From utter despair and tears of hopelessness, to “the happiest, most unbelievable day ever”. All within the space of a few hours…
This is the emotional rollercoaster ride University of the Free State alumnus, Seun Komolafe, experienced on Monday after Bloemfontein Courant published the story about his struggle to find employment.
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Komolafe spent Monday morning on a street corner in Universitas, with a poster begging for employment of any kind. What makes his story different from so many others adorning our street corners, is that he holds three university degrees.
The 31-year-old holds an undergraduate degree in Actuarial Science, along with an Honours and a Master’s degree in Mathematical Statistics, all passed with distinction.
However, he had been struggling to find a job since 2013, when he obtained his undergraduate degree.
“I decided to do my Honours, because I received a bursary, and since then I couldn’t find a job,” he told Courant on Tuesday morning. “When I still couldn’t find a job after that, I decided to pursue my Master’s, hoping that I would find a job during the year.”
However, it wasn’t to be.
Komolafe says despite having obtained three degrees with distinctions in fields considered scarce skills, the unemployment line remained his only option.
“I have recently been offered a merit bursary by the university to study towards a Ph.D. but what’s the worth of that if I am still presented with the face of poverty whilst highly educated?”
Several employers allegedly rejected his applications based on his nationality.
Komolafe grew up in dire poverty, raised by a single father in Nigeria. Having dreamt of a life where he could study and help provide for his family, he did not hesitate when his uncle, who was living in South Africa, suggested that he furthers his studies at the University of the Free State.
“Once I landed in South Africa I chose to pursue a career in Mathematics because I knew it is a scarce skill that would open doors for me. Never did I imagine finding employment with this qualification would be such as a daunting task,” he says.
What kind of job does someone with his qualifications look for though?
“I used to dream of doing economic analytics for a major bank, but now I am willing to do anything,” he responds.
“I am willing to take literally any job, if it will put food on the table.
“There were times when I would ask myself why I even pursued a career in this field. The thought of going back to Nigeria or migrating to another country would often also cross my mind, but I am hopeful that I will find something to sustain myself in South Africa. There was a point where I would sit in my room and ask myself how I could have three degrees and yet fail to put food on my table.” Komolafe says he, however, still believes education is the key to success and wants to reinvest in this country through his knowledge.
“I studied in South Africa for all these years. I came to South Africa with nothing, and South Africans took care of me. They paid for my studies. It would be wrong for me to simply leave without giving back to South Africa. I want to help South African young people like I was helped.”
Now, what had seemed like an insurmountable mountain for the past few years has changed overnight.
More than 80 000 Courant readers read Komolafe’s story online with hundreds of shares on social media since Monday.
Other media picked up on Courant‘s story, which gave it even more momentum.
There were times when I would ask myself why I even pursued a career in this field
His phone has been ringing non-stop, with people from across the country inviting him for interviews, and even sponsoring his airfare.
“From utter despair to unbelievable luck! So many people have contacted me, even from major national companies. One person even offered me employment straightaway. I’m hopeful that my love for mathematics and numbers will bear fruit in no time.”
After years of despair, Komolafe now appears to have even gained a streak of the motivational speaker, as he leaves Bloemfontein Courant with this parting shot.
“Life is not about what you have experienced in the past. It is what you can do for yourself in the present, so never give up.”
Unbelievable indeed… – Katleho Morapela & Earl Coetzee