2020 is a year to remember, not just for COVID which is a global issue, but also regarding pockets of mis-normality that occurred as a result of the pandemic. On my birthday in 2020, April 6, when I was reflecting on past issues and counting my blessings when I got a call from the Human Resource (HR) manager of the organization I worked with.
The organization usually celebrate staff’s birthday with a cake, bottle of wine and a birthday card inscribing the best wishes of everyone present in the office. Then during the close of work, everybody assembles at the conference room to celebrate the person.
So, I was expecting similar situation but since we were home because of COVID, I was expecting to receive a call to ask for delivery location.
The instruction from the call was that I should check my official email and revert immediately. That alone got me destabilized; I began to wonder ‘what the email could be all about?’ But then, I had other thoughts running through my head that I didn’t want to admit but it was so strong, I just had to think.
Fast forward to April 7, 2020, since I couldn’t access the supposed right information that was sent to the email, I was told to be at the office. I got to the office, straight to the HR’s office and boom! … the HR said what was actually sent to the email was a dismissal letter “the organization is undergoing some restructuring and it was reported that your team didn’t create a design for a particular day, well you were not the only person given the letter in the team, we wish you all the best in your endeavours”.
I wasn’t shocked or moved when the HR made those statements and printed the letter, like I said earlier, I had many thoughts running through my head the moment I got the call on my birthday. Prior to all the occurrences, I noticed someone else was doing the job I was assigned to do, that was where my speculations started and I knew something was wrong. I did the needful, handed everything necessary to the new person in charge.
THE JOB HUNT BEGAN
Moving on from what happened wasn’t really that easy at all. I tried to be so strong and never wanted to admit that I am really grieved and heartbroken. Definitely, I knew my days were numbered in the organization but never expected it would be the way it came through. I fought it really hard but had to give up to my covering clothe in the dark, cried out my pains and slept over them. At some point, I wondered why I have to be this unfortunate.
Considering all my bills and expenses, I just had to brace up myself and start the job hunt. I was on the lookout for any employment opportunity, always checking the internet for any job offer, called friends to call a friend, spoke to my internship supervisors. I do try not to feel bad whenever they show empathy like I lost something so dear.
I sent out my CV to organizations I had their email addresses, I was not even particular about the kind of job, but then money should come in and amounting to the fact that no sleeping around would fetch a substantial amount without taking away peace of mind, health and independence. Really bad, I had no response to the bulk of emails I sent out.
One lucky day, I got an SMS from a random organization I never sent an application to. The details in the message were for an interview, location, time and date. I was really excited when I got the message. It was the interview day, I got up earlier than every other day, dressed up and left for the place. It was a bit difficult locating the place, eventually I did. At the entrance, I met two people having a conversation as they walked away from the main entrance. I exchanged pleasantry and went in, then a lady called my attention requesting how I got here, I showed her the message.
I am always observant of anywhere I go to, the people – their expressions, physical appearance, building. I was directed to a room where other applicants were, on the wall of the building were motivational quotes from renowned successful businessmen. I got my eyes busy reading them, then started to observe the applicants in the room. I noticed the majority of the applicants, old people, whom I presumed would be in their 40s both men and women were on a high number compared to the young ones. We all sat quietly and well composed and waited patiently to be called in for the interview.
At some point, I began to feel very uncomfortable about the place. I could recall finding myself in a scenario like this and what I got to discover at the end was that the organization was into something different from what they projected themselves to be. You imagine when the profile of the organization says they are into consulting services, they train people about public speaking and organize training for staff in other organizations. But at the end of the day, they tell you to register with a certain amount of money to be qualified for one trading business.
I could also see some peculiar similarities. Right from that moment, I had this strong feeling that I shouldn’t be here. I felt like I actually owned an organization and these people came for an interview. I got to realise how badly people are in need of jobs, both old and young, most especially during the pandemic, when most organizations carried out massive retrenchment. Waking up from my lost thoughts, I just took to my heels and left for home.
I found it really difficult adjusting to the new situation – without a job – as I was already used to the lifestyle of waking up early getting ready to leave for work and now had to cope with waking up and staring at the four walls of my small room. Not disputing the fact that I could knit, I started knitting, learnt new methods on YouTube; started making snacks, the purple hibiscus drink popularly called Zobo and soya milk for sale in my neighborhood. It was really interesting to know that I was making sales, I got compliments and complaints; I needed to improve on one thing or the other.
Lost interest in the job hunt for the mean time, and advised myself to just focus on the pastries making; although, what was coming in wasn’t huge, I was happy. I was making sales and this overrode the stress in my new found job.
OUT OF LOCK DOWN
Grateful, the lockdown was eased and we could all move around with our masks on. And school had to reopen. Initially, I had to opt for part time because I was working and after the duty relief, I was advised by a lecturer to switch to full time and finish up studies, because distance learning studies is financially draining, as I would pay fees for 3 academic sessions, unlike full time studies which is 2 academic session.
At first, I was skeptical about the advice, thinking on how to raise my school fees. I am not used to begging people, I don’t like being a disturbance or burden to those around me.
I started the job hunt again. But this time with a focus, I wanted something I could do, which would not affect my studies at school. All the jobs I saw were not really what I wanted; they needed my attention from 8am to 5pm.
Fortunately, I had an offer to write for an online platform, attend events and report the news, at least with that, I got some stipends.
THE CHALLENGE OF WORKING AND STUDYING
This whole time, I just came to figure out how an average person cannot pursue education and still make ends meet with a part time job. Emeka (pseudonym) is a teenager, he still wishes to go back to school to complete his JSS3, but had to work for money to save enough.
I began to wonder, how would he do that, because he would meet me today and say “Aunty Joan, I don get work, but the money I go manage am,” another day “Aunty Joan, I don leave that work, they no gree pay me my money complete”. And the news goes on and on. And at what age would he be able to go back, when will he get his life in order? Because there are many more young people out there like Emeka.
When we have a system that doesn’t give room for young people to do or explore other things, especially pursuing education when it comes to those who don’t have a sponsor. I wonder if there is a way, young people could pursue education and still make money legally.
Taking a close look at developed countries like New Zealand and France, there are restaurants or organizations around that young people could work for some hours and be paid to raise money or engage their weekends. They even end up doing more jobs and getting more money to sort their bills and still be present in school.
I just wish Nigeria’s economy standard could be built to the point every citizen will live their dream lives in an economically enabling environment. There are hardworking young people who want to make money legally, but the system is not encouraging.
You agree that there are no jobs, but then, are we really creating more jobs that will be flexible for young people? Also, must everybody become a CEO? I believe, yes at least not all are gifted for it, not all have the capacity to create, but then there is a great need for it. If not, how would these young generations rule or have affairs in the development of the country when they don’t have access to basic education. It is a good thing to recall that in the 1960’s education wasn’t as expensive as this.
Daily, we have an increasing population which calls for more job creation. In order not to kill the learning capacity or over use the strength of a young individual, there is need to be considerate about the job. There should be a working system that would make young people also pay attention to their personal life rather than over using them for the growth of the organization when you can get someone like them to work in a shift system to maximize productivity.