There is much that we need to reflect on where the future of the young is the issue in Bangladesh. The facts are before us. Begin with population, which is a whopping --- and disturbing --- 160 million-plus. The idealists will look at it as manpower that can be put to constructive use. And yet that is where it hurts.
When as many as 6,50,000 young people apply for as few as 427 jobs, not much is left to the imagination as to where the nation is headed in the immediate future. We are expanding the industrial landscape; our roads and highways are getting better; efforts are on to develop world-class hotels and resorts as part of tourism; mega projects are the buzz words we hear every day.
It all infuses us with happiness. But that happiness screeches to a halt when we come up against some unwelcome realities. Young men and women, thousands of them and all graduates, have applied for 17th grade jobs as part of lower subordinate staff. There are no more than 621 positions needing to be filled and 10,000 applicants have come in.
The problem then is two-fold. Firstly, these graduates, who should have been taken into positions commensurate with their academic background, are now desperate about getting into jobs that are a steep climb-down for them. They need to survive. Of these 10,000 applicants, 621 will breathe a sigh of relief when they are appointed as MLSS. And the rest?
The responsibility of the state in post-modern times is to ensure that the young are given the opportunity of good education; and once the educational process is gone through are shown the path to employment by the government of the day. The sadness is that in the matter of education, plenty of holes happen to be there in that not every citizen finds the door to academic enlightenment open to him or her.
The sadness is compounded by the failure of the state to guarantee that those who have made it all the way through the academic process will now go looking for jobs they have always coveted. That is not happening, which raises the uncomfortable matter of education going to waste in the country.
The facts are stark: 3.8 million students happen to be studying at 40 public universities. And then the private universities are there as well. How many of these students can reassure their families that they will soon have jobs and will take charge of parents and siblings?
A BIDS study conducted five years ago noted that a worrying 66 per cent of graduates remain unemployed when their education is over. You collide into the issue of financial insecurity here. As things stand today, it is only government jobs, especially at the BCS level, which reassure people of that paramount need for security.
But of course the BCS is not, cannot be, the beginning and the end. Employment opportunities at the various governmental levels need to be streamlined and expanded, for in societies like ours, government matters.
But when priorities are upended, through bureaucrats frequently coming by a raise in salaries and other benefits even as the educated-hungry-angry young roam the streets with CVs in hand, it is time for better planning to be undertaken. There is hardly any point in suggesting from time to time that employment is being generated or will be when the reality is otherwise.
Besides this conundrum of education unable to meet expectations, there should be thoughts of a wholesale change in the education format. The country is in need of agriculturists in tune with food production around the world. There have indeed been some very enterprising young people who, having finished university education, have gone back to their villages and home towns and undertaken projects others can emulate.
These young have exercised their imagination and made a success of their lives. But, yes, since not everyone can emulate them, largely because of resource constraints, it should be for the government to step in with funds and other facilities that will make these young people not only independent but also contributors to national progress.
Education does not have to be pursued on time-worn patterns. Not everyone needs to occupy a room in the secretariat; not everyone needs to be a bureaucrat. Projects which promise good returns on a mass scale, cooperatives which ensure community development, enterprises that have the young give something back to the family and to the country should be the bedrock of social uplift programmes in the country.
Education that does not open doors to employment or which pushes the young to professions they were not trained for leaves a nation bereft of the services of those who will provide leadership to it in future.
When the young, having studied literature, find themselves working for banks; when physics graduates look for work in pharmaceutical companies; when graduates in business studies end up teaching high school, it is an image of a skewed education system we see before us, to our consternation.
And so how do we go about setting things right? Vocational education is an answer. Let us face it, this reality that a vast majority of our people are still poor and depend on their children to emerge, after a necessary level of education has been attained, on to a state where they can provide for their families.
Family well-being is important, which in effect tells us that it is the requirement of the household economy that should be underscored by education.
There should be, besides this grave need for government to promise the young that the job market will be there for them once they come through the various levels of education, the commitment on the part of corporate business to open the door wider for the young to demonstrate and develop their skills in responsible jobs within its many structures.
Many young people have been making their way, having finished business or finance or other relevant studies, to industries in the country. They have been doing well. More people like them should be coming in.
A final thought. Education does not go with corruption. Employment attained through questionable means satisfies the one who has been handed a job, but leaves millions of his compatriots staring into a deepening well of rancid corruption.
When the jobless must cough up, on shameless demand, wads of money for prospective employers before they get a chair, a table and a monthly salary, education sinks.
And employment begins to stink.