Former Director of Youth at the Ministry of Youth, Sport and Culture Development (MYSC) and once Parliament aspirant Lawrence Ookeditse says the continuous rising unemployment figures of graduates comes as a result of the liberalisation of the tertiary education sector. This was done during President Festus Mogae’s tenure – 1998 to 2008.
Ookeditse made the remarks during the Annual Tertiary Students Leadership Summit in Gaborone this week when leading deliberations on the topic “The relevance of Tertiary Education in Botswana’s Labour Market: How can Student Leaders Influence and Shape the Labour Market?”
He is of the view that the labour market is currently not absorbing graduates due to the skills mismatch with graduates being produced to the market are not adopting to the current needs and demands of the job market.
“When the tertiary education was being liberalised there was a poor forecasting and planning as it was not aligned well with the economic assessment for its readiness to absorb the process. The economy has never been structured in a way that it could avoid being flooded as it is the case with well-developed economies,” he added.
The graduates in the current economic set up are finding it difficult to find jobs due to skills disparity since the local tertiary education providers are training students in programmes that are no longer relevant to the industry needs.
This, according to Ookeditse, results in the relaxation of the tertiary education industry leading to mushrooming of institutions most of whom are focused on profit making at the expense of offering quality of education. This, he said, results with institutions failing to produce well-rounded graduates.
“Tertiary institutions should also re-align their programmes of study for them to suit into what the industry requires in terms of labour force, as it very important to know the demands of the industry. Moreover, there should be a smooth transition of graduates from school to work by working part time while still enrolled in full time education. This should be facilitated by the institution itself,” Ookeditse reckoned.
The notable recommendation pointed out is a need to engage the private sector in government internship as this could help in reducing high number of unemployment since the programme has already congested the government.
Saturated job market
The labour market remains saturated due to skills mismatch, making the demand for jobs high. Participants called for adoption of models of funding tertiary education by the Government that will drive entrepreneurship outcomes.
Ookeditse said Estonia in 2017 introduced a new model of funding where up to 20% funding for higher education is allocated through entrepreneurship based outcome, saying this is a way in which the tertiary education can be restructured to become relevant to the industry practices and standards.
Research has shown that across the world every year, colleges and universities are churning out millions of graduates into the labour market with hope for employment. This is also not exceptional to Botswana.
In a recent study titled “The Elusive Search for Employable Graduate: The Case of Botswana” Dr Patrick Molutsi and Mogotsa Kewagamang argue that Botswana has lost great opportunities presented in the early years of independence to diversify school curricula. Instead the country went for ‘elitist’ curricula and prescribed non-vocationalised higher education college and university curricula.
The study findings indicate that by emphasizing “elitist’’ curricula, the country has created a dilemma where vocational-technical education has become lowly rated and perceived as “the education of poor school performers” or education of the last resort.
Studies on how to fix the high unemployment scourge among graduates recommend a need for policies and strategies that would make a higher education graduate more skilled, competent and knowledgeable to make maximum use of a modern and rather difficult economic and labour markets.