Producing university graduates with degrees and skills that have limited practical use in Rwandan’s job market constitutes a massive waste of time and money.
Although investment in university education has a high return, graduate unemployment in Rwanda is worrying. According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), unemployment rate among university graduates is now at 15.9%.
One of the causes includes production of unemployable graduates.
But the job market is forcing universities to reform their curriculum geared towards entrepreneurial skills and jobs in the private sector.
For example, the School of Journalism and Communication (SJC) at the University of Rwanda has already adjusted its curriculum that will help produce graduates that fit the needs of the labour market.
“The true mark of a professional journalist out of this School will be judged on the balance of what they will have learnt in class and more importantly what practical skills they will take to the fast growing media industry,” says Joseph Njuguna, the Acting Dean of SJC.
The approach is being applied is that, by inviting professionals to supplement to their teaching staff, the school will be able to produce the desired graduates who will hit the ground running.
However, the approach is complicated and costly. The university has to constantly seek support from different actors who are concerned and interested in supporting the efforts of improving the quality of education offered to students.
“A number of donors such as the EU and UNESCO have also been so generous to address our journalism equipment needs as well as capacity building for our staff and students,” says Njuguna.
In collaboration FOJO, a Swedish funded Media Institution, SJC is running a program that allows it to hire experienced journalists to come and teach hands-on journalism at campus.
Asa Wallin from FOJO believes the four years program will help future journalist to have practical skills and it will also strengthen the university’s academic system.
Daniel Ruhumuriza is a graduate from the University of Rwanda in journalism and communication.
“It’s been one year without a job neither temporary jobs,” he says. “It’s hard to adopt ourselves when we are out of school after graduating, employers tell us that we are not qualified for the work, they ask for a lot than what we learnt from the university.”
Meanwhile, universities say the problem has two faces.
One is that, students come to university with a poor background. Some students are hard to mold in a period of three years if they have had a substandard background. Many students cannot even construct a proper and grammatically correct sentence.
Another challenge, according to Prof. Margret Juuko, also from University of Rwanda, is that there is a lack of enough lecturers and other resources.
“If they [government] want to keep big number of students, they should also increase the resources, I mean materials for more practices and more lecturers well oriented in practical work.”
She adds that it is not easy to teach a big number of students if one class can have more than 100 students.
However, the problem of unemployable graduates is not only limited to journalism.
Beathe Uwase graduated with a degree in biotechnology in 2014. She says that since graduating, she has not heard about anyone of her colleagues happily employed.
“When we apply for jobs in hospitals, they tell us that we are unqualified for the positions… we are stuck [with our degrees]. We are just jobless.”
She adds that even those who found jobs are doing something different from what they studied.
Nationally, according to NISR, unemployment rate is estimated to be at 16.7%, indicating that roughly for six persons in the labour force, there is one person unemployed, of which 17.5% are women and 16.1% men.
Meanwhile, unemployment rate is not the only indicator of the unmet needs for employment, NISR indicates.
Other indicators combine unemployment and time-related underemployment and potential labour force.
In total Rwanda has 904,000 persons classified as time-related underemployed and 1,415,000 persons as potential labour force.
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Download the Labour Force Survey Report (February 2017)