from? Where will I get N2.5 million to get a job? If I had that money with me wouldn’t I start a business or, maybe, go outside the country, to one African country where electricity is steady, and start a business? You can’t start a business in this country and your millions will not go down the drain.

“Two, I’ve had issues with people, friends, especially female friends, who told me that they were offered jobs on the condition that they would have sexual relationships with the employers or whoever wanted to make it happen. Jobs are not got with credibility, credence, and authenticity again. It is now who can sleep their way to employment. These are things that are happening.” Ilenre further exposed some of the major flaws militating against the progression of the country when he said: “I’m a person who likes doing things the right way, but when you want to do things the right way in this country, you are seen as a fool and are neglected. These are decays in society that we’re not talking about.

Military jobs are by slots; then, what are we talking about? “Private businesses are running out of the country. Even when you want to do business, you’re not even sure because there is no light, no road, and no basic infrastructure. So, that’s the thing. And I’m not the only one on this table; we have a lot of young people on this table who can attest to what I’m talking about. So, that’s part of the reason. I will tell you my mind; let’s shake all the tables and speak truth to power.

“How many of them (politicians) in power truly have (academic) results? You’ll go to school for years in Nigeria – five years, six years, without graduation. However, their children are taken abroad for studies. When they go abroad and finish in time at the same age when you’re still languishing in school, they’ll get jobs in the civil service and get level 12. When you finally graduate after many years, you’ll now struggle to get a government job and when you do, what you’d get is level eight. Let’s look at our educational system and talk to ourselves.”

Sadly, Ilenre’s lamentation is the lamentation of millions of his fellow Nigerians who have found themselves in the same situation of having lofty goals and dreams by going to school, hoping to better themselves and by extension their country. Unfortunately, it is the same nation that they are hoping to contribute their quota to improving that has failed them so spectacularly. Growing up, I remember the refrain by my parents about the need to go to school and get an education to become someone decent in life.

It was the same all over the country, with parents drumming it into the ears of their children that the only way to avoid becoming a truck-pusher or an artisan was to go to school. Consequently, parents bent over backwards, often denying themselves things, to get the funds to send their children to school. It was a thing of joy seeing their children, especially those who managed to go all the way to tertiary institutions, in convocation gowns, when they were graduating.

I can still vividly remember how proud my parents and others were at our graduation from UNN. Sadly, decades after that glorious day, how many parents and graduates are as joyous and hopeful of a bright future with the way the country is heading? Ilenre has voiced the anguish of the present generation – but are our politicians ready to heed the cry?

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