Kenyan students are not even trying anymore

Kenyan students are not even trying anymore

About a month ago we interviewed a number of internship candidates amongst which I was hoping to find a digital marketing enthusiast to build on the SEO agency I started 11 months ago. (We were looking for a few different positions but the digital marketing role is relevant to this post). I went through 440 applications shortlisting just over 20 candidates out of which only 15 candidates actually turned up for an interview. Out of the ones who didn’t turn up only one bothered to communicate that they were not going to make it. One even seemed to have delegated the answering of their phone to their spouse so we never actually managed to speak to the candidate, we trusted the invite was passed on by the husband. It wasn’t.

One of the candidates that we interviewed got through my criteria by luck, a series of “benefit of doubts” if you will. In our process the online application requires the candidates to answer a set of questions, some are generic competency questions and some are more curious and require personalization. I cringed at the copy-pasted answers (first link on Google needless to say) to the generic questions but I was also curious from the basic answers to the more personalized questions. The CV was also personalized – it mentioned Tarpo in the career objective part so there was some effort. Benefit of doubt.

The CV of this candidate suggested a significant knowledge around web design, programming, and crucially for me digital marketing. It sounded like the complete package and so I was pretty excited to meet this person.

It fell apart at the interview. And I am not even sure it was their fault.

It would transpire that this JKUAT (Computer Studies department) student’s group project was an employee scheduling system for Tarpo. When I first heard this I was perplexed. Why did we need an employee scheduling system? And how come I wasn’t aware of JKUAT students using our business for a case study? I asked for more details including the submitted project document itself.

Apparently, our 200 employees were persistently late and management needed a way to ensure these employees knew what work they needed to do and by when. A hundred questionnaires were distributed to these employees to “make sure that the end-user especially security men who always having problem agree that this system should be [sic] develop to ease their application”.

We have less than 100 employees and our security has been outsourced for a number of years.

It went on. They distributed 10 questionnaires to the ‘administration’ to “confirm that they would not oppose the system proposed”.

We didn’t have 200 employees and nobody in our organization had seen this questionnaire. We have been using a self-service cloud-based HR software since 2013 and I am definitely not aware of persistently late employees. The nature of our business is such that hourly scheduling of work is close to impossible.

The hardware requirements of this system, in the year 2020, were 128MB of RAM and a hard drive of 4GB. My phone from the year 2016 has a hard drive of 64GB. The security men’s phones probably have a larger RAM than this proposed system.

So I asked when and where they did their research on our needs. We didn’t need this magic potion that apparently solved all our issues – ones we didn’t have!

The data collected through the questionnaire they were using was from the previous year’s students. This data had been given to them by the supervisor. I asked if they had gotten approval from us to be used as a case study. Blank stare. “The supervisor said it was OK”.

This student had no idea that the data they were given was not relevant to us – how could they if they hadn’t even spoken to us about it? In this age of data protection, was the supervisor authorized to give a new set of students data from a previous year? And if this software was developed for the case business in mind then we should have the final say on whether it met our needs or not.

It gets worse.

I asked to see the student’s individual project in the hope that there was some benefit of the doubt. They had gotten this far after all. It was exactly the same project as group one – only that our business name had been swapped out with another security firm. At least the ‘security men’ part now made sense.

This is the rot that we are dealing with as employers. The students don’t care, neither do the faculty. My university projects were highly diverse with a 40,000-word submission expected as a minimum – that translates to well over 100 pages. My high-school IT project was 10,000 words.

This student’s final year projects were both 22 pages long of which one page was a dedication to God and another an acknowledgment of the support provided by the supervisor and relatives.

I really tried hard to find a reason to hire this candidate. I couldn't trust their moral judgment even if it wasn't their fault. For five years they’ve been taught that “getting by” is allowed? Have they been recycling a project that made sense in 2001 and JKUAT hasn’t realized that perhaps 20 years later they need to get their academic writing businesses to make an effort?

Youth unemployment? But why?

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