The Dilemma of Graduate Unemployment within a Context of Poverty, Scarcity and Fragile Economy: Are there Lessons for the University?

  •  Marcellus Mbah    


The context of the work of universities in Sub-Saharan Africa is one of high levels of poverty, scarcities and fragile economies. Even though historically, African universities have been very useful in providing the human resources needed to serve in public and private sectors, the rising trend in graduate unemployment is a call for concern. Whilst graduate unemployment is also a phenomenon across the globe, the situation is particularly severe in Africa where many inhabitants see university education as a live wire to gain economic freedom, acquire prosperity and step into a better living condition. Whilst many Africans still harbour hope in tertiary education (and this can be evident by the increasing demand for university education and enrolment), the resulting effect of higher education is often an acquisition of prestige for having completed that level of education than the economic benefits they aspired for. Given this context, this article draws on a single interpretive case study involving a State-owned university, as well as semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions carried out with participants from disparate backgrounds to uncover voices on graduate unemployment, including the disturbing impact this phenomenon is having on families and the future of many youths. It concludes with recommendations of ways the university and its educational system can be fashioned to foster graduate employability and improvement in the living condition of those living in uncertain and fragile economies.

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