Among Kenyan youths, the slogan ‘Degree Haisaidii’ (A degree is useless) is common especially to university graduates who are seeking employment.
Recently, a local media station featured a story of a 32-year-old Master’s degree holder who operates a motorcycle (Boda Boda) to earn a living. This is just but one of the many cases of unemployed youth with a rich education background.
Once upon a time, a degree certificate was a gold mine. That piece of paper was a sure way to securing good white-collar jobs. However, this is not the case anymore.
Currently, in Kenya, many universities offer an education that does not prepare graduates for reality in the job market. Thus many graduates end up with certificates and minimum skills to fit the modern workforce.
It is the foundation of knowledge
According to Dr Simon Gicharu, the founder of Mount Kenya University (MKU), a degree can be useful or useless depending on how it is offered.
“The theory part of education alone cannot enrich one’s knowledge and skills. There needs to be practical training that is current with the modern world.”
According to Sam Osero, a Human Resource Development Consultant, a degree forms the base of knowledge and skills. “It is the foundation, a starter. Without it, there is no way to the labour market,” he says.
However, he adds that a degree alone cannot guarantee one a good job nor an entry job. “A degree has been reduced to a mere confirmation of literacy. To increase the likelihood of gaining employment in the job market, cement the degree with a post-graduate diploma in a particular field of specialisation,” says Osero.
Proper training, theory and practical, in degree education, open up opportunities. Aside from training one to be an expert in his/her field, the college trains a person to think analytically, understand complex subjects and communicate their own critical ideas. It also instills crucial skills like organisation, self-discipline and the ability to complete tasks from start to finish. In other words, the university helps mold an individual into a more professional person.
Because the university gives an individual a broad range of skills, many graduates end up in fields that are not related to what they studied in school. A degree can open up unexpected opportunities that aren’t always there for those who haven’t engaged in a higher level of education.
People underestimate the degree of personal growth that they’ll experience as they’re working through their degrees. A university education requires students to overcome all types of adversity and prepares them not only for the workplace but also for dealing with many of life’s challenges.
University requires that you overcome one challenge after another, ranging from financial responsibilities to passing tests or completing projects. A person needs to be not only intelligent but disciplined in order to complete tertiary education. These traits are often developed slowly throughout university career.
Degrees are not the same
“Some degrees are better than others. Without fail, students who major in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering, and math – find jobs quicker, earn more money, and experience more job stability than students who earn degrees in arts and humanities fields,” notes Dr Charles Omoke, an educationist at Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University.
In university, it is easy to find many bodies of different disciplines. These offer a graduate a chance to create a wide professional network with people with the same interest. Further, they come in handy when one is searching for an internship or volunteering programmes. Taking advantage of the various job fairs and career development resources in the institutions is a great way to put that degree to work. When you get ready to finish your degree and head out into the world, degree earners can expect a level of support from their mentors and professors that isn’t available anywhere else.
Jeff Nthiwa, a life coach at Destiny Life Coach, advises young people to identify themselves and find their purpose before diving into the university.
“Many young adults enroll in university but they don’t know what they want in life. It is, therefore, necessary that they find a career expert who can walk with them on their strengths, weaknesses. Then, they can identify a degree course that will not render them stagnant in the near future,” says Nthiwa.
“Understanding what your mission is is crucial in personal development. A degree then can pave the way in fulfilling that,” he adds.
A medical doctor cannot be a doctor without a degree. An engineering degree can be useless if the student is given theoretical education only. Degrees cannot be the same. Some are more relevant than others. It does not matter where one gets their degree from, it is how the education is offered that matters.