Africa

Viewpoint: Time to stop over-parenting in Nigeria

  • 20 July 2011
  • From the section Africa
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Funmi Wale-Adegbite looks through an application
Funmi Wale-Adegbite is not impressed by many of the graduates who come to her

Youth unemployment is a major issue in many countries in the world, but could over-parenting be in part to blame? Funmi Wale-Adegbite, who is based in Lagos and has more than 10 years experience in the recruitment industry, tell the BBC World Service why she believes this is the case in Nigeria.

In Nigeria we have a very high unemployment rate for young people between the age of 15-24 years - I think we are looking at over 30%.

Over-parenting is in my opinion the greatest evil handicapping Nigerian youth. It is at the root of our national malaise. Parents, you are practically loving your child to death.

Whether you are poor or rich in Nigeria, the culture expects you to nurture your child continuously.

The way our culture is, you look at your child as a child forever, and you almost treat them child as a child forever.

Parents sustain their children, they pay them pocket money - sometimes into their 30s.

So you can have a 30-something-year-old man and the parents refers to him as a "child".

And that person, that adult, behaves like a child, because he gets pocket money, and he gets a driver to take him round.

There is no pressure on that "child" to get out and do something - they are comfortable.

So a high-proportion of unemployment is due to parents not cutting the cord, and not leaving that young man or that young woman to make something of themselves.

In the UK, an 18 year old is almost a young adult, but in Nigeria that person is a child.

Pressure to earn

Most people in Nigeria finish university late; it is not unusual to have a 27 year old just finishing university, and it is not unusual to have somebody aged 27 who has never worked before - whether they are from a rich or a poor background. Many have no work experience whatsoever.

It is with entry level graduates that the majority of the problem lies; they are not really focused.

Are young people in Nigeria asking for too much?

Most parents have expectations and imagine their child working for a known name, a known brand - for example a bank, a telecommunications company, an oil and gas company, or a multinational organisation.

And they want them to earn what they term a "decent salary".

In Nigeria, there is so much pressure to earn now, that people are not prepared to sacrifice their time to learn under somebody - everybody wants to earn big money.

I don't want to give the wrong impression - it is not everybody - but from my experience, it is around 70% of the graduates I speak to.

There is a sense of entitlement that is reinforced by parents.

So if another company comes along and can offer them the kind of experience that they need right now, but pays them half or maybe a third of what a large organisation would pay, they frown on it.

They would rather be a cleaner in a large multinational organisation than a graduate trainee in an unknown company.

Students 'lost'

When my parents were 18, there were fewer opportunities for them to make a success of their lives than there are now.

They were living in rural areas, there were no telephones, no internet, so they really had to really strive, and they had no parents to back them up.

My father was one of 40 children, so he was not in line for any pocket money.

The youth of today are definitely not as determined to succeed because they have somebody who always catches them when they are just about to fall.

Sometimes people think that once you go to university, you have arrived.

And the universities do not really prepare the graduates.

The whole reason for a university to offer a course is because there is an industry that needs it.

But there is a disconnect in a lot of Nigerian universities; the universities are not really preparing students for work, they are just giving degrees, and it does not matter whether they are suitable for a company or not.

When I was at university in the UK, we had a careers office. It was very clear to us that by your second year you should be getting some work experience in line with what you hope to be doing at the end of your course.

But in Nigeria it is not like that - most universities do not have a careers office, and they do not offer any careers advice.

So students come out of university and are totally lost.

'Nothing comes easy'

University education has been so celebrated in Nigeria that people do not really stop to think whether there are alternatives. Is university where that child should go, or is there vocational training that could be done?'

Education is seen as a status symbol, so everyone wants to go to university.

Funmi Wale-Adegbite: "Students come out of university and they are totally lost"

There are so many industries in Nigeria that are suffering. Teaching for instance - many people do not want their children to be teachers. So you have a big shortage in that area.

I had a young lady come to me and I did a personality assessment for her, which said she would be very good working with children and being a teacher in a pre-school or nursery school.

But she told me: "Please don't tell my parents because they want me to work in a bank."

It is a cultural thing and it is really hard to break.

My eldest child is 11, and the way I am raising him and the other younger two, is to tell them: "You need to work hard; nothing comes easy."

Funmi Wale-Adegbite was speaking to BBC World Service as part of a series on youth unemployment around the world. She is a managing partner with Antal International, a global executive search company.