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Addis Ababa University (AAU) held a graduation ceremony for over eight thousand students last weekend at the Millennium Hall.
The University graduated 6,122 entrants with bachelor’s degree, 2,593 with master’s degree and 102 with doctorate degree. It has been reported that 2,224 were female.
It was also reported that, from different universities across Ethiopia, more than 10,000 students graduated.
Even though the new graduates are ecstatic over finally finishing their studies, worry sneaks in and they begin asking: “What now? What is next?” Many graduates feel that their chances of finding a job related to their field of study is quite slim.
New graduates certainly feel the pressure of going out there and proving that they can become independent. For most, it is practically the time to transit to adulthood, where they are expected to take on more responsibility. Financial security is also a huge part of independence.
“I personally feel that I will have a difficult time finding a job. To begin with, I studied linguistics plus I do not have any previous work experience; who would hire me?” said Selam Adane, who graduated from AAU his year. Many new graduates seem to be facing similar dilemmas.
AAU is currently training more than 51,000 students in different fields of study. Every year thousands of graduates join the job-hunting club.
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) records show that Ethiopia’s unemployment rate stands at 24.9 percent and puts the country in 38th place when compared to other countries in the world.
Besides the fact that there aren’t enough job opportunities, many students feel that what they have studied at various universities also contribute to the problem. “I think not being able to study through one’s choice has its own problems. In some fields it is quite hard to find jobs. I studied physics; sure I can probably find a teaching job, but more than that, what is there to do with a Degree in Physics?” said another graduate. The value of owning a university degree has dramatically gone down. This is not just the case of Ethiopia because many students in many countries are fighting to get a job after they graduate. Most vacancies ask for job experience which many students do not have.
Especially in Ethiopia, the culture of working while in school is something that has yet to be developed. Rarely does any company hire without experience and very few are willing to take students on an internship basis. Some suggest that gaining experience to get hired later on has become extremely difficult. The importance of entrepreneurship has started to become much clearer. Some students indicated that, as soon as graduation was over, they would immerse themselves in family businesses (if their families owned a business) or plan to open their own.
There is an impression now that becoming a businessperson is the way to go. “My family owns a shop that processes and sells spices. Now that I have finished my studies, I plan to work in the shop and my family encourages me to do so,” said a student that graduated with a degree in Sociology last weekend.
The government of Ethiopia is and has been encouraging unemployed youth to pursue entrepreneurship. Young Ethiopians who want to become entrepreneurs are encouraged to organize themselves in groups in order to gain access to microfinance. They are then trained by the state-run Federal Micro and Small Enterprises Development Agency in business start-up and management skills.
Official data states that in both formal and informal sectors, over 1.4 million jobs were created between 2006 and 2010, and over 1.2 million between 2011 and 2012. Many of those hired were young people. For this, many institutions state that Ethiopia is on the right track in tackling youth unemployment.
Even though there are some positive developments in curbing youth unemployment, it has not become a comfort for many new graduates. Most argue that starting a business should not be an option after they have worked hard at universities to graduate; they want to be able to put their degree to use and find work in their fields of study. But for now, it seems as though they would have to settle for a less favorable alternative on their part.