Six University of Zambia (UNZA) graduates were recently arrested for protesting because they were unemployed. The wore their gowns and were at Arcades Shopping Complex with cardboards with various words that expressed the views of their current situations. The public has not been too kind to them either, many have condemned their act and provided their various reasons why. They have been called lazy, dull, illiterate literates, stupid, and even foolish. Some have even offered them a solution to their problem, start a business. Unfortunately, if I were them I would be very sceptical taking this advice from a person who is an employee.
I do not think that people who are employed either in government or in the private sector are in the best position to dish out the advice of others becoming entrepreneurs. They cannot be calling people lazy and request them to be entrepreneurial when they wait for the month end to get paid. They have the security of a job, their pension paid, some even have health insurance and other benefits that go with the jobs . It is like an alcoholic telling a fellow alcoholic how to stop drinking. If some employed people feel that they have a right to dispense this advice, I would suggest they hand in their resignation letters and join the hustle out there. On the other hand if they were giving advice on how to get and keep a job then they would be in their realm of expertise. I am also against this idea of telling people who are unemployed, start a business. Duh! If it is that simple wouldn't everyone be doing it. It is like Bill Gates asking the rest of the world why they are not billionaires, it is not easy.
There is a tendency to keep telling unemployed people, start a business and make money. They should go to Kamwala and buy stuff to sell. They are told to think outside the box or even tear the box altogether. We tell them that they are only seeking white collar jobs that is why they are unemployed. This type of prescriptions do very little to change anyone's situation. This is because there is always the 'How' element missing. People are told to start a business but we do not show them how. We do not show them how they should come up with a business, where to find capital, how to carry out a market research, how to keep their finances instead all we tell them is start a business. And when someone starts and the business collapses we wonder why they never try it again. Business is not a one size fits all kind of arrangement therefore it cannot be given like a painkiller to everyone who is unemployed.
The education system has been blamed for training people to be employees. To some extent that is their job isn't it. The universities and colleges are supposed to train people to be teachers, nurses, doctors, accountants, engineers. There are always people who have to work others. Perhaps where our education system has lacked is stretching one's ability to innovate, creativity is usually stifled and questioning is rarely entertained. In the situation of the graduates they have already gone through the education system, the 'damage' has already been done. We can talk about how wrong the education system is but we cannot ignore the big elephant in the room, the graduates are unemployed. It is the problem that needs sorting while we also attempt to rectify the education system.
The graduates that protested had a right to protest. There are many like them who are faced with the challenge of unemployment that many governments are still grappling with. Prescribing entrepreneurship as the mother of all solutions to their problems is wrong. Some people do possess the entrepreneurial spirit and others do not. We cannot be telling everyone who is unemployed to start a business and that will magically solve the issues. Maybe we should tell them how to be better job seekers too.