Ghana's ticking unemployment time bombBy FRANCIS KOKUTSE in Accra | Wednesday, April 6 2011 at 09:53
Ghana's unemployment problem is increasingly looking to be a time bomb as universities and tertiary institutions annually churn out thousands of graduates who cannot find job placements.
Frustration is a by-word for hundreds of thousands of Ghanaian hopefuls who find that the job market choked or that their qualifications do not reflect industry requirements.
And with no plan in sight to arrest a situation that is mirrored in dozens of other countries in Africa, graduates are desperately short of options, with some even taking to crime to survive.
"It has also contributed to the rapid influx of many youths from other parts of the country to the major cities like Kumasi, Takoradi and Accra. It is not astonishing that the nation is currently grappling with the unfortunate situation of street hawkers, prostitution, armed robbery and other social vices," Mr Divine Nkrumah, a spokesman for the newly-formed Unemployment Graduates Association of Ghana (UGAG) told the Africa Review.
Mr Nkrumah says the UGAG has so far registered some 3,500 graduates, with a potential for more as some 68,000 graduates are produced annually by the country's tertiary institutions. He further estimates that there are about 600,000 unemployed graduates in Ghana.
"It is our affirmed aim to ensure that all unemployed gradates in Ghana become members so that the plight of the unemployed graduate and all youth left high and dry can be pursued cohesively for the betterment (sic) of our dear nation," he said.
The government says there are no figures to determine the exact number of unemployed graduates. "We are aware of the problem but we are constrained in the ministry as we do not have the personnel to undertake the task of building the statistics to determine the level of unemployment among the graduates that we produce," said Employment and Social Welfare minister, Enoch Mensah.
Mr Mensah attributed the situation to the lack of coordination between universities and industry. "There has not been any effort by academia to involve industry in researching into exactly which areas that required what manpower. As a result, we are just producing graduates without looking at what areas that they must be sent to,” he said.
His position is widely acknowledged yet over the years nothing seems to have been done to find a solution to the problem.
"We can only blame the government whom we believe is not putting in place the necessary mechanism to enable companies to operate in a such way so as to generate jobs to enable people get the required employment,” said Mr Nkrumah against this background.
Some academics agree with Mr Nkrumah. The vice-chancellor of the University of Education, Winneba (UEW), Prof Akwasi Asabre-Ameyaw said the institution graduates some 4,000 students every year, and out of these number it is known that many of them do not get any form of employment.
"The growing number of unemployed graduates in itself is a danger to the nation because the devil finds jobs for the idle hands," he added.
There are also those who think that the problem could be solved if tackled in a systematic way. Prof Olugbemiro Jegede, the secretary general of the Association of African Universities says that graduate unemployment is not just a Ghanaian problem but a continental one.
"Every university must work on a strategy on the number of people required for the job market,” he said, terming the existing curricula of the universities archaic and not meeting modern needs.
"These curricula are old and are producing people who do not fit the system. It shows that the Ivory Towers are not listening to the people,” he added.
Profe Jegede said poor training in universities has brought about a situation where there is always the need to retrain graduates to make them fit the industries that they find themselves, and this is a waste of time and valuable resources.
"The time has come for the private sector to be involved in the training of graduates so that those that come out of the universities are those that the job market requires.
"What is happening now is that most of the graduates cannot function in the international arena because we have been insular,” he said.
In such an unemployment situation, the likes of Mr Nkrumah could be forgiven for losing hope of ever getting any form of employment.
But Prof Jegede remains optimistic. "Things must change because l am hopeful that it will happen.” But is not sure when. "It may take time."
In the meantime, Mr Nkrumah thinks that the “government should not just sit down but must be seen to be solving the problem in order to make university education meaningful."
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