Yet another large group has passed through our national university.
Barely two weeks ago, 500 youngsters graduated from Lerotholi Polytechnic, while many more graduated from Limkokwing University of Creative Technology. Several hundred had also qualified as teachers from Lesotho College of Education weeks before.
It is pleasing to note that our nation is becoming better and better educated. Gone are the days when very few people were university graduates. Back then being a university graduate, on its own, was a passport to a high paying job, a good life and lots of respect in the community.
In fact for generations, our society was made to believe that as soon as one graduated from a tertiary institution, one would simply live happily-ever-after.
Unfortunately this bred a culture of complacency where as soon as one graduated and secured a comfortable life, one would relax for the rest of their life.
No more studies were necessary because, as a graduate, the feeling was more education was unnecessary in a country where there were few graduates per capita. Some very brilliant minds were left to die an academic death after acquiring the cap of knowledge because they literally stopped reading.
Our country, indeed our continent, is pervaded with such stasis after graduation that it can partly explain why we have fewer breakthroughs in science, little research by our historians, economists, social scientists, etc.
Many last read a novel only as a prescribed book on the booklist at school or college. There are many social scientists whose latest theories in their discourse are from the 1990s. Some lecturers churn out the same notes year-in, year-out from the same old notebook, now yellow with age.
We have medical doctors whose last research project was at university; they are so busy chasing after the extra loti that they can’t spare time to read the latest medical journal to update their practice. The same sad trend of regression after university is repeated across professions.
The point is, acquiring that diploma or degree is only proof that somebody is trainable.
It is the beginning, not an end in itself.
This is particularly so in this era where they say in some countries in Africa if you throw a stone in a marketplace you are likely to hit a graduate.
To worsen the situation, most of the skills that our newly-graduated flaunt are either outdated or they badly need a makeover since they are out of step with what our economy needs.
Those in charge of shaping our curriculum should first find out, through empirical research, what skills our economy needs and in what numbers.
Do we need more social scientists or engineers? Is our country crying out for doctors more than farmers? Which areas of specialty? How many more plumbers and electricians do we need?
Once these and similar questions are asked and answered the next step should be to encourage all those young graduates to update their skills to meet the ever-changing market demands.
It is true all knowledge is important, across disciplines. A wholesome society needs to have a fair share of graduates in different fields.
But it is equally true that our poor country cannot afford to spend a lot of money on training hoards of people just so they only achieve self-actualisation. For instance, a degree in numismatics (study of coins) is important but our country may need more economists to explain how we should use money.
What is the point of offloading thousands of graduates onto the street, if the system will simply abandon them to struggle to find jobs? In the end, is it not a waste of money and young human resources?
Our thinkers and policy makers should see how we can creatively and effectively train our young educated people to meaningfully contribute to the country’s development and for them to occupy where skills are needed most.
Should our education system continue to be a massive conveyer belt indiscriminately pushing masses of youngsters from the school system into the “real world” of work or unemployment without following up on how they fare? Are we so bereft of ideas that we pretend Lesotho’s human resources needs have not changed over decades?
For how long are we going to pretend that we are doing a noble job of training future leaders when we know very well we have nowhere to put our ever-ballooning excess of skilled human resources? Should we only rely on politicians to provide solutions to ever-rising numbers of the educated unemployment?
The situation demands scrutinising the quality of graduates tertiary institutions are producing vis-à-vis what the employment market needs.
What kind of economy do we have? Is it one that also demands innovation from graduates to work towards employment creation? If so, what has various stakeholders put in place to receive such graduates?