This is a story of a Kenyan Graduate
As a high school student, my ambitions were high and I envision a bright future for myself.
Parents and teachers kept reminding me that I needed to work hard to secure direct university placement, as this would be the only way I can free myself from the shackles of poverty and lack. I heeded their call. I worked hard. Very hard.
And my hard work paid off. I was the top performer in my class and joined a local public university to study BSc. Chemistry on government sponsorship and HELB student loan. My teachers and family were proud of me.
After graduation, I fast learnt that securing employment was one uphill task. I nevertheless occupied myself with tutoring high school students (this is not what I read at the university) at my former school in order to help educate my younger siblings. Here, I was promised KSh. 3,000/month (you are lucky if you get paid 50% of this wage). While working at the high school, I kept sending job applications to potential employers.
One year later, I received a notification from HELB to the effect that the student loan had matured and was ready for servicing. The letter further detailed that failure to begin servicing the loan would attract a monthly fine of KSh. 5,000. I had now to choose between servicing my loan and providing for my family. It was practically impossible to start repaying the loan at that time since the minimum amount acceptable by HELB (KSh. 500) is what I could earn in a whole month. In other words, I had to choose between my family needs and HELB loan.
About two years later, I came across a job advert in a local daily. The job description and academic requirements neatly fitted my academic profile. I was excited. A careful look at the advert suddenly burst my short-lived bubble – “Applicants MUST provide clearance from HELB, CID, CUE, and KRA”.
I soon learn that I cannot be cleared by HELB as my account has been attracting the monthly penalties.
Obtaining the CID clearance and CUE certifications was not a complex procedure, though I had to pay something they call “a small processing fee”. I was disturbed by the fact that young, poor, jobless graduates have to be subjected to these unnecessary and unfair charges. The amount charged for these clearance documents is out of reach for an average unemployed youth from a poor family.
So I ended up not applying for the job; not because of lack of qualifications, but sadly because I could not be cleared by these government bodies; the same government that purports to be committed to creating jobs for the youth.
I severally heard “analysts” (a misnomer of sorts) on TV shows saying that graduates should be job-creators instead of job-seekers. And I kept wondering to myself how I could use my Chemistry knowledge to create jobs without any facilitation in form of grants. “But you can apply for government youth grants/loans”, one might argue. There is one fundamental problem regarding the administration of these grants: lack of a clear scientific definition of the term “youth”.
Matter-of-factly, “youth” has come to refer to either a politically correct fellow or anybody with enough money to pay bribes. It all boils down to power and money; you need some money (or connection to people with money) to access government money.
I kept working at the high school but gradually I was slipping into depression. The burden was too heavy. I was under pressure to provide for my siblings and my parents, who were now ailing. My meager irregular monthly wage could hardly support us, so I decided to apply for a small bank loan in order to take care of hospital bills.
I hit another rough wall. The bank rejects my application, citing lack of creditworthiness, as my name had been forwarded by HELB to the Credit Reference Bureau (CRB) as a loan defaulter.
Interesting country, isn’t it?
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