KANDAHAR, Afghanistan –Two years ago, Abdul Sawab had big dreams. He hoped for a steady teaching job and the chance to impart what he knew about poetry and prose in his native Pashto language to his students.
But Sawab is still jobless after sweating over a four-year degree in Pashto literature from the Education University in the southern Afghan city of Kandahar.
"The universities keep on churning out graduates," he told Radio Free Afghanistan. "But we are unable to find any jobs."
Hundreds or perhaps thousands of university graduates have similar stories in Kandahar and across Afghanistan.
A few years back, Ahmad Shah established a nongovernmental organization after getting an economics degree from Kandahar University. The magazine he established managed to generate a few editing and writing jobs.
But he was forced to stop printing the magazine and fire his staff, as he became jobless soon after NATO's Provincial Reconstruction Team stopped funding his organization as part of its winding down of operations three years ago.
"All the private companies here are family businesses and only employ friends and family. In the government sector, [political] connections and contacts often trump meritocracy," he told Radio Free Afghanistan. "This ultimately prevents the private companies from growing. Government organizations, on the other hand, are unable to serve citizens by providing the services they are tasked to deliver."
Shah is not optimistic about finding a job unless meritocracy can exist in Afghanistan.
Hazrat Mir Totakhel, the vice chancellor of Kandahar University, says he is running a student employment office on campus and is doing his best to help students find jobs after graduation.
"We have organized job fairs and have done our best to introduce our graduates to prospective employers," he said.
While reliable statistics are difficult to come by, various Afghan and international organizations estimate the unemployment rate in Afghanistan is between 25 percent and 50 percent of the work force.
Unemployment has sharply sparked amid the departure of most international troops and aid workers since 2013.
Abubakar Siddique wrote this report based on reporting by Mohammad Sadiq Rashtinai from Kandahar, Afghanistan.