Internship: The Other Slavery by Blessing Iyamadiken

Picture this: You are a 300 level student and your faculty has made it mandatory that students in your department do an internship for a couple of months before moving to the next level. And guess what? This internship is a 6 unit course and you must write a report about it when you are done with the internship. So, you start your job search, you are really hyped. Soon you find out that looking for a job in Nigeria is not “beans”.

All the big companies you went to did not take you, so you are pretty much confused on how next to proceed. Then one day, while lying on your bed, scrolling through your phone, you see an advert that says a company needs an intern. You are hyped once again, because it is in your field. You send your CV and you are called in for an interview, the next morning, you arrive at the office. It is not what you expected exactly but “Mi o le wa ku”. You get in, slay the interview which is not really an interview because “their father!”

You are asked to resume work the next day and you are like “so fast?” But you are really hyped. It is an internship without pay but at least you would not fail a 6 unit course. The next day you show up looking really sharp “white shirt, black tie”. You sit all day from morning to about twelve pm, then one babe comes to you and says, “Please help me wash this plate and go down the road to buy me Jollof rice, plantain, egg and two meats and one ponmo.”  You are baffled because of course “I came to work, not wash plates”, as you are about to step out, another person says, “please I am feeling sleepy, when you are coming back help me enter that corner to buy two buttermint sweet and two chewing gum”. And the cycle continues like this every other day, in the end, you have learnt nothing but how to price Iya Bisi’s rice.

I am sure most people are familiar with this scenario. In Nigeria, we have abused the word “internship” and it has come to mean errand boy or errand girl. Value for time is now something that is a scarce commodity. One would wonder if the recession has affected it too. Companies need to realize that the fact that we are young and willing to work for free does not mean we want to be turned into slaves. We want to gain experience on the job, we want to learn the nitty-gritty of the profession which we may end up practicing for the rest of our lives. We want value for our time.

I once interned for free at a television station and every day, I spent about a thousand naira on transport fare, but every day, when I asked myself what I was learning there, the answer was nothing. And this was because I would go there from morning till night, not be allowed into the studio, but be asked to sit at the reception. Most times, I would sleep off, or be woken up by a rude presenter who wanted me to just rush off to buy something for him/her.

Nothing angers me like spending my time on nothing and so eventually, I stopped. A lot of people would say I should have stayed there, and maybe something would have come out of it, but there is a very thin line between continued perseverance and sheer foolishness. I cut my losses and left. Was I glad I did? Yes extremely!

Dear Nigerian employers, we youths are hungry, passionate and we want to put our time to good use even if it means working for free for a period of time while we learn. But do not abuse this. Do not abuse us!

 

Culled from Issue 15

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