Over a thousand students graduated at a polytechnic in Tamale over the weekend. The initial excitements were great, but were quickly overshadowed by the specter of unemployment. Maxwell Suuk reports from northern Ghana.
The atmosphere was charged with brass band music to mark the graduation of over one thousand students at the Tamale Polytechnic. They were honored with diplomas in their various fields of study.
The graduates and their families looked very happy, but beneath the camaraderie, there were deep worries about graduate unemployment. "I will just come out and hustle," said Fuseini Muntaru, who graduated with a diploma in accounting.
A degree is no guarantee of employment. "You can't get job in Ghana here unless you know somebody at the highest position," he added.
Finding work is hard work. "Our hustle starts right after you finish your national service. You start to worry, you start to think about your family, yourself," said new graduate Mohammed Sadat.
Tertiary institutions in Ghana send out thousands of new graduates every year with little prospects in the job market
Ghana produces thousands of graduates each year. But many of them end up with no formal employment. The government estimates there are more than a quarter of a million of unemployed graduates in Ghana.
Jobs in the public sector are particularly difficult to get. "You should use the knowledge acquired from your unique training to create jobs and employ others instead of looking for employment within the public sector which is already in distress," said Professor Mohammed Salifu, executive secretary of the National Council for Tertiary Education, to the new graduates.
"Be the entrepreneurs you have been trained to be and let others follow your good example. Take advantage of whatever opportunity out there to start your businesses as a way of contributing to the development of our nation," Salifu stressed.
Not everybody may be able or willing to heed that advice. But it is not all doom and gloom. Joseph Dubik recently found a job as a finance officer at Tamale's only public clinic. His advice to job seekers: Don't wait for work, find it. "I didn't sit down after I completed my studies," said Dubik.
But the reality is that there aren't enough jobs to go around. Ghana's private sector is not flexible enough to absorb graduates, who quickly become frustrated.
"There are expectations from home, now that you have graduated," said a female graduate. "There are expectations that you cater for yourself," she said.
"If you turn into a criminal they will arrest you," another graduate said. "If you stay in the house your family will be so disappointed in you. So what do we do?" he asked.