Long post but what are you rushing to do? Stupid! Unless you want me to Nyanzilise you, I rise on a matter of national imporyance.)
“Hello Abubaker, your name was forwarded to us by your friend as an intelligent and hard working person. We have a good job opportunity for you. If interested come to Wandegeya, X building, Level x, room x tomorrow. Ahmed.”
Yesterday confirmed my fears about the unemployment scourge that is steadly becoming a threat to our happiness and welfare as a nation. (Mind you we were recently ranked by a BBC study as the happiest nation on earth, unless we are naively joyous, what to teeth about is increasingly becoming scarce.)
Yesterday I received a call from a Danish (Denmark) student leader, a member of the National executive committee, who was consulting me about the status of housing for students in Uganda. I wanted to refer her to Mr. Ofwono Opondo, but just let go and responded to her. (By the way, just like for micro organizations like say the police force or a university, are we supposed to speak to foreigners for/about our country without permission from government or we refer them to the official government spokesperson? Discussion for another day, you can share with me your thoughts)
I however, answered all her questions and put it to her that we do not have any housing crisis in Uganda for students. Is that true? I do not know but what I know is that when you have the greatest percentage of your students not being able to join university, when you have your girls dropping out of school for lack of pads, and all that you know, and when 83% of your graduates cannot find dignified employment, then you have more pressing issues than housing. Secondly, you would not want to present your country as being the worst. No, Uganda has challenges but Uganda is beautiful and ok. (“Tusinga bangi abatayaya.”)
Why did she call (Uganda)? And why me? She says they have a students’ housing crisis in Denmark, and they are pushing government hard to construct hostels. In the process, one of the politicians is said to have said the housing situation for students In Denmark is not as bad, but the students were exaggerating, making it sound like they are in Uganda! The F**k, Uganda is now the worst case scenario – bad example out there? I was about to contact Golola to “sort that politician out” but she apologized on his behalf and told me what mattered was her getting the facts on ground. “Let’s forgive the mean politician, they always are!” She generalized not knowing she was speaking to one who is not mean. (Chuckles) It is the reason she contacted Uganda.
So why was I equivalent to Uganda? Hehe…well for some reason, it appears, when you google “Students leaders in Uganda contacts”, In one way or the other, my contact is what you will land on – three (3) years after I handed over! (Current student leaders should consider making use of the digital spaces, please update them. Not that I do not like these international calls every week but what does this say about us?)
But getting back to the real issue, the mean Danish politician would find an ally in me, if he made the same statement regarding unemployment. Ladies and gentlemen, we are seated on a time bomb!
Three key points to note;
1. Every single day, without them knowing that I’m also jobless, at least in the sense they mean, I get at least three people asking me for a job. Not just asking but desperately with statements like “I’m ready to do anything.” Never mind that many of them are ladies! “I do not care how much they are paying.” Majority of these are university degree holders. Why me again you wonder? Well they saw me some time with the President, the Prime minister and all that, and they have seen often times outside Uganda. In other words, I must be connected and well off.
You think that is bad? Yesterday, there was a call by UN for a briefing on “volunteering opportunities” and oh my God, the numbers that turned up had to prompt police intervention to manage traffic! But we could say that is UN but even home. Just pin job opportunity outside your gate and ask those interested to line up the following morning, you will see. The memories of what I went through two years ago, and relaxed job seeking are still fresh in my mind. Public service advertised about just 300 jobs and over 30,000 of us applied with many traveling from up country, printing and photocopying a number of papers. I wondered about the strength of the human resource at public service to meticulously review tens of thousands of applications as the truck lorried them away one of the many evenings. I knew a rolex seller somewhere is bound to smile as they have got paper to package their product.
A few months later, UNRA advertised and the lines snaked through the entire Nakawa. The same now happens for recruitment for the forces.
As I type this right now, hundreds are writing applications to submit to non-existent companies at Wandegeya, after which they will pay some 30,000 Ushs for a “specialised training” to commence work next week for employment they will never live to see! As I type this now, hundreds are paying over 500,000 Ushs to network marketing Ponzi schemes that will enrich those who entered before them only to be given products that cost over 200, 000 Ushs among others that will frustrate them and send them pretending to be okay, in order to lure others to join so they can gain from the down lines.
As I type this, many people and companies are making a living off helpless girls and boys, sending them to monstrous bosses in Arabian countries as maids and all that goes to be paid 800,000 ushs, if they are paid that is, at the risk of you know what!
2. Some of you are thinking, especially those of you who got jobs when they were still easier to get or with the help of your wealthy and powerful parents and relatives. Why can’t the youth be job creators instead of job seekers? Why do youth despise jobs? How can a graduate fail to start something? The problem of the youth is their mind set and attitude. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Analyst but whereas your points are true in some way, I want to share with you a response I gave my father when he averred, “Why is it that you youth of nowadays expect white collar jobs after university? Government cannot employ everyone and it is your personal responsibility to struggle. No one owes you a living.”
My question was/is, “What did you expect? What do you expect after keeping me in school for eighteen years during which you showed me lawyers, doctors, members of parliament, RDCs, DEOS, CAOs as the best example? You told me education is the key and that if I read hard, and passed, and remained disciplined, I would become successful. What do you expect after you never brought any successful entrepreneur to show me an example and agriculture was a punishment? After you dissuaded me when I tried to put up an enterprise in S.3 and you said if I got money at that age, I would get spoilt and abandon studies?
If making chapatti was the ultimate goal, why didn’t I stop in S.4 and start, would I not be far by now?”
I’m not saying the attitude of despising jobs is good or that we should not be creative, but I’m simply saying you, our society of all, should not be shocked by us because this is what you have prepared us to be.
3. Way forward?
But now that we are here, so what?
I have a few pieces of advice for us.
Personal: My brother, my sister we are already in s**t, so one, when you are in s**t you have to relax the standards and the blame game and do something to survive first for now. Like I’m farming rabbits and also becoming a teller on Saturdays at Centenary Park despite my second class upper, the “fools” are right, we have to do anything legal and available to prosper in this economy. No shortcut. One ofmy partners has a first class degree in chemical engineering. Secondly, be good at something. That whole talk of “I can do anything” is fake. Pick something and ensure you target becoming the best at it in your family, village, district, Uganda and eventually the world. Even if it’s cooking chappattis, be the best Uganda has ever seen, come up with recipes and pay commission to me later. With time it will pay off.
National government: stop blaming us, stop and sort it out with unemployment, in other words the stagnant economy. Treat this as an emergency, a war, many of you are guerrilla, consider this as “adui” that can lead to you losing the “mugatti” and I assure you, continue sleeping and looting, and only saving your children and it will happen.
I’m no expert on the economy but seeking for transfer of technology into our country, cracking on corruption (This is hard I know but well, what to do?) And making technical institutions attractive. Build them with facilities like universities, let them award degrees, and people will go there. “Muteeke ssente, wetulaba.” And finally the old among you should retire banange. Be there to guide us at those jobs. I would not mind replacing Hon Kirunda Kivejinja as minister East African community affairs, trust me with his guidance, you will not find me wanting. “Hamutujaribu” to grab them.