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Kenyan graduates resort to odd jobs for survival as search for formal employment turns futile

By Silas Nyamweya | January 29th 2020 at 13:01:45 GMT +0300

Lack of jobs in the Kenyan employment market has forced many graduates to be crafty and do odd jobs, irrespective of whether these jobs align with their educational qualifications or not.

Take Stephen Karuga, a bachelor of commerce graduate from the Catholic University who graduated in 2012 had to device a way of surviving in harsh Nairobi. This is after all efforts to secure employment turned futile. Rather, die from poverty, Karuga decided to employ himself by offering security services to boda boda operators. He sought for parking space opposite Mama Lucy Kibaki hospital where he offers parking services to boda boda operators who have personal rendezvous either inside the hospital or in the nearby vicinity.

 “I charge just 30 bob for every motorcycle, and on a good day, I can get an average of 50 motorcycles. This translates to 1500 per day, which to me, is good money,” he said.

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Mr. George Kanyi is another graduate who is currently doing something he had not envisioned. The 32-year-old, who currently lives in Saika estate, Nairobi, obtained a bachelor of science in statistics from the Nairobi University in 2015. However, his incessant attempts to get office work bore no fruit. To make ends meet, Kanyi bought a motorcycle through a loan and started doing boda boda business, which sustains him and his business to date.

Although this job is not in line with what he studied in college, Kanyi is at least grateful that he is able to put food at the table.

“Rather than spend more time looking for work which is not promising, I learnt that it is better to do what is available so long as it brings money at the end of the day,” Mr. Kanyi said adding that “what we are all aspiring when we go to school is to at least find something to do and make money eventually, so it doesn’t matter where you get it from.”

Boaz Obuya, who is currently living in Utawala, Nairobi, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Analytical Chemistry from Kisii University in 2017. However, he is today working as a private teacher at an academy in Utawala, where he is paid Sh15,000 a month.

Like other graduates, Obuya claims that his choice of a job was made out of necessity.

“In Kenya, it is very hard to look for a job if you don’t have money. Walking from one place to another requires money, whether as transport, food, etc. Besides, most people require bribes from job seekers, making job hunting difficult endeavors for broke graduates,” claims Mr. Boaz, who also adds that the problem is worsened by employers who insist on experience from fresh graduates.

Practically, the issue of unemployment in Kenya has been a matter of concern for Kenyan graduates. Indeed, cases of graduates doing odd jobs like washing cars, working at construction sites, or other casual works have been awash in the media.

Last year, the plight of several graduates doing odd jobs highlighted both in social and mainstream media stirred the hearts of Kenyans, who sympathized with their sorry state.

One of the notable cases is that of Ruth Jemutai Rono, a first-class honors graduate who was unable to secure employment and relegated herself to the village life. However, her plight attracted the attention of social media and later the mainstream media, culminating in a flow of job offers from different companies and even president Uhuru.

The graduates highlighted here are only an iceberg of the real situation on the ground in terms of the unemployment rate in the Kenyan context. Unemployment is a worrying matter in Kenya.

Currently, the debate relating to how this issue of unemployment should be dealt with has focused on making the graduates change their mindsets. Instead of waiting to be employed, the youth have been required to become creative, create their own businesses, and do any job as long as it pays them rather than waiting to work in their respective careers.

According to Professor Antony Wanjohi (below), who teaches education at Tangaza College, Ongata Rongai, the essence of educational curriculum changes from 8.4.4 was to make Kenyans creative. The new education system, he says, will enable Kenyans to be self-reliant by establishing entrepreneurial initiatives instead of waiting for work placements in offices.

 “I think the government was instigated to alter the current school curriculum after realizing that students were not well prepared to deal with the actual life. Instead of being creative, most learners were oriented towards being employed after school, thus creating congestion in the employment sector,” claims Professor Wanjohi.

Wanjohi is hopeful that the new competency-based curriculum will work towards nurturing creativity and talent and hence, make these learners be self-reliant.

“The new curriculum gives children an opportunity to realize and exploit their talents. After they complete school, they will already know what they are able to do for a living,” observes the Tangaza professor.

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