To Be Certified or Not Be Certified

Uncertain girl is looking at arrows. Girl full of doubts and hesitation.

Since the millennium, job descriptions and requirements have radically changed. Before then, you could study Agriculture in the University and will get employed in an agro company. If you study Political Science, you go straight to the Civil Service. That trend is long gone. Now, companies just recruit people with any degree and slam them into whatever position they deem fit as long as the applicant can do the job. So don’t be surprised if you walk into a bank and see your school mate who studied Bio-Chemistry sitting comfortably over the counter dispensing cash to bank customers in a queue.

My entry into the higher education level was a bit dramatic. In the Universities Matriculation Examination, I scored 272. In the Post UME exam conducted by individual tertiary institutions, I scored 67/100. University of Benin/Political Science was my first choice. For second choice, I wanted to select University of Nigeria, Nsukka/Philosophy but my Dad balked. He asked… “What will you do with philosophy?”

He said I should take Novena University, a newly established private university about three minutes drive from my village. He advised I should select Intelligence & Security Studies as my course of choice and join the Armed Forces because he wants me to ‘protect my people’ from my village’s neighboring community. I said… “Okay now. It is your money that will pay the school fees.” Novena was just starting at the time so the fees were relatively affordable.

During the final manual Clearance & Verification at UNIBEN, after waiting for over three days due to the large number of applicants who made the cut, I was denied admission into the Political Science Department because I had pass in Mathematics at O’Level. (I wasn’t good in mathematics because the way it was taught in secondary school, even Isaac Newton will hate the subject. It was a puzzle seeing myself score A, Bs and Cs in other subjects both mathematics is always either Pass or Fail).

I promptly brought out the JAMB brochure and showed the man in charge where it was clearly stated that UNIBEN accepts pass in Mathematics for Political Science. The man said they had changed the requirement and now requires credit in mathematics for all courses but JAMB didn’t update the brochure. He gave me a course relocation form which I sadly filled and submitted to him. ‘If I had known’ started to mock me. The voice said… “Didn’t I tell you to cheat during your WAEC and NECO mathematics examinations but you were forming Mr. Honest? How has honesty now helped you? If you want to make it in Nigeria, you have to jam honesty together with cheating. I was telling you, you no hear word…”

After waiting for three long weeks, my people, which course did UNIBEN allocate to me? Physical Education! Oh dear, I was relieved, not because I had eventually been allocated a new department, but because the long, torturous wait was over. I looked at the sheet again and asked myself… “What do they do in Physical Education? Does UNIBEN want me to become Chelsea’s Manager or what?” (That day, I was wearing the 2007 Chelsea Jersey). When I called my Dad and briefed him, he said I should tear the Relocation Letter, throw it inside the gutter and go to Novena.

The next day, I bade goodbye to Benin and its very annoying red soil and headed to Amai.  I was admitted to study Intelligence & Security studies the next day on the condition that I have to make credit in O’Level Mathematics before i could graduate. I had to re-sit for NECO later in order to get the stubborn elusive credit in mathematics.

The course is good though. It made us think and reason like undercover detectives… though I was expecting to be some kind of Special Forces training. For where? Throughout the four years I spent there, we weren’t even given a blank pistol to practice with. All we did was research… research and research. Well, credits to them, that was how I got my good research and re-writing skill. Describe any situation for me and I’ll Google it out instantly. And since we had to submit plagiarism free reports too, I would cut points out from various sites, stitch together, re-write the whole patch and that’s all.

During NYSC, I decided to do some professional courses to buffer my second class lower result. I wanted to do Programming but the fees were expensive six figures. To make things worse, My Compaq Presario motherboard got fried by excessive heat. I was hoping to combine Federal Allowance with the Place of Primary Assignment (PPA) pay to fund my programming quest.

As I said earlier in chapter 2, I was rejected by the private school I was initially posted to. The Zonal Inspector asked me where I would prefer to ‘serve’. I told him to send me to the Police since I studied security at school. The Z.I sent me to the camp director at the state HQ to approve my request. The woman directed him the Z.I to post me to a Local Government Council. Inside me, I thought… “Madam Chikezie, did I offend you? Why did you pour sand into my cornflakes?” I gently told the Z.I to post me to his host LG Council (Awka South) since I wasn’t ready to start running around again.

At the month end, to my chagrin, guess how much Corp Members in the Council were paid… a paltry N1,100. There was nothing to be done at the Council anyway. We only go to there around 11 AM to sign attendance register, hang around till 12 PM and go back home. I tried looking for other jobs but the pay they quoted for me as a Corps Member was ridiculous. They said Corpers are meant to serve the serve the country free of charge.

I picked up a Computer Operator work to keep me busy but quit after four months because the transport alone wiped the whole pay. So throughout my service year, I survived on only N19,800 monthly Federal Allowance. To go for programming training no longer feasible so I decided to postpone it till after NYSC.

In place of programming, I did Health, Safety & Environment and Project management Courses. When I got my certificates and attached them to my CV… If I submit my CV to you, you’ll call me for interview immediately.  The strategy worked as I got a lot of other job invites apart from the ones I stated in the previous chapter. After a couple of futile interviews, I sat down and stared hard at the certificates. They were like… waste of money!

Artisans, bricklayers, phone repairers, market boys who didn’t even smell University were smiling to the bank daily while university graduates with fancifully decorated certificates sit down at home jobless. So let me ask you this question… “What is the essence of going to school to harvest certificates when it is the informal guys that get outsourced all the jobs at the end of the day?” Engineering graduates are hardest hit. Their jobs have been taken over by semi literate fellows who would simple throw away an overheating car’s thermostat instead of scanning the car to diagnose the underlying faults.

My Mom later said I should have studied computer science instead of Intelligence & Security Studies since I couldn’t join the armed forces because of ‘physical fitness’. Now refer to the opening paragraph of the chapter… whether I studied Computer Science or Security, what difference does it make? Someone advised me to go ahead with programming training. I looked at him with the cocked head and burst into laughter. I should go and waste my money again, right?

Code Writing is not as lucrative as people think it is. If you are a programmer, without a serious sponsor or company backing, no matter how good you are, in this country (I don’t know about other climes), your skill is as good as a pile of trash. For people who don’t really know how the apps we use today are created and deployed, the next chapter will provide insight on this.

I don’t mean to discourage anyone from going for professional courses. The thing is… my situation is different due to my disadvantage. If not for it, I’ll probably be cooling off in a multi-national company a few months after passing out. So employment wise, if you are fit and feel like going for additional professional courses to boost your credentials, please go ahead.

However, you need to take note that professional courses training schools or such certification programs are like the alimentary canal. They advertise (I’m hungry), you indicate interest and fill the form (food is ready and served), you pay some fees (now eating), then the training starts (digestion), after the training you are required to do an arranged exam that even if you fail all the answers, you will still get certificate anyway (in the anus) and then they give you your certificate and excrete you out. They no longer have any business with you. If you are hoping to get job links through those professional courses training guys, you’re on a very ‘long thing’.

That is where vocational training or apprenticeship is better. In this case, you get to handle and operate all required equipments till you’re good in using them, then you begin to render services to the company’s customers. That way, learn everything about the business- equipment operation, how to market and get customers, servicing your clients, etc. In the days of yore when things were certificate based, professional courses made sense.

But in today’s world where skill is what is often required and jobs are outsourced too, if you want to make cash right after schooling, it is far better to go for vocational/apprenticeship training. The Computer Operator work I briefly did during NYSC greatly improved my Microsoft Office Suite skill.





Image Credits:

Arrow Lady: