Imagine such a scenario, you have worked hard your whole academic life, you have just realized that the only route to achieving your long goal of your specific career choice is through education therefore you fight as hard as you can to reach the top of your game. Years have come by and your goals seems to get closer and closer, in a few days time you are writing your final exam that will determine whether you will qualify or not. The following year your dreams have manifested into reality and bam!!! that degree comes knocking on your door and you attend to it, you are finally qualified. You follow the usual ritual one has to follow when they graduate, sending C.Vs trying to sell yourself in the job market, hoping to land in the best firms out there, fingers are tightly crossed. It is here that you realize that perhaps you are not the only graduate and perhaps there are millions of you out there fighting for just a handful of opportunities. Finally you land in a reasonable firm, your start up salary is not what you had intended but you don’t mind, as long as you have landed a spot it is fine. A couple of hours later you bump into that old friend who seems to be one of the execs or in a much better position that you and curiosity as to know they managed to land up such a position hits you so you find indirect means to ask. Finally you hit the nail, “How did you do it?”, and they respond, “Connections my friend, connections” and a few days later you learn that the boss is tight buddies with the fellas dad.
Now let me go of track a little bit and try and school some of yall with some terms that many of us are already familiar with and these are ‘Economic Capital’, ‘Cultural Capital’ and ‘Social Capital’. These terms were coined by the legendary Bourdieu so as to describe the types of capital people accumulate in life. Economic Capital is the most obvious of them as it is basically the amount of money one has that will enable them to go from point A to point B. Cultural Capital might be a bit complex to grasp however for the sake of this article it is the traits and qualities one acquires from being affiliated to a prestigious class. ‘Social Capital’ is basically the connections one acquires in society or in business that amy enable them to gain easier access to opportunities.
Bringing everything together
Now to Juxtapose everything together I am sure most of us are now able to see the link between the former story and the latter concept learning exercise. This article serves to bring to light the idea that with time, it might become more and more difficult for ordinary people to reach their full potential or get full recognition for their talent while at the same time it is becoming much easier for those within realm of privilege to accelerate the ladder of success without much effort, in fact it becomes ingrained within them that their life experiences will land them in a position in which they have advantage over those who might not belong to the same social class. Think about it, a wealthy couple has their first child. Already we can identity one form of Capital with is economic Capital just by looking at the word ‘wealthy’. Since that couple is wealthy and wants to expose their child to a lifestyle associated with that class, they take their kid for swimming lessons from a very young age, perhaps they perceive piano lessons as integral for the child’s development. Both Parents have investments all over the world therefore they travel a lot and the child is exposed to different societies and traditions and soon they develop a sudden urge to learn more languages. Back at home the child has access to fast and efficient network and perhaps d.s.t.v so they have access to tones and tones of information. The child goes to one of the most prestigious schools therefore that school is going to groom them in a special way and if they are black they going to bless that child with a new tongue that will officially mark their inclusiveness to a prestigious social class. I believe by now we have already noticed another form of Capital which is ‘Cultural Capital’ as the child has had a taste of the life some people only experience on t.v. The child speaks well and is very articulate therefore they have a better chance of becoming a good debate team member, they will definitely ace those French and mandarin exams for they learnt those languages while on vacation or through extra lessons and their environment taught them how to be ‘sophisticated’. Lets name the child Vuyo for the purposes of giving the individual more life. Vuyo seems to be a very promising individual, his academic achievement and agility on the sports field draws much attention to him and finally he lands into a highly accredited university were he graduated with an honors degree. His parents are pleased with their child’s performance, so his dad calls one of his friends who owns a big investment company so as to try give his son some experience before he can decide to take the route he wants to embark on, bam!!! can you smell it? yes that’s ‘Social Capital’ right there.
What does this means
One may argue that this story is too much of a generalization however the fact remains that the it reflects the realities of most peoples lives therefore for the sake of this article we will try ignore exceptional cases. Having gotten that out the way this means that while the system purports to become more inclusive for socially disadvantaged people, it might actually be perpetuating and enhancing the disparities. Most individuals may graduate and land in the top firms but may struggle to get noticed by the executives behind all that elitist bureaucracy. Do they have anyone to contact for a better working environment, to they have the cultural capital that can enhance their skills and we cannot ask about economic capital because it is the mother of all these other forms of Capital so without them it is unlikely that you have it. A certain friend of mine told me something that really caused be to contemplate on the little faith I have left in humanity, they said, “It is not what you know, it is about who you know”. Such a simple phrase could be very destructive to life, imagine if the same concept was applied to strategic sectors such as the government and public sector, would anything move? That is one of the reasons why Africa is not advancing to its full potential for it is still basking within patronage politics.
The way Forward
This article is not advocating for the abolishment of the ‘contacts’ system or privilege, for I believe that connections are only useful when they serve to create lasting networks beneficial to parties involved without undermining potential candidates. What if the continent strives to lay structures that would create opportunities for the less disadvantaged as well. Why not invest in technological infrastructure in rural areas, why not expose ordinary people to free language lessons, why not offer travelling opportunities for those who cant afford them as well. Such a system will have long term benefits for the continent as a whole, as we will have more professionals who have access to implementing ideas that develop the continent. This article advocates for Social Mobility.