After National Service what next!

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Fri, 7 Sep 2018 Source: Salim Masud

In Ghana, the education system lasts for a minimum of 19 years. That is from nursery till the completion of university. As a student, we go through this educational process or career thinking about how to get employed after; this is even a cliche, as being trained to get employed means that we are taught skills that matter or are needed in the working environment- rather we are just taught the theoretical issues with the inadequate practical aspects of them.

As students, we also are to be blamed for the apathy that we have witnessed in the educational environment as we also stick to 'chewing and pouring' during exams. Even with that is it not only the student that has to be blamed, as the exams set always requires that the student produces exactly what was given; backing the principle of 'chew, pour and pass'.

This is not an article that seeks to play the blame game- that is are the teachers to blame, the students, the government (as usually, it is the norm in Ghana) or the Ghana Education Service.- but one that seeks to put the problem out there and seek for a redressing on the matter.

Our educational system has not been the best- if it’s being judged based on its capacity to develop the skill set to meet the demands of the job market.

The question that I keep asking myself is that; so after finishing school with a Psychology degree, what have I been equipped to do? What job have I been trained to engage in? What was the essence of my education? And I think every graduate is faced with the same problem right after school. I know as you read this, the same question is lurking at the back of your mind. Are we really trained to do anything in Ghana, where a student becomes relevant right after school?

Another pertinent issue is the concept of creativity that is missing from our educational system. How creative am I as a graduate? This is deeply rooted in the concept of our educational system that prevents us from questioning the status quo- if you are told A+B=C, then there is nothing else to do than to accept it. The education system lacks the concept of research and how important it is in education.

Our lecturers and the students alike do not research or probe, we just accept and learn the concept. Well, who should we blame, even the policies that are implemented to guide our educational system are not researched into; thus how indigenous are they and their capacity to solve the problem- they are just implemented based on a majority in parliament that seconds (yeah, yeah) all that the executive brings, with a minority that always indicates (no, no) to everything that is set before them- well forget about the deviation from the point, it was worth it though.

It is difficult in Ghana, to talk about any problem without talking about politics. It is actually difficult to talk about any problem in Ghana, without talking about other problems. Our problems are multi-layered and dimensional in nature. I do not need to rattle on and on, I guess its obvious and everyone who has been a student before or is currently doing his or her national service knows what the problem is. In our attempt to play the blame game, We blame the government and those in charge of the educational system. What we fail to see is that they have all been students before and hence let's blame the students. Yes, the students are to be blamed; we were students before we became lecturers, the government and the GES.

So back to the dilemma of the national service personnel; What do I do after service? If you are thinking about this then you have made a grave mistake and you are not the first person to make this mistake. Many have made the same mistakes years ago and are still facing the consequences of such.

From experience, I have come to realize that it is safer to start thinking about this as early as level 100; this is because during that period you are not so exposed to the harsh economic conditions of life- your parents are most likely to shield you from these during this period- and so you can experiment with new ideas and start businesses that might fail- if it does you learn from its experience- or might thrive- and this can become your source of income and experience whilst on campus. This gives you the experience and practice that your education won't give you. Ok, so you have not thought about something yet and you may already be in the boat, What do you do now? Learn to paddle. You now have to row the boat because there is no turning back from where you are now.

The way forward is not to reminisce about how you should have started way back but you didn't, neither is it about blaming someone now because 'we are masters of our own fate'. The way forward is to think about what you love doing and make a business out of it. In doing so, the focus should not be on how much you can make or how attractive the business is, but how you love doing it.

This is because when tough times knocks on your door, you would not be thinking about how much you can make from the business- after all you would not have made a dime as at that time- neither about how attractive it is- because during that period it would not have been attractive yet- but rather how you enjoyed doing it- its only that feeling that keeps the boat afloat. Ok, so what if I feel like selling charcoal or coconut but as a graduate how can I sell that.

Wow, I guess you are Bill Gates right? Or you are Okomfo Anokye- you can command the golden stool 'mebua"? That is a joke please don’t take offense, you should continue reading its been a great read till now I guess? Well, I said that to say this, every simple and unattractive element, business idea or concept of life- selling coconut, charcoal or selling roasted plantain can be made complex and attractive by what we add or do to it.

That brings me back to the educational system.

I said let’s blame the students because when 'life gives you lemons, you make lemonade' out of them. Every graduate has his/her head up on high thinking some businesses are beneath them. We forget that the complexities of various societies- especially the one that we have come to accept, all started as a simple basic idea. Well, let me use a local business in Ghana to explain this concept. Koko king is a local beverage business that has been set up in Ghana by a Ghanaian entrepreneur.

The business is all about revamping and making local beverages in Ghana- like Koko, Wheat and Rice water- attractive and worth enjoying. This is the koko that we all buy everyday on the street oh, not any special koko. I like the business concept because it seeks to make a local product better. As a graduate, come up with business ideas that tend to make attractive, products and services that are indigenous to the Ghanaian market, rather than wanting to start businesses that are already 'complex' and are saturated on the market.

If at this juncture, you are still asking what you should do, then the answer is 'think'; Think about all the problems you personally face in society and how you can solve these problems; think about the service sector and how you can provide a better service; think but do not think about how small the idea is or the fact that people will laugh at you or ridicule you. You can start small and think big; there are a lot of opportunities out there so let's plant an idea or a business and hope that the rains will come.

Columnist: Salim Masud