Again, last week, Makerere University graduated more than 12, 000 graduates. I wish to congratulate parents for the sacrifice to pay fees of their children. I also congratulate all graduates for the hard work. Thanks for the struggle which has yielded good results. I myself have also donned quite a number of graduation gowns and indeed, it feels good to graduate. However, the major question I need to ask the graduates is: What next after graduation? For the whole week, we celebrated, ate and even indulged but after that, what are the next ? There are two words I need every graduate to understand: Achievement and success.
Achievement is eventful. It is an event that for instance, one has studied hard and graduated. Huge parties will be thrown and we shall attend the parties, give speeches, dance and make merry. This is absolutely in order because every achievement whether small or big must be celebrated. However, the next steps that await the graduate are what matters. This is where success comes in. Every graduate must ensure that he or she makes meaning from being a graduate.
One must recognise that where you come from requires your service. Those who come from peasant households like most of us, you fully understand what I mean.
You will be looked at as the sole salvation for your homes. The younger siblings will be looking upon you as their source of rescue. There is no way you can tell them that you are incapable of solving their problems which are mainly financial. What does this mean? It implies that you must find means of eking out your own living but more importantly, you must provide solutions for your wider family. This is what we shall measure as to whether you will have been successful or not. In order to be successful, the graduates need to understand the following:
• Do not look down upon any job. What matters is money and even if you earn it through ‘dirty’ jobs, the money you earn will not have a label of where you earned it from. It will simply be legal tender. Get out and work for it.
• Learn to live within your means. Many young people are suffering from “shifting the middle age crisis”. Most young people crave for flashy lifestyles which cost large resource out lays but are not important for someone who is just starting out in life. It is important for graduates to ask themselves whether it is worthwhile to pursue such items such as flashy cars, renting expensive houses, purchasing expensive electronic equipment such as iPads, high tech mobile phones, etc. Wisdom even from tacit knowledge dictates that all these things may be good but only if one can acquire them at an appropriate time. Imagine being thrown out of a house you are renting because you have failed to pay rent, yet you have a Mercedes Benz which you park daily in a private car park and pay daily for such parking. These things do not add up.
• Furthermore, graduates need to think very hard on how they can enhance their individual competitiveness. Some will be graduating with degrees which are unfortunately not competitive in the current private sector led economy. If you are in this category, do not lose heart, you can enhance your skills by undertaking further studies in lucrative courses hence, enhancing your employability.
Nobody has condemned you to remain restricted in the discipline or field you have graduated in. I myself recently graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) specialising in Monetary Policy and Commercial Banks competitiveness. I was actually the best student for 2013 ESAMI intake. I received an award which I thank God for. In fact I am not yet done, I will undertake another course if it increases my earning capacity. If you ask me my profession, I will tell you frankly that my profession is that one which is highly marketable and makes me “very competitive”.
• It is even more rewarding for our universities and other tertiary institutions to adopt a duo-qualification framework so that our students graduate with academic knowledge just like we are currently teaching but add a skill based discipline so that each graduate can practically provide solutions as required on the job market. This will enhance individual competitiveness for graduates. Many countries have adopted this approach and are doing very well. It is not necessary to re-invent the wheel. We could adopt and scale up that best practice.
All countries which have transformed their economies have followed this principle. The writing is clear on the wall. I congratulate all graduates and wish them the best of luck.
Prof Nuwagaba is an associate professor of economics.