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Sunday, 03 December 2023 06:38

My degree certificate, others useless – Edo graduate who burnt credentials

What is your academic background and what do you do for a living?

My name is Alvin Ilenre. I studied History and International Studies at Ajayi Crowther University, Oyo, Oyo State. I’ve been out of jobs since February 2022. So, I just hustle basically. Before then, I had done several things here and there but that’s it for me. Those were things I did before. Right now, I’m unemployed. That’s it for who I am for now.

You were seen recently in a viral video burning some documents, which you described as your certificates. Did you truly burn the certificates?

Yes, of course. I burnt my certificates. I burnt them because I was going through some things and I needed to give myself closure. That was why I burnt them. 

What were the certificates you burnt?

I didn’t know where I dropped my secondary school certificate amid all these, but the certificates I burnt were my university, primary school leaving, and National Youth Service Corps certificates. Also, there were certificates I didn’t burn. I need to state that I’m a minister of God, a trained minister even though I won’t mention my ministry. I didn’t burn the certificates from the ministry, because I was impacted by the grace of God over there so, I never burnt those. But I burnt the educational certificates that are useless in the country.

What were the things you were going through that made you destroy your academic certificates?

The reason why I burnt the certificates is not far-fetched from the kind of society we are in and a lot of people in the country can relate to these things that we’re talking about here. It is frustrating being in a country where your certificate is not regarded. We’re in a country where a certificate has been bastardised. You know, we behave like we don’t know what’s happening whereas the country is decaying. I have a lot of points but I’ll mention a few.

First of all, I graduated from school and I wanted to get a job, but someone was telling me to go and bring N2.5m. Where will I get that from? Where should I get it from? Where will I get N2.5m to get a job? If I had that money with me wouldn’t I start a business, or maybe go outside the country, to one African country where electricity is steady, and start a business? You can’t start a business in this country and your millions will not go down the drain.

Two, I’ve had issues with people, friends, especially female friends, who told me that they were offered jobs on the condition that they would have sexual relationships with the employers or whoever wanted to make it happen. Jobs are not got with credibility, credence, and authenticity again. It is now who can sleep their way to employment. These are things that are happening.

Are you not bothered that you may need the certificates you destroyed one day?

At least, I went to school and it was only my certificates that I burnt. If I approach an employer for a job and they doubt my qualifications, they can go to the university. The university will prove that I graduated from the school. At least, I am better than some persons whose studentships cannot be authenticated by the universities they claim to have attended. So, those are the things we’re talking about. It is sickening; I’m a person who likes doing things the right way, but when you want to do things the right way in this country, you are seen as a fool and are neglected. These are decays in society that we’re not talking about. Military jobs are by slots; then, what are we talking about?

Private businesses are running out of the country. Even when you want to do business, you’re not even sure because there is no light, no road, no basic infrastructure. So that’s the thing. And I’m not the only one on this table, we have a lot of young people on this table who can attest to what I’m talking about. So, that’s part of the reason. I will tell you my mind; let’s shake all the tables and speak truth to power. How many of them (politicians) in power truly have (academic) results? You’ll go to school for years in Nigeria – five years, six years, without graduation. However, their children are taken abroad for studies. When they go abroad and finish in time at the same age when you’re still languishing in school, they’ll get jobs in the civil service and get level 12. When you finally graduate after many years, you’ll now struggle to get a government job and when you do, what you’d get is level eight. Let’s look at our educational system and talk to ourselves.

Why do you not think you can still get a job?

Get which job? Impossible! I’m done! If I can’t create a job myself, so be it. I’m telling you that for 13 years, I’ve not used a certificate for anything. If you look at the video that went viral, I didn’t look hungry. Yes, it’s not too rosy because I left my job just about a year ago. If I have a problem in my life right now, maybe a problem with paying rent, I have to squat with whoever I can squat with. But I know myself, I can hustle and within a short period, be back on my feet. Is it a job that you have to bribe your way through to get? Don’t you see what’s going on in the country? We are setting up this country for doom and that’s courtesy of our leaders.

Don’t you consider setting your academic certificates ablaze too extreme?

I don’t consider burning my certificates to be extreme. We need to make a statement; we need to be heard; we need to be hard; we need to let the people know. I’m not speaking for myself alone. Some people have burnt themselves because of how tough this country is. Some people have swallowed poison, and many people have died of depression. I’m not speaking for myself alone; I did that for millions of Nigerian youths who are jobless. I don’t think it is extreme; if anyone feels that it is extreme, they should not burn theirs, but I’ve burnt mine.

Did you do what you did out of frustration and anger?

Well, it’s a mixture of both but that is done already.

Are you not bothered that you may regret your action?

I’ll never regret it. I’ll never regret it because I didn’t burn the knowledge I have, but I only burnt the certificates. Also, I think it is high time we let the generation behind us know that unnecessary attachment of importance to certificates without knowledge should end. We have people who just want to have certificates without having anything in their heads; that should stop. Let us burn all the certificates and get real education.

If I ever need the certificates again, I’ll print others from a third party and you have to collect them. I’ll just have to contact a friend, who has a certificate to show me his, go ahead to print, then give it to whoever I want to give it to. After giving them (employer) and they think I didn’t go to school, they should go and check the records; they’re there. At least, my academic records are going to be seen, unlike some people whose records are missing.

Does burning your academic certificates not mean that the energy, effort, and money spent to obtain them was a waste?

No, they’re not a waste from my point of view. Waste can be put in different perspectives but this particular subject and action cannot be described as a waste. It is also not a waste of money. We must emphasise knowledge, we must give relevance to what is in someone’s head over what they have on paper. We must emphasise and preach that gospel.

What was the reaction of your parents and close friends when you decided to burn the certificates?

Fortunately, I happen to be the son of an activist, Alfred Ilenre, and I guess that the blood runs deep and we cannot just sit and watch corruption, irrelevance, and injustice thrive in Nigeria. My father is deceased now, but from what he passed on to me and what I have learned while growing up, we speak the truth about what we’re going through and we’re not cowards. If my father were alive, the Alfred Ilenre that I know, who was a journalist and an activist, would be proud of me. He would sit me down and congratulate me. My mum, on the other hand, who’s alive, feels a little bit sad that I burnt my certificates, but I’ve sent people to speak to her. However, she has always known who I am and that is the same way with those who have always known me. They know that it is not something that I cannot do. I should have burnt them a long time ago and I feel this is even late.

Do you think burning your certificates will prompt the government to make better decisions in the interest of the youth?

Burning the certificates, I believe, will sensitise the people and make the government aware of certain things that are not being done rightly. See, I know that our government is stone-hearted, but at the same time, they have a conscience. As I earlier mentioned, this is beyond me. We’re making consultations; I have sacrificed my certificates and I’ve spoken to other people. We want to sensitise Nigerian youths to certain important things, call for better knowledge and make them see it better. This issue of certificates and education in Nigeria to me is like weaponising illiteracy in the life of the poor man, whereas, the children of the rich are sent abroad to be well educated and get the right knowledge, while the children of the poor in Nigeria get certificates that their children will come back to lord over. The government may not do anything now because it is their handiwork, but with consistency in advocacy and showing our dissatisfaction, they’ll be forced to do it in the future or the people will force them to do it.

What can the government do better?

Nigeria’s educational sector has to be better; it is the foundation. The curriculum used in Nigeria is a mess. We have to trash it and adopt a new one. We have to sensitise our teachers to avoid strike actions like a plague. All the strikes they embark on are just greedy actions; they don’t affect the students positively. We need to have people who are truly capable as ministers of education. Ministerial positions, especially for a sector as critical as education and every other sector should not be assigned because of bias. Let our minister be someone who has risen through the ranks in the ministry, someone with good antecedents to fix the educational system. That is the way to make things right in Nigeria. We should not have someone who’s blockheaded as minister of education or someone who doesn’t understand how the ministry works. Things can’t get better that way.

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