Grassroots Reporting on Youth Issues on the Eve of the 72nd UNGAMary-Jean Nleya
The 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) will be kicking off today at the UN Headquarters in New York City. There are a lot of world and international issues that are on the table for debate, discussion and clarification. The leader of the free world, President Donald Trump, is set to take the world stage on Tuesday, September 19th – and the international community awaits to hear the clarification over some of the rhetoric he conveyed, both pre-and post his presidency, concerning the UN. There are other international issues to be addressed, one of them being the human rights concerns over the Rohingya crises in Myanmar. With the aforementioned issues tabled on the agenda for the 72nd UNGA; there are other more local and youth-focused issues that ought to be given due regard.
On the morning of Saturday, September 16th 2017, 2 Nigeria youth were interviewed in the community of Agodo in Lagos. The purpose of the interview was to put a human face on the youth unemployment statistics hurled about, as well as to get a grassroots understanding of the circumstances that such youth face and their views on what they expect from the meeting of world leaders, one of whom will be their very own country’s president, at the UN. Below is an excerpt from the interview – condensed for clarity.
Q: What is your name and how old are you?
Aanuoluwapo: My name is Aanuoluwapo. I am 28 years old.
Efemena: I am Efemena and I am 26 years old.
Q: What is your educational level and are you currently employed?
Aanuoluwapo: I have a bachelors degree in Computer Science and I am unemployed. It has been difficult to get a permanent job after graduating.
Efemena: I have a BSc in Mathematics from Covenant University in Ogun State. I am looking for a job. To keep myself busy, I teach secondary school students Math. It is part-time and temporary. They pay me some little money; it is too small to even sustain me.
Q: Have you made attempts to secure a job? If so, at what kind of companies? And if not, why?
Aanuoluwapo: I have tried everything. I see job postings online – I visit online job seeking sites. I apply. They call me for interviews; but when you get to the interviews – you see that the employers are looking for just one person and there are thousands of applicants who pitch up. I apply to both big and small companies – but it is the same: there are just two few jobs available for the number of graduates and applicants – unemployment levels are high in this country. I applied for a training programme at Shell; I did not get it.
Efemena: I want to be a teacher. I have applied for jobs, even at the school I am doing part-time teaching at, they don’t have a permanent opening where they can place me. That is why they can only allow me to teach part-time for small money.
Q: Aanu, what do you do to sustain yourself and keep yourself busy?
Aanuoluwapo: I am an IT person – so I look for small IT business opportunities – like to design logos for people. This is just to sustain myself.
Q: Is it like a business?
Aanuoluwapo: No. It’s not a business – it is just what I do sometimes to sustain myself. It will be difficult to do logo designing as a business because I will be competing with big established companies. To get a big hit is hard in IT.
Q: Aanu, Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg was in Nigeria in September last year  to offer support to Nigeria’s youth in IT. What did him coming to Nigeria do for you and others like you? And in what ways can practical and relevant support be offered for people like you?
Aanuoluwapo: Mark Zuckerberg came here to Nigeria to try and close the bridge. He signed some contracts and if something comes out of those contracts that he signed – Nigerian youth will somehow gain from it. As for me and what I gained, all I can say is that he came and he went. It was inspiring to learn that there are some Nigerian programmers employed by Facebook and that some of his senior staff in Facebook are Nigerian.
Q: Efemena, are you entrepreneurial?
Efemena: Anyone can be entrepreneurial. You don’t need education to be entrepreneurial. But I don’t want to start my own business. I want to continue with teaching – it is only that the pay is small; but I like to teach – I want to teach Mathematics.
Q: But with no jobs currently available what are your immediate plans?
Efemena: I hope to get funding to enroll for a Master’s degree and continue to look for a permanent job.
Q: What are your views on continuing education – do you know of any free online courses, e.g. EdX and others? Are these kinds of online programmes and tools even relevant and helpful for you?
Aanuoluwapo: I have enrolled for one online course on Alison.com. The only thing these online courses can do is put someone at some kind of competitive-edge because they are knowledge-based.
Efemena: I registered for EdX to get tutorials. Online courses can only educate – maybe it is helpful in that way. But it is not helpful to get a person a job.
Q: Do you think the government is doing enough to offer young unemployed Nigerians support?
Aanuoluwapo: The Nigerian government is doing the bit that they could. There are unemployment schemes, they also offer graduates short-term loans.
Q: Have you applied for any of the government-offered programmes?
Aanuoluwapo: Yes. I have applied for the schemes. The process ended last month.
Efemena: All I can say is that the government can do much more.
Q: Next week the United Nations will have its 72nd General Assembly. What can you say about these kinds of gatherings by world leaders including the leader of your own nation, Nigeria? What is your message to them?
Aanuoluwapo: The UN is involved in youth empowerment initiatives and I appreciate those initiatives as a Nigerian youth.
Efemena: The UN should assist the Nigerian government in getting ways to create employment opportunities in this country.
Q: Any final words?
Aanuoluwapo: I am not discouraged. This phase is something for me to face and go through.
Efemena: I just have to keep pressing and I hope to one day inspire my students in the classroom.
The interview is a snapshot of the views of some Nigerian youth, who form part of the youth on the continent of Africa – the young continent. While the interviewed youth are hopeful and are taking positive strides to alleviate the discomfort of their current social and economic situation; some youth engage themselves in illicit activities and vices. With the automation of different industries and the current employment deficit, one wonders whether today’s youth are being prepared for the jobs of the future and what can be done about it. These are some of the issues that require attention today and there is no better time to highlight this, than on the heels of the official commencement of the 72nd UNGA.
As leaders of different countries and organizations convene in New York City, let us ask the right questions and pay attention to the challenges of today to ensure that in 2030 no one is left behind.
This article first appeared on CNBC Africa.