Diary of a Broke Kenyan Graduate: Was A University Degree Worth It?

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Hi, Andisi here and this is the diary of a broke Kenyan graduate. The broke graduate is me. A little back story, I have recently completed my undergraduate degree in Business and IT (yes it is one degree) and I am currently unemployed.

Smoke and Mirrors

Let’s go back a bit further, I attended a high school that was ironically nicknamed ‘Paradise in the Bush’. We chose our elective subjects in form three and the basis of this was what we hoped to specialize in if and when we qualified for University. Around that time is when the ‘go to uni, get rich quick’ scheme began to be peddled. Where they sell you the hope that if you work hard enough to get into university and do some shiny course and become some shiny graduate and you’ll get a lot of money. I chose my electives and everyone around me wanted me to be a lawyer (Yeah… no way). At some point, I did buy into the idea because I didn’t know any better. Fast forward to results being released (Matiang’i era candidates stand up!) and we chose courses and I got called for BBIT. Around that time the stories of graduating and tarmack-ing surfaced. I began wondering if what we were preached to were smoke and mirrors. Well four years later, I am yet to know and hence this diary.

 Is a University Degree important?

The degree I undertook had both Business and IT in it. Earlier on I found IT and Software Development specifically more interesting (accounting was a nightmare). A series of events later I found myself on Tech Twitter. I watched the raging debates in that space and one of them was on the importance of a university degree. The debate was sparked by the number of people qualifying for high-paying jobs without a college degree. On the merit of their skillset and also the large number of people who drop out and become wildly successful in tech for example Mark Zuckerberg. I prefer to listen to debates and hear what both divides have to say. They both have strong points but if you found me aside and asked me this, I would shrug my shoulders (I suck, I know right).

Well, is it?

You would look me dead in the eye. Sensing your expectation for an answer I would say that in my experience pursuing the certificate was not the main theme for the past four years. It is more of the life lessons you learn along the way.

·         You learn how to interact with others. You get to experience people who are nasty for no reason and others who are sweet to a fault.

·         You get to build friendships. Acknowledge the seasonal ones that you have no hard feelings about when they die off.

·         You have a larger dating pool. You can kiss as many frogs until you realize character development is not for the faint of heart.

·         You get to cultivate your self-control. You are not under your parent’s watchful eye. You can drink at any time, any day of the week and no one will question you.

·         You have the opportunity for self-discovery, you find out who you are, and your values.

There are tons more lessons you learn on your journey to graduation. They live with you and help you navigate life. Also, don’t get caught up in “self-discovery” and forget your books. So, yes if you qualify for a degree and you can secure the funding do it and give it your best.

The Skill Gap

Okay, so you resonated with my answer (smart person, high five!) and are undertaking the degree and you finish (congrats to you) and you find out you need to do another course to get the skill to do what you went to university for. Back to square one. Here is where the skill merit overpowers the degree. Thus the question arises, why do a four-year course when I can do a short course and merit the same job as a degree holder? (You begin to see why I shrug my shoulders in the first place). Honestly, the time I spent doing the degree also gave me the time to explore and find out which field I enjoyed and felt I could build a career in. When I completed my coursework early last year I knew the skill I needed to get to tentatively fit in the job market. If you are still pursuing an undergraduate here are some pointers:

·         Take the time to explore your field. Treat each unit in your coursework as a potential career. See if it is something you would spend 30 years building a career in.  

·         Find out the skills or certifications you would need for the job market.

·         Get on social media platforms like Linkedin. Network with others currently in the field you endeavor to be in. Ask what it is like and how you can position yourself as early as now.

·         Get a mentor in your field of choice. Do not wait for them to push you or to check on you to urge you to follow their insight. Jitume (push yourself).

That should assist you to get ahead earlier and not feel hopeless once you put on that graduation gown and are conferred the power to read and do all that appertains to your degree.

Was It Worth It?

If you found me on 2nd December 2022, in the euphoria of graduation, I would say yes. It was worth it and I would ramble on how the four years spent were the most transformative thus far and how I have met the loveliest people and had experiences that I will cherish for life. If you found me today, I would shrug my shoulders (now you just hate me) and say I am yet to see the return on investment. The day after graduation, I felt a seismic shift and now I am in a transitionary period from the comfort and shelter of school to the real world. Hence this diary, feel free to follow along as I document what it is like being a broke Kenyan graduate. If you are in the same boat or further out at sea or even still at the port, share what it is like where you are. We can all cry and encourage each other.


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  1. It’s the true! Relatable. The shift between the euphoria of graduation day and the reality sinking in later is quite something but as a wise man once said …ni life 🤷🏿‍♀️