Graduates forced to hide qualifications

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NUL1By Ntsebeng Motsoeli

MASERU — Thabo Moshoeshoe (not his real name) holds a degree in humanities from the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

Moshoeshoe was thrilled when he finally made it to the podium to be capped by Chancellor of NUL, King Letsie III, for successfully making it after four gruelling years of study.

His childhood dream of getting a tertiary education, getting a well paying job, saving enough money to buy a car and lead a good life seemed so close.

But the reality of life after university came soon as the fanfare of the graduation was over.

He had to face the haunting reality of unemployment in Lesotho.

He, like other thousands of tertiary graduates, had to face the frustration of not having a job.

After two years of unfruitful job applications and the embarrassment of waiting for stipends from his mother, he had to swallow his pride and seek a job in the lowly regarded textile industry.

“I had to find any job. The frustration of staying at home without a job was becoming unbearable.

“I was desperate for something to keep me busy while I could still earn money, no matter how little,” says Moshoeshoe.

His tertiary qualifications notwithstanding, he had to settle for a measly M600, a starter salary for new employees. “It was just too little but it was better than nothing,” he says.

He says he was surprised to learn that there were hundreds of tertiary graduates in the textile factories. “I was a bit relieved when I discovered that there were many of us in there.

“We used to talk about how we went to school and after all these years we end up in the lowest paying industry,” he says.

Lebeko Maisa, a holder of a Diploma in Pastoral Care and Counselling, adds though that you have to keep your tertiary education and certificate to yourself or you might get fired.

He says the section stewards are popular for getting rid of their juniors once they realise they have tertiary education.

“Graduates are considered to be a threat to the senior employees. So when you have a university qualification you should make sure they do not know about it,” says Maisa. The Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) reports that while the number of university and college graduates increases from year-to-year, most of them are unable to get jobs.

“Lesotho’s youth unemployment rate is estimated at 38.0 percent in 2010 by the International Labour Organisation.

“It was also estimated that of the 7 500 graduates who enter the labour market each year, half do not get jobs,” says the 2012 CBL economic review report.

It adds that even those who are employed are working in subsistence agriculture where they do not earn salaries or if at all very meager wages. The report says youth unemployment presents implications like shortage of revenue thereby reducing sources of funds.

This, the bank says, could lead to increased incidences of crime by idle youth. “If young people are left with no alternative but unemployment and poverty, they are more likely to join a rebellion as an alternative way of generating an income.

“Unemployment among the youth is associated with an increase in crimes such as robbery, drug-related offences and murder.”

However, many youths are still yet to access funds from projects that government initiated in an effort to curb unemployment and encourage them start their own businesses.

They include the establishment of M50 million Partial Credit Guarantee Fund whose Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with commercial banks was signed in May 2012.

The Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) also established a Partial Credit Guarantee Scheme whose objective is to support investors who wish to start or expand medium and small businesses.

Motšelisi Mokhethi, dean in the faculty of Social Science at NUL, says lack of entrepreneurial culture contributes a big deal to lack of employment.

Mokhethi says youth fail to make use of funds to start businesses because they were not taught to be entrepreneurs in their upbringing.

“We do not have the culture of involving our children in making entrepreneurial decisions.

“That should be instilled in children as they grow so that they are used to making better financial decisions,” Mokhethi says.

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