Jobless youth desperate

The pain and suffering of unemployment has left many young people desperate for any job, while 67 000 graduates are roaming the streets.

02 November 2018 | Labour

JANA-MARI SMITH



Two Namibian university graduates are scouting for odd jobs selling newspapers or working in tuck shops and boutiques after years of futile and desperate job hunts in their fields of study.

Other graduates are becoming taxi drivers, security guards and food vendors to earn a living.

NUST software engineering graduate Jackson Natangwe Nanghala (25) estimates that over the last year he has applied for dozens of posts, with zero success, not even an interview call-back.

Now, he is ready to sell newspapers on the street.

“I can do anything that is available. I am willing to sell newspapers, just to make ends meet.”

Passionate about programming and all things computing, he says his dead-end search is really depressing.

“It makes me feel I went to school for nothing. I want to make an honest living but it’s very hard to do that.”

And his fellow graduates aren’t faring any better.

“A lot of my friends can tell you the same story as me. Many have moved home to the north. Some are taxi drivers, and some are now security guards. They have degrees and diplomas, but at least they have a job.”

Esther Kambole (27) has been unemployed since she graduated with an honours degree in public management four years ago.

She has applied for more than 100 jobs in Namibia and elsewhere, including South Africa, Zambia, Botswana, Cameroon and Burundi.

“I have only secured odd jobs in tuck shops and boutiques to earn money and make an honest living.”

Sickening

Kambole is suffering harsh consequences.

“This experience has been very stressful and emotionally draining. Since last year, I have battled depression and high blood pressure. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster and a very upsetting topic to talk about.”

Nursing graduate Junias Shilunga says: “There is nothing as frustrating as being unemployed and some have given up. Some resort to alcoholism, drug abuse. They lose hope.”

Shilunga recently started a new job at Khorixas, after months of fighting the government’s freeze on nursing jobs.

“Some of us are lucky because nursing is a priority job. Just imagine those who have studied other courses in other fields, those people are struggling.”

Nanghala says although he still hopes to get a job in his field, he is growing increasingly disillusioned.

“You go to school hoping that at the end there will be a job, but then months pass without anything. My future is a gamble now. I am not sure where it is heading.”

Nevertheless, he adds that he remains committed to finding a job, but feels “the country is not allowing us to do our jobs. It’s holding us back.”

Kambole says she has not given up entirely either. “Hope is the only thing I cling onto.”

Yet, her unemployment status has led to fraught relationships with her friends and family.

Moreover, the value of acquiring an education is being questioned.

“Some tend to judge me and question as to whether education is still the key to success. This is because most people surrounding them are graduates sitting at home doing nothing, languishing in poverty.”

Nanghala relies on money from his sister and mother, but resources are thinly spread as they also support an extended family of 15 others.

“They have jobs but it’s hard, and they expected me to have a job after I graduated. They do what they can to help.”

Risks and loss

Nanghala says unless job opportunities improve, the country risks losing valuable skills and igniting a frustrated legion of young people disillusioned with the status quo.

Kambole agrees. “The more time graduates stay without employment, the more they risk losing their skills and ability to perform well in their respective fields.”

She says if they do eventually secure a job, extensive training will be required to bring them up to par.

Nanghala says there is a noticeable lack of input from the private and government sectors, including internships that could do much to boost experience.

Moreover, he worries that a lot of job postings are just for show, with people behind the screens already picked for the job.

He also says some turn to illegal activities in desperation.

“If you struggle for so long, sometimes you can opt to do things that are no good.”

Labour permanent secretary Bro-Matthew Shinguadja says unemployment among young graduates could lead to loss of skills as well as hope. “They may migrate to other countries, change areas of specialisation or, worse, become so desperate to the extent that may embark on unintended actions.”

Unam economics professor Omu Kakujaha-Matundu has repeatedly warned that youth unemployment is a powder keg waiting to be lit.

“How frustrating is it not, if after years of hard work and sacrificing the family income, you can't find a job. You get mad, mad at everything. So expect the worst to happen in years to come.”

Earlier this year, a deputy director in the ministry of higher education, Nhlanhla Lupahla, was quoted as saying there were an estimated 67 000 jobless graduates in Namibia.

Although this figure is not supported by any official studies, Shinguadja says the unemployment rate among young people is estimated at about 47%.

He says the reality is that the economy cannot absorb them, with many companies struggling to keep on those already in their employ.

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