Monday, August 26, 2013

Think about this for a minute

The University of The Gambia (UTG ) has been producing graduates in astonishing numbers in its brief history.  From 2005 - 2012, UTG graduated a total of 1,790 in various disciplines and professions including medical doctors, lawyers and diploma and HTC awardees in the Schools of Agriculture, Business and Public Administration and Education.    This figure excludes the year 2011 for which we have been unable, so far, to get figures. (Any help from our readers will be appreciated.)

In 2009, the university graduated 207.  The following year, it graduated a mind-numbing 486, more than doubling the size of the previous year's graduating class.  In 2012, 453 were graduated.  We assume, therefore, that in 2011 close to this number were graduated. 

By simply taking the annual average graduating class to be 255, UTG will produce 2,550 graduates by 2023 in various fields.  This is the most conservative of estimates, given that 2011 figures are excluded.  With an agriculture-based economy where 75% of the population eke a subsistence living, the government and private sectors must grow sufficiently to absorb these graduates yearly.  The tourism sector, the second biggest employment generator, like agriculture, is seasonal thus cannot guarantee full employment throughout the year, even for some of its professional staff. 

In spite of the Gambia economy's growing at 4-5% rate with low to modest rates of inflation by IMF figures, these numbers have, unfortunately, not translated into jobs.  Instead, there has been contraction in the private sector after a sudden surge in the commercial banking sector with new banks being opened, and stagnation in the government sector ( except in the security/uniformed forces ) over the past 5 years followed by, what appears to be, a hostile attitude by Jammeh against private operators causing some investors, including Gambian businessmen and women moving their businesses across the border to friendlier Senegal.   

If the government payroll is not expanding to absorb UTG graduates and the private sector is similarly under-performing in the area of job creation, then the 'social time bomb' that made the Jawara regime hesitant in creating a University may be closer to reality than anticipated.  The absorptive capacity of the economy is being tested less than a decade of UTG's existence.  It is, therefore, imperative that the problem be studied closely. 

These are just my preliminary observations pending the availability of further data in areas of training and specialization of these graduates, the levels and the cost of graduating a student per year.  Our analysis will focus on the quantitative aspects of this phenomenon, leaving the qualitative issues of UTG graduates to the market cum employers to decide.

What is evident, even at this preliminary stage of our enquiry, is the urgent need to re-calibrate the annual intake and the subject mix to better reflect the demands of an economy that has been underperforming for a decade, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future due to bad and inappropriate A(F)PRC policies.

 Post script:  As I was about to publish this blog, my attention was drawn to a BBC story that says that the University of Liberia will not be having an intake in the 2013/14 academic year; not due to strike action but because not a single candidate passed this year's university admission exam.  All 25,000 failed the exam.  It is not that I am putting ideas into the heads of UTG examining board members but this might be one way of slowing down the rate of production of graduates until the economy is in a better shape to absorb the new graduates.