If you’re fully Nigerian and more than 35 years of age, you’d probably scoff at this title and move on. But not minding whatever spirit of conservatism leads your soul beside still waters, I really do hope you pause for a minute and read through…

And if you are below 35 years, you might have been at that point where a parent or guardian advised you or literally forced you to go for a professional course. You’d be told that this decision is a glance into the future, a long-term plan that will ensure job security and financial stability. Asides this, it is also an ego-thing, where someone somewhere believes your dream can become an extension of theirs and practically bullies you to follow the path of your reasonable dreams.

I know you are probably tired of hearing people say things like “the world is going digital and nyen nyen nyen…” and “this computer age…”. I am tired of them myself; I mean who wouldn’t when they kept getting repeated out of context without enough elaboration on how you can directly benefit from this digital goodness that keep getting repeated at every turn ?

Existing in a technologically advanced world doesn’t mean you automatically start earning just by the virtue of being present. You, as a living and breathing person, also need to acquire the necessary skills that are needed by this age to justify the relevance of your existence, else you’ll end up as a piece to be gawked at and talked about in boring essays, like artefacts in the museum of modernity. It simply means that such instances of technological advancements create newer easier and more-efficient ways of solving problems and expose more gaps that fancy standard education cannot fill.

Most importantly, it seems crucial to expand on what qualifies as a digital skill. Merely being tech-savvy or owning smart gadgets doesn’t qualify as possessing a skill. According to UNESCO, “digital skills are defined as a range of abilities to use digital devices, communication applications, and networks to access and manage information.” Digital skills here include entry-level and advanced-level digital skills, which often include creating and managing digital content, and using digital technologies to process coded information and proffer solutions.

In plainer language, having a skill means having the ability to offer value that people would pay for. The offering value part is where the importance lies. Looking objectively, having a college degree is not bad at all, I mean you get a nice job, save for a while to be able to afford the good things of life, and maybe start a beautiful family. All goals I swear!

But the constantly changing clime and the fact that you still earn in Naira might be solid reasons to reconsider. Mind you, this is not a mindless critique of the Nigerian educational system. A standard education ‘educates’ you, trains you in a particular area by making you more knowledgeable in only that area, and makes you spend thousands or millions of whatever currency your tuition counts in, and still at that does not automatically give you value to offer and be paid for. Most people will eventually come out, go for youth service, and come out to join “bring two people that will bring another two people” schemes in an active pursuit for money.

NB: this mostly applies to common people. And this is not a rich-people sub.

A quick activity, browse a bit about online digital courses and how much they cost. If you have no prior knowledge about such learning platforms, then simply google-search Udemy, or Coursera. There are literally many online learning hubs where you can learn thousands of skills at a go, that come in conveniently-structured timetables, and are typically affordable.

As a middle-class Nigerian, every clock is literally against you. And I do not mean this in that way you do when you rant about how Nigeria is a giant dream sucker. What I mean is that jobs here are still structured in the traditional sense of basing job requirements on degrees, except you have a degree in language or communication studies, meaning that “you can work anywhere” and this is never a good thing. In the hands of a typical Nigerian employer, you are a tissue good for wiping front and back.

Digital skills almost exist as opposites of college degrees, meaning that the emphasis here is not on your first class but on the skills you bring to the table. It doesn’t matter that you dropped out sometime in third year, what matters more is that you can write mad codes like a wizard and that’s what people will pay thousands (of whatever currency in earn in) for.

A quick jab at standard education- when I collected my degree certificate, I was seriously warned of the don’ts and more don’ts. The summary of these warnings being that the school does not issue a degree certificate twice. I bet it wouldn’t sound funny to hear that the proof of knowledge and employability ‘skills’ gathered over the four years you spent in a Nigerian university lies on a mere sheet of paper. While with digital skills, you are practically a walking certificate everywhere you go in the world, as such skills speak a universally understood language. Also, once gained such skills are yours for life, and situations such as a school changing its name from University of Nigeria Nsukka to University of Biafra Nsukka would not have any effect on your wealth of experience.

One thing that is never talked enough is how having a digital skill gives you more bargaining power, that it even extends to deciding the mode of working you prefer, the working hours, the location, and sometimes the pay. Such things count as big victories for freelancers and contract workers with digital skills, and culminates to a utopian apex for people who have worked in toxic environments. What else can sound more exciting to a millennial aside hearing that they can work on their own terms and still earn good money?

And have I talked about the pay? Money is almost everything and Digital skills pay more money than most normal degree-based jobs do. This is probably one of the reasons why SARS officers believe that every young laptop-carrying Nigerian is a criminal. Also, hearing people shout “tech bro” upandan is not merely something people do out of pleasure, it is more of acknowldeging the existence of an exclusive club where people have access to money and opportunities. In fact, “tech bro” no be guy name, na better job description and an apt description of YAGI (Young And Getting It)


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