Ibrahim Saransoor, The University Graduate Roadside Tea-vendor.
By Mohamed Haji
Meet Ibrahim Saransoor, a university graduate who has worked with various organizations and sells tea on the roadside to earn a living. After several years of working, Ibrahim married and then married a second wife. Life was apparently good; children were going to school, there was food on the table, and bills were paid on time. As often happens, Ibrahim lost his job. The NGOs moved from Mandera County and work was hard to come by. Bills were building up and goodwill was dwindling like a summer sun at its nadir. Ibrahim says he was making dozens of job applications particularly to the County but nothing was forthcoming. As is apparently the case, in an environment laden with a toxic mix of nepotism, hubris and impunity jobs at the counties and even at the national government are given on who knows who and not who knows what. Ibrahim’s qualifications and experience are often subordinate to the whims of the recruiting authority. But this is not Ibrahim’s main problem. He says after months of zero income he started selling tea on the roadside. He had no funds to set up a restaurant. This, in the community he lived, was a taboo and for Ibrahim, it was a double whammy. He was doing what men don’t do, selling tea and he was a jobless university graduate with years of practical experience. Selling tea or operating ramshackle roadside tea-vending enterprises was, according to the community, a preserve for young, single women. For the community, Ibrahim with two wives and a university graduate, it was the lowest he could stoop.
It did not deter Ibrahim from the burning desire to provide for his growing families. He says people were looking at him like he was some sort of a pariah! His former friends at university, some of them working in private medical clinics as doctors will avoid him, he narrates. One day he meets one of his friends who is a doctor and after greetings, he asks his friend’s whereabouts, and the friend remorsefully replies that he passed by on several occasions but felt bad how low Ibrahim fell and decided to just give him a miss. ”You know I thought you will be ashamed to see me observe you selling tea on the roadside and avoided you” says the friend. Ibrahim could not immediately gather the courage to tell his friend of the transformation and freedom he felt as a business owner that earns him a relatively comfortable income. Ibrahim who appears cultured and knows a thing or two about the culture tells a twist to what has become of today’s medical profession. In a subdued chuckle, he says ”in the old pristine days selling pharmaceuticals (medicines) was a taboo and something shunned by nobility”. How times move fast. Medicines and related accessories were seen as a basic essential community need and therefore benefiting from their sales was ignoble.
Ibrahim was sick and tired of the endless jobseeking efforts that have come to naught that he says was a job in itself. ”The time it took and the resources I spent applying for various jobs advertised; the processes, the certificates, and even the cash needed to photocopy and sometimes fax was a colossal waste” he discovered. He says this was enough to pay for some of my bills. In most of the jobs Ibrahim qualified for, there is a habit of HR asking for the production of Certificate of Good Conduct, KRA certificate, a Certificate of Clearance from Economic and Ant-corruption Commission (EACC), Higher Education Loans Board(HELB) certificate and others that cost a relatively huge amount of money for the unemployed to access. In addition, what Ibrahim found extremely shocking but unfortunately not surprising was that most of the jobs advertised have already recruited. He narrates a story where he knows a man appointed and already working in one of the offices for a job that is being advertised.
As the bills grew, rent arrears increased and the constant family needs kept biting, Ibrahim had to think outside the box. He could, as some have done, ask one of his wives to do the selling or depend on his former friends’ handouts but he did not. He set out to do it himself. Setting out a roadside tea-selling venture. He bought the cups and thermoses and started selling tea to the people. While society’s eyebrows were rising, Ibrahim’s anxiety over his unpaid bills and family needs was quickly dropping. He felt a huge weight off his chest. With his university education and experience, he had to dig deep into his transferable skills to turn around the financial fortunes of his families and cut off the shackles of dependence and elusive job search.
Ibrahim says the idea to gain a university education only to work in an office or for another man’s business is a faulty one that society needs to shade off. The young must think outside the box and reverse the thinking. Society must have a mature conversation with itself, turn a full circle, and meet the new normal of work and wages with open arms. The days of completing a university education and walking into a job are gone. The graduates must create the jobs themselves and be the employers of tomorrow. Education must be the door to freedom and independence, not dependence and debt. The young must train to learn the skills the community needs, fill those needs, and prosper to financial independence. The taboo ceiling must be broken for society to unshackle itself from the damaging youth unemployment and its consequences of insecurity and imminent instability.
This was adapted from Mr Lafagare’s Somali Version Video. Translation by NFDDISPATCH.COM
If you have stories to share or articles to contribute reach the Editor on firstname.lastname@example.org