Chad’s unemployed graduates cling to public sector dream

Chad’s unemployed graduates cling to public sector dream
Chad’s unemployed graduates cling to public sector dream

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Jeddah - Yasmine El Tohamy - N’DJAMENA: For 10 years, Chadian biomedical science graduate Nan-Arabe Lodoum has relied on odd jobs to get by but clings to his dream of becoming a civil servant.

The 34-year-old is far from alone.

Studying certain subjects with a selective entrance exam in Chad is supposed to guarantee a job in the public sector later on.

But mass youth unemployment has dashed many people’s expectation of walking into a stable, well-paying job after studying.

Prime Minister Succes Masra, a former long-time opponent of Chad’s ruling military junta, called the problem a “time bomb” in his inaugural speech in January.

“We didn’t think we were going to be the unlucky ones,” Lodoum said.

“The older generation were automatically integrated (into the civil service), some are university professors,” he added.

Lodoum is the coordinator of the Association of Unemployed Graduates, a youth-led collective that supports and campaigns for those facing the same predicament.

Some 60 percent of young graduates in Chad were unemployed in 2017, according to the most recent figures available from the national statistics institute.

Lodoum received his degree in 2014 and a decade on, he works as a temporary teacher in an institute of higher education specializing in health.

He’s on a contract to teach 30 hours a year for 90,000 CFA francs ($148, 137 euros).

It’s a far cry from the 400,000 francs a month (610 euros) that a junior laboratory technician in the public sector could expect to earn.

He tops up his income by riding a motorcycle taxi, while others in the same situation work on building sites or as street vendors.

“If you find yourself unemployed for 10 years with a degree, it’s just because you don’t have the right connections,” Lodoum complained.

Several times a month, Benjamin Roukika Pontchombe, 33, who also graduated in 2014, checks on the progress of his application for a job.

Signs at the Ministry of the Civil Service warn that information is only given out on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Don’t insist,” the sign reads.

Pontchombe’s is one of the many dusty files piled on the floor for years, waiting to be digitalized.

But giving up on the chance of a public sector job is not an option, the graduates say.

“We don’t want to give up what we’ve built, we want to succeed,” Lodoum insisted.

In 2022, 60 percent of job applications came from graduates aged between 25 and 35, according to the United Nations.

Prime Minister Masra, who was appointed after returning to Chad from exile, has said he wants to turn the country into a “start-up nation.”

He has promised 100,000 private-sector jobs for young people but has not said when or how the positions will be created.

Chad is the second least-developed country in the world, with more than 42 percent of the population living below the poverty line of around $2 a day, according to the UN in 2022.

In early 2021, Chad’s late former leader Idriss Deby Itno, who ruled with an iron fist for more than 30 years, made employment for “all” unemployed young graduates the main theme of his presidential campaign.

After he was killed by rebels in April of that year, the army proclaimed his son General Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno transitional president at the head of a 15-member junta.

He will stand in presidential elections scheduled for this year, in which the youth vote will be key.

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