As at the date of writing, 24 February 2016, my beloved country Zimbabwe is being strangled by the demon that is unemployment. The people simply do not have jobs. Those few that do have jobs are not satisfied with their jobs. It is in essence a desperate situation. This is because the youths in particular are hungry for careers, upward social mobility and financial freedom. Many young people in Zimbabwe today have university degrees but they are still unemployed. This is an appalling situation. If there are no jobs, the value of an education begins to be reassessed. That is, is it worth the trouble to go to university to obtain a degree? What does one do with a degree that cannot earn him a job? Make no mistake about it, the university experience is demanding. There are a lot of sacrifices that go into it. From the financial side – tuition, the cost of books and the general living expenses. From the effort side – time invested in studying, getting up early in the morning instead of enjoying the comfort of warm blankets. These are all sacrifices made in pursuit of a degree. Then after all that shit, that degree doesn’t bring a job. What the fuck !
In my short academic career I have managed to obtain two degrees. One is an Honours degree the other is a Master’s degree. When I started this path in academia friends and family emphasized the importance of obtaining a university qualification. Having a degree was the key to unlocking a successful life they said. The good life was sure to follow after getting capped they said. Getting a degree meant getting a job .Getting a job meant money, cars, sexy women, lots of sex ,lots of sex ,and lots of sex. You get the point. Now imagine my disappointment when after getting my first degree I did not get a job. Dear reader, I searched the whole of God’s green earth for a job but I wound up unsuccessful.
I should mention here that my first degree was in English and Communication. After graduation I did my research and Google told me that I was eligible for careers in a wide variety of fields. Fields such as journalism, corporate communications, public relations, and even teaching. I got nothing but a shitty 3 month internship at some media house. That was the best I could do with my Honours degree. A measly 3 month internship. What was I to do? Maybe the problem wasn’t the job market. Maybe the problem was the fact that everyone had an undergraduate. I was trying to get noticed with my little honours degree which everyone had courtesy of the many universities in Zimbabwe. So I thought to myself, why not get a Master’s degree that will blow the socks off any prospective employer? It will make up for my lack of experience. If not, it will at least give me an advantage over those freshly minted, corky Honours graduates when applying for a job. So off to graduate school I went to study a Master of Arts in English Literature.
Ladies and gentleman, if you have never been to graduate school you should know that it is intellectually and academically demanding. That shit will fuck up your life. I was a good student during my undergraduate years. I studied hard and I was impressed with my degree classification. So I went to graduate school thinking that I knew quite a thing or two about my beloved field of English literature. I mean I got accepted in the first place right? I got the shock of my life when I began reading for the degree. The content was factually dense and it came in truckloads. The information was cryptic and so intense that sometimes it would literally take 30 minutes to go through a single page. And you absolutely had to have a dictionary with you at all times. I learnt about French philosophers, African philosophers ,Modernity ,The enlightenment, Post colonial theory, Geocriticism, The Autobiographical I, Narratology, Post modernism, Hybridity, Hegemony, Commodity fetishism, Fractured identities, Dialectical materialism, Pastiche, Magical realism, Social Death, etc. There were hoards of readings, articles, novels and text books all waiting to be read by me. Somehow I got through it all. And I got that degree.
After graduate school an odd thing happened. I STILL COULD NOT GET A FUCKING JOB. After sacrificing time and money and risking my sanity through the mind fucking I got from all those books, I was still unemployed. My Master’s degree did not help one bit. A human resource executive I talked to even told me that I had to omit my Master’s degree from my C.V so as not to threaten a prospective employer. Imagine. Apparently “young Master’s degree holders are seen as untrainable by management. Postgraduate degreed people are corky”. I was disappointed. After all that work I was now supposed to hide my hard fought achievement? What use was this Masters if it meant I would still be unemployed?
Don’t get me wrong my two degrees imparted skills that are hard to come by. I can do things with the English language that even her majesty the Queen of England would be proud of! I can spot misplaced words and replace them with more appropriate ones. I can hold a conversation with someone on topics ranging from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar as a critique of Elizabethan succession politics to the Negritude poetry of Senghor to the Womanist rebuttal of feminist ideology in African American literature. I can tell when someone is ‘breaking English ’and secretly laugh at them. When I want to impress someone I can use big words like ‘phantasmagoria’ and ‘propinquity’ to confuse people so that they think I’m clever.
Dear reader, the point I am trying to make here is that we should assess the importance of a degree in today’s Zimbabwean economy. Does one need a degree to be successful? Will you become successful when you get that degree? Aren’t there alternatives to getting a degree? Now, the humanities student in me will argue that a university education is an end in itself not a means to an end. It would disparage the university if we were to liken it to a training college meant to train people for specific jobs. The university is there for the attainment of knowledge. The word philosophy literally means ‘love of knowledge’ (For those of you who are wondering, philanthropy means ‘love of life/people’). After all when universities were first started in ancient Greece, peopled attended in order to gain knowledge and not so that they would get a job. These arguments hold water but God dammit, I’m broke and I want a job!