Recently, the media was awash with the news of a young man who burnt his certificates because he considered them worthless and useless. According to him, he graduated over thirteen years ago and had not, for once, worked with his certificates. It is not that he did not want to work with his certificates but because he could not find a work—befitting or not befitting—to do with them. He has, he explained, been dragging (competing for) jobs with illiterate who did not go to school for the past thirteen years after his graduation. All the jobs he has been doing do not require any certificates which makes him less different from illiterate on the street. His certificates, which now looks gory to him, gave him a weeklong insomnia. This culminated in his decision to get rid of them in order to have a nice sleep once and for all.
This young man is not alone. The difference is that many Nigerians, unlike him, still hope against hope. There is no doubt many other Nigerians are hopeless of getting job with their certificates like this young man but would still prefer to keep their certificates. Some will make frames for them and hang them on the walls in their parlour. Yet, some will entertain guests with them for viewing like photo album of those olden days. Still, some will use their certificates to encourage their school-going-children to work hard with words like: “Read well and study hard o. You can see, I have first class; though I am wretched and cannot secure a job. Don’t think because I am jobless you will also be jobless with your certificates. I know say you go break the jinx.” This is individual difference.
This is what school certificates have turned to in Nigeria. To many, it is a source of sadness and a cause of anxiety. Many Nigerians who laboured hard to go to school with the prospect that, with education, life will be better were later shocked to realize (rightly or wrongly) that education in Nigeria is a scam.
Why I hate to hear this, having spent several years to acquire various degrees, the stark reality which we always try to ignore or deny is that education is becoming a scam. I still do not want to say it is a scam.
It is unfortunate to realize that one’s efforts over the years to make life comfortably liveable for oneself and one’s family only take one to square one. The major difference between many certificate possessing Nigerians today and the illiterate who never attended any school is the difference between one who runs in circles and one who does not run at all. I think it is high time we de-emphasized university certificates to avoid high blood pressure due to joblessness that stares certificate owners at the face. But does anyone need to be so advised? This present Government in power is not uncertain about its plan to kill public schools completely. When it successfully does that, only the “who is who” and the “well to do” or “the connected” will be able to have university certificates. This, in the wisdom of our dear government, is the way to de-emphasize university education. If you know you know!
I know many will ask if it is a must to work with one’s certificates. This depends on why certificates were sought in the first place. To some, it is just to belong. It is a thing of pride. I just want have it. To some, it is to while away time. To some, it is to better a battered economic condition. Majority of Nigerians seeking to get one university certificate or the other fall into this last category. To such people, working with their certificates is a must. Thus, to them, it is a great disappointment to be jobless after graduation.
It should be noted that government, even the most responsible one, cannot provide jobs for all graduates. Some graduates would need to look elsewhere for greener pastures. They can use their acquired knowledge to eke out a living independent of government or with the support of government without working under government. This young man should have just done that. Yet, one cannot blame him, for it is difficult to survive in Nigeria as an entrepreneur.
Government policies are stifling. They are as if deliberately formulated and implemented to kill businesses and initiatives. The infrastructure is not there. Insecurity is not only a challenge, it is becoming a norm. Under this situation, one will end up with the thought that education is a scam in Nigeria.
The certificate burner, out of frustration and disappointment about a country where nothing functions, decided to torch his certificates which had been a source of headache. Disappointed about Nigeria, he lamented: “I finished school 2010. Go serve my nonsense nation.” Though he said Nigeria is a nonsense nation, I can notice some sense of patriotism in him. He was circumstantially and frustratingly compelled to loose his tongue. As if to withdraw his categorization of Nigeria as a nonsense nation, he further said: “I no want curse Nigeria but Nigeria dey curse im self.”
Again, to justify burning his certificates, he averred: “This country now, to get certificates be like waste of time…Even to be president you fit forge certificates.” This is true. We have seen certificate forgers vying for political rulership, time and again, in this country. I wrote about “degree for sale” in Lagos State University (LASU) last week. In this connection, the Dean of Student Affairs in the University was removed to save the image of the University. LASU is not alone, certificate racketeering is ongoing in many other higher institutions in different ways and by different means.
What the young man in question forgot to mention about the “uselessness” of higher educational certificates in Nigeria is the fact that the most important job in Nigeria requires just Primary School Leaving Certificate. To be Nigerian president, one only needs school certificate or its equivalent’ which according to the Constitution—among others—means Primary Six School Leaving Certificate or its equivalent. In other words, in addition to primary school certificate, the requirements to be president in Nigeria is as simple as one’s ability to read, write, understand and communicate in English to the satisfaction of INEC. This is clearly stated in Chapter 8, Part IV, Section 318 (interpretation) (a) (b) (c) & (d) of the Nigerian Constitution.
There are mixed reaction to the young man’s action. Many condemned him as expected and many reasoned with him. Some could not believe it and opined that the certificates were not original. I write on the premise that the certificates were original as claimed by its owner.
Therefore, I praise the man for his ability to move on. Many who are depressed and disappointed like him will rather commit suicide. I see him not losing hope in himself. He believes he can make it even without certificates like other illiterate on the street. His regret, like many Nigerian graduates, is just that he shouldn’t have wasted his years acquiring “useless” certificates. I hope our political rulers could see how frustrated Nigerians are. They should help restore value to our university degrees and other certificates through job creation, infrastructural development and real criminalization of forgery. Many more certificates might be heading to the furnace if something is not done urgently.
Lastly, as the young man advised, skill acquisition is the key. I don’t think it is wise for the poor to solely rely on certificates nowadays. Monopolization of certificates by the ruling class is what is currently at play. The Government is shouting on top of its voice that education is not meant for the Nigerian poor. The earlier we understand this, the better for us. Next is to look for alternative. Sad.