30,000 graduates join the hunt for jobs

University of Nairobi graduates during the varsity's 62nd graduation ceremony in Nairobi today. [Courtesy, UoN]

Many universities have, over time, seemingly chosen to end the year churning out their pride, going by the number of graduation ceremonies that are conducted in December.

Approximately 30,000 university students graduated this year which has seen six graduation ceremonies take place in various parts of the country in the past 48 hours.

Kenya’s oldest university, The University of Nairobi, has produced the highest number of graduates - 8,428 - while Kabarak University produced the least, 922.

Kisii University had 5,110 graduates while Kenyatta University had more than 6,000 graduates.

The four universities held their graduation ceremonies today.

Yesterday saw Moi University’s graduation ceremony in which 6,460 students graduated.

In June, 3,545 graduated from the Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology, adding to thousands of others from smaller universities.

Where are the jobs?

But where are the jobs in a year that has seen massive layoffs despite the Jubilee government’s one million jobs per year promise?

Despite the promise, the unemployment headache appears to be far from over as more Kenyans continue to lose jobs in the massive business closures witnessed across the country.

At most 30,000 youth are looking for jobs after around 23 years of studying.

While graduation ceremonies give a reason to celebrate, graduates are soon faced with the daunting prospects the outside world has to offer.

The most daunting is unemployment, given the number of graduates entering the job market each year.

In two days, the larger fraction of the more than 26,000 who have graduated from the five universities are expected to join the job-seeking bracket.

The lucky ones won’t have to search for long, and the luckier ones are already in gainful employment.

The figure may appear relatively low, but considering that Kenyan Universities conduct graduation ceremonies biannually, more than 50,000 students graduate every year.

Job promises

In 2017, the government announced an ambitious project that aimed to create 100,000 jobs annually as a means of stemming unemployment.

Through the programme, graduates were to land paid-internship opportunities within various government agencies.

According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics 2015/16 Basic Labour Force report released in March 2018, the figure is at 11.4 per cent. This represents more than one million young people.

The number of youth joining the job market annually is estimated to be 800,000.

Earlier this year, the government said 840,000 new jobs had been created in 2018. Out of these, 762,000 were in the informal sector.

With the limited opportunities in the formal sector, the majority of the 50,000 university graduates leaving school yearly face increased competition for opportunities in the informal sector as well.

Some might opine that the graduates be creative enough to employ themselves. But where is the capital?

With a grace period of just a year from the Higher Educations Loans Board (Helb), the majority of the graduates will soon become loan defaulters even before securing any meaningful employment.