As the country’s Commander-in-Chief, it was great to see President Paul Kagame gracing Friday’s graduation ceremony of 8,500 students from the University of Rwanda’s six colleges; this particular group is Rwanda’s largest undeployed army. It urgently needs deployment.
I like the fact that Rwandan graduates, unlike their counterparts in the region, don’t throw extravagantly expensive parties to celebrate their graduations.
Let’s face it. These days, unless it is degree in an extremely extraordinary field of study such as Space Science or Neurosurgery, there is nothing much to celebrate about a first college degree.
When I got my first in 2008, a few marks short of a first class degree in Mass Communication, I went back home excited and expected dad to organise a party in my honour; unfortunately, he didn’t share an ounce of my excitement.
He simply thanked me with slight pat on the back and told me in a matter of fact manner that, “your degree is not the first in this house; obviously not going to be the last either. So I am sorry, there is no party for you. I will consider it when you get a second degree.”
At the time, I thought I was within my rights to be angry at dad. But I was to appreciate his attitude, much later. In fact even when I got my second degree in 2014, I didn’t bother to remind him of his pledge.
With my degree certificate, I expected employers to run after me with lucrative offers within my field but months after graduation, I noticed that none of that was happening. Instead, it was me running after employers, reluctant employers.
Two points to note at this point.
You are not the first people to graduate neither are you the last. Secondly, no employer is going to chase after you; instead, you will do the chasing and they will hide from you, most of the time.
Don’t waste money on celebratory house parties because you will need it to fund your job hunting errands in coming months or years, for some of you.
Be nice to your relatives because for the most part, you will be going to them to ask for pocket money to meet some of your needs, just the way it was as a student.
I remember those days.
Transport, airtime, lunch, photo-copying, clothes, shoes…. Occasional, there would be breaks in between to do data entry biraka (short term employment) with NGOs.
Like any other university graduate, I was proud. Many a job, I ignored because of their low salaries, not befitting of my status as a college graduate. I didn’t know that everything has a starting point.
Instead, I would go for the seemingly fashionable jobs but they were quite competitive. One vacancy could attract over a thousand applications and we would all be called for interviews.
In the end, these interviews would become reunion events with former schoolmates. Instead of a job, we would get ourselves lovers whose cost was dependent on the goodwill of our employed relatives. Oh boy!
Keep in mind that, employers don’t really give a damn that you are a degree holder. They have the same attitude as my dad. Your degree is not the first they have seen and turned away or the last...few of them will ‘put respek’ on your name as American rapper Birdman likes to demand.
In my case, I got tired of job hunting and became an activist for youth unemployment. I left the city and went to my hometown where I registered ‘Youth Action for Development’ a community based organization that engaged in mobilizing jobless graduates in my hometown.
At one point, I wrote an open letter in the national local daily urging the President to address youth unemployment.
The message reached the President’s handlers who immediately contacted me; a different story altogether. What is the moral here?
If you find yourself unable to get a job, look for the opportunity in your woes and make yourself useful for a noble cause that helps others.
I realised that as a graduate of Mass Communication, I didn’t have to hunt for a job. All I needed to do is practice what I had spent years learning at college…journalism. This worked for me because I was now armed with a new kind of attitude and knew exactly what I needed.
Albeit having specialised in print journalism at University, I walked into the premises of a local radio station in my town and told them that they needed me on their team. I got the job; as a news anchor and talk-show host.
The money was insignificant, the kind I would have refused months earlier. But it is the opportunity that I valued most; it opened very vital doors for me. So don’t look at the money on offer, look at the opportunity and possibilities it presents. Also, watch your attitude.