Lesira Rampa

The last day of my varsity life left a pulp of emotions in my stomach – joy and relief, fresh hope and a sense of achievement. However, as I went out that varsity gate, a wave of terror engulfed me, reminiscent of the first day I first walked through it. This time, though, the only distinction was that I bore the weight of student debt and an ocean of uncertainties about my future than ideas for my graduation outfit. The reality hit me hard; I was entering a world where unemployment loomed large, particularly for graduates in Lesotho. Was the career path worth it? Am I equipped for the treacherous job market? Would I end up a sheer statistic?

In Lesotho, the unemployment rate among young people, especially those with higher education degrees, has reached an absolutely alarming level. Graduates, armed with knowledge and aspirations, are left disillusioned and struggling to find suitable employment opportunities. As the economy fails to keep pace with the increasing number of graduates, the dream of a prosperous career becomes a mere mirage. I click my tongue in frustration at this reality for still we await a concrete remedy.

Unemployment takes a toll on one’s mental health, leaving the brightest minds grappling with feelings of despair, worthlessness, and hopelessness. The relentlessness of job hunting, constant rejection, and the overwhelming pressure to provide for themselves and their families weigh heavily on their shoulders. Depression and anxiety become unwelcome companions, as ideas slowly fade away, and realities of survival take precedence. Alas, they awaken one somber day to find their dreams shattered, like a forlorn violin with broken strings devoid of melody and harmony.

The desperation of these unemployed graduates make them vulnerable to scams and exploitation. Promises of job opportunities that turn out to be fraudulent schemes leave them more emotionally and financially devastated. It breaks their spirits further and deepens the cynicism they feel towards society and the systems that have failed them.

Tragically, because idleness is the mother of vice; some graduates succumb to the weight of unemployment and resort to extreme measures, such as suicide. The sense of hopelessness and the belief that they are insignificant statistics in the sea of unemployed graduates push them to the edge. Their potential remains untapped, their contributions to society limited, and their dreams shattered.

Let us halt the melancholies shall we! – addressing this dire situation requires a multifaceted approach, to for once dive deeper into solid resolutions. Lesotho has a rather weak entrepreneurial culture due to lack of access to financing and resources; making it unquestionably challenging for graduates to sustain their business startups, or to even venture into any businesses at all.  True as it is that there is verily an incoming support for business start-ups, it has overtime been proven crucial for funding agencies to consider not only established business startups but also aspiring entrepreneurs that have not yet started their ventures. The repetitive focus on solely existing business startups is not doing our country any developmental justice; diversifying the entrepreneurial ecosystem would invite new ideas and fresh perspectives, not to mention unleashing these graduates’ unique potentials hence contributing substantially to Lesotho’s economic growth.

There is a huge misalignment between the curriculum and the demands of the job market. Two words; education reforms! The famous saying goes, “education without application is like a brush without paint,” and Lesotho must paint a brighter future by equipping its youth with practical skills that can secure gainful employment. The government of Lesotho has an opportunity to enact transformative reforms in the realm of education that harmonize with the dynamic demands of the job market.

It could therefore augment the existing curriculum by incorporating a comprehensive range of vocational and technical courses that foster hands-on experience. By doing so, Lesotho can ensure that its graduates possess the necessary skills to navigate the complex maze of the job market, from industry-specific expertise to critical skills like problem-solving and adaptability. Additionally, adopting a proverbial “two birds, one stone” approach, the government can collaborate with the private sector to develop and implement apprenticeship and internship programs. This symbiotic partnership would not only provide valuable practical training opportunities for students but also enable companies to tackle the perennial challenge of sourcing skilled employees, as the renowned saying goes, “a wilting tree must be watered for it to bear fruit.”

Agreed, some of these solutions are however seemingly cumbersome and are effective yet not a quick-fix to the graduate blues. Hence some of the nearer resolutions to adopt include the acknowledgement that people are an individual’s greatest resource. Networking plays a crucial role in the job hunting process, to build connections and attending events as much as possible open hidden doors of opportunity. School might have been a tiresome journey riddled with a lot of sleepless nights, and for a while graduating feels like a ticket that halts further learning. Nonetheless- we live in an evolving world and graduates must consider enhancing their skills and knowledge regularly, the negligence of continuous professional development like taking other short courses in different career fields can make one fall behind and limit chances of securing better opportunities. Entry level positions along the lines of volunteering and internships might be beneath one’s expectations but are valuable stepping stones that provide valuable experience.

Combating unemployment in Lesotho requires a collective effort and a commitment from all stakeholders involved. Creating an environment that nurtures entrepreneurship, aligning education with industry demands, and providing comprehensive support to graduates are essential steps towards breaking the cycle of unemployment and offering hope to those who once dreamed of a promising future. Let us rewrite the narrative and empower our graduates to realize their potential and contribute meaningfully to the development of our nation.