This is an open letter from me to all undergraduates of Nigerian public universities and their families – catalyzed after reading some comments on a popular student leader Facebook page. You are not getting any younger. You would probably be graduating at an older age than your peers in Ghana, Singapore, Kenya and Taiwan.
Fact: Students in Harvard University have not stopped learning because your lecturers are on strike. Fact: Your future employer(s) may also not understand why you lack certain fundamental skills essential for the workplace.
Fact: Those who have the ability to make your education count have long gone to sleep on the job. It’s your life: You must now make your own way and fast! Great enterprises have always been born out of great adversity. There is no excuse to watch your life fritter away. Now is the time to pause and ask yourself these hard questions:
If there were no certainty that you would get a job after leaving school, would you still go to school?
Is what you are studying at the risk of being taken over by developments in technology? If yes, what’s your response plan? Would what you are studying today still be relevant in 2-3 years after you graduate? How do you plan to stay relevant in your career over the next 2-3 years? Do you have any vocational (hands on) skills that can earn you money right now or after you graduate even in the absence of a white-collar job?
Are jobs in your profession likely to be lost to non-specialists within your country and/or specialists outside your country? How many transferable skills do you have?
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your organisational, business writing, verbal and non-verbal communication, marketing, selling, customer service, critical thinking, creative thinking and facilitation skills?
In Stephen R.Covey’s “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” he introduced the concept of an outer, larger Circle of Concern, and an inner, smaller Circle of Influence. In this case, your circle of concern would be what affects all students in public universities – “when would the strike end?
When would I graduate? Would my course be accredited? Would I get a good job as soon as I graduate?” You have no control over your circle of concern.
Your circle of influence involves things that you can do something about. For instance, “how can I ensure that I graduate with a good grade? How can I ensure that I develop the skills that organisations would be willing to pay a premium for?”
Rant on Facebook if you must, quarrel about the system and lament about the rot in the Nigerian society but remember all of these falls into your circle of concern. What are you going to do right now about the things that you can do something about (your circle of influence)?
Today’s formal educational system may not get you to the Promised Land. The question is not where you stand right now but in what direction you are headed.
It is time to build your “Circle of Influence” – What is your plan to transform your skills and create your own opportunities – even through this period of relative inactivity? Someone once said, “When Nigerians students are pushed to the wall, they don’t fight back – that they break down the wall and keep running.” They may take away your years but they cannot take away your choices. In an age of technology, there are thousands of teachers willing to teach you practically anything for free. You have no excuse to fail.
Most people fail for lack of pluck and not lack of luck. There are opportunities to learn from an artisan near you. You can do some quick internship, to finally put to practice some of the things you have learnt. This is the time to brush up on your research skills.
“Life is too fleeting to wait for the next unforgiving minute.” Someone around you needs some help, an extra hand to support the business they are running. Would you step up to the plate? You must redeem the times for the days are evil.