Friday was graduation day at the Kigali Institute of Education. Other Universities will also be holding their graduation ceremonies over the next couple of weeks.
Newly graduated young people and their families will be celebrating, with the view that this is a great achievement in their life time. But is there still need to celebrate this ritual for the many young people being churned out by the education system?
After spending a lot of money celebrating such an accomplishment, many will then hit the streets looking for jobs that in most cases are not readily available. In fact they will find a sizeable group of those who graduated before them, still on the streets looking for jobs.
In Rwanda, most students spend four years in University doing undergraduate work. I have over the past two years noted that Rwandan University students, especially those in Kigali, tend to look for jobs and start working when they are still in school.
These ones tend to face few problems when going about the business of looking for employment. But this is just a small proportion of the whole group.
Although the problem of idle graduates is not so widespread in Rwanda compared to other East African countries, it is still there nevertheless.
And at the same time, one realizes that the job market is not expanding in proportion to those looking for employment. The government that has traditionally been the major employer has not expanded layers of administration to absorb more people.
It is even becoming more fashionable in many governments that are seen as progressive, to have a lean public administration and state agencies. The implication is that few people will find employment in the public service.
The private sector is the place to look out for good and rewarding employment. Foreign Direct Investment in Rwanda is ever increasing and this sector has also absorbed a good number of educated young people.
In fact, this growing private sector of both local and international businesses is the future of Rwanda. It is where young people are going to build their careers and make a name or reputation for themselves in the corporate world.
It is no longer guaranteed and neither is it fashionable for people to develop their careers through government service. The private sector is the place to be these days.
But as foreign and local businesses grow and try to absorb young people into the ranks of the corporate world, are Rwandan graduates up to the task of seizing the opportunities and proving their worth in this new “order”?
When one takes a casual look at the many banks and other corporate institutions that have expanded regionally, you notice that many senior and mid level executive positions are occupied by foreigners.
In the East African region, it is Kenyans who lead in this area of corporate management. How did this come about? Why are Kenyans beating Ugandans, Rwandans and Tanzanians in service areas like banking, hotel management etc.
Apparently, Kenyans started ahead of the rest. We will recall that this has a lot to do with the direction taken by different governments after independence.
Kenya, unlike the rest adopted the western style capitalism or free market economy from the word go and developed most of its industries from a private sector profit oriented perspective. Others went into nationalization and state parastatals were run on the basis of “to whom it may concern”.
This was because there was no private gain and hence little incentive to make them profitable. The Kenyans thus early on emphasized the business aspect of education with a private sector mentality.
For many young people graduation is a sort of a cross road. Some will be trying to get to work and others going for post graduate studies. But few of them are trained to start and own their own businesses.
Neither do they have enough knowledge that the writer and businessman, Robert Kiyosaki would call Financial Education. Those who get employed may spend the rest of their lives working for others and getting a small salary in return. This hardly makes anybody rich but for the business owner.