Steven graduated from Njala University with honors and holds a BSc in Accounting. Tonight he sits across a friend and discusses the difficulties he and other graduates face. He also shares his hopes for the future and gives advice to university students and others in the same predicament as himself.
Seeing thousands of graduates like me without work is heart-rending. It’s painful to say that some of us paid millions of Leones and went through so much stress to graduate frustrated and jobless. Our government can’t provide enough work due to a lack of proper infrastructure. Vacancies exist but they are based on connections and corruption. It’s about who knows you.
Some of my friends found work with the help of their connections. Others are like me are still searching for jobs. We are waiting. Really it is not easy in Sierra Leone. You can apply, apply, and apply for vacant positions but in most cases they have secretly recruited someone, maybe their niece or brother. They advertise the position only to follow protocols. The funniest thing is that five hundred people might apply for a position when it only needs a few workers.
Some of my fellow graduates have no choice but to enter the teaching field. Those without a teaching certification become unpaid volunteer teachers. Those who get a certificate will start as assistant teachers and receive a small stipend. They must wait for government approval to become full-time and fully-paid teachers. I want to avoid teaching because it might interfere with my job search. If I apply for accounting work, they would deny me and say I already have a teaching job. I couldn’t even support a family on an assistant teacher stipend. Before I marry and have children I need a good permanent job with an adequate salary.
My dream job would be at a bank, private company, government institution, NGO, or local organization—anywhere I could use my accounting background. I have applied to various vacancies in my town and nearby cities. I’m never selected for an interview because they don’t know me. My application probably goes in the trash. I feel discouraged and go back home quietly, hoping things will change for the better. My sister found work because she studied nursing. The government helps nurses so it’s easier for them. She began as a State-Enrolled Community Health Nurse (SECHN) with full pay, then the government made her a fully qualified nurse. I’m happy for that!
I have hope for President Bio’s new direction. He made it known that he will put aside funds for student loans starting next year. The loans come with a guaranteed government job if the person agrees to pay back the loan through a salary deduction. I’d be happy to join the program, but first I need to reenter university for a master’s degree. That’s my plan anyways—I want to further my studies within five years.
I advise current university students to work hard and get their diploma. You’ll need it when the right opportunity finally comes. For job seekers like me, let us be patient and put prayers forth because only God can change our story. We can help God by searching and applying for vacancies. We rely on faith and hope in Sierra Leone.
Steven’s uncle overhears the conversation and suggests that his nephew apply to a series of job opportunities advertised by the National Civil Registration Authority (NCRA). Steven agrees and promises to do further research tomorrow morning. According to their website, the NCRA is a government entity that “provides for the compulsory registration of Citizens and non-citizens resident in Sierra Leone, as well as, provides the registrants with a multi-purpose identity card.” NCRA’s work also deals with “...registering births, adoptions, marriages, divorce and deaths among others throughout Sierra Leone.”