National | Opinion

Manasseh Azure Awuni: A Dutch Passport or a Ghanaian PhD?

The young man who said having a Dutch passport is better than having a Ghanaian PhD spoke about his reality. And you do not need to argue with him. You can speak about yours.

But if we look beyond the emotions, his perspective is the reality of many Ghanaians. It’s the reason getting a visa to travel tops the list of miracles for which Christians give testimonies in church and offer thanksgiving donations to pastors and prophets.

We don’t have to limit such comparisons to PhDs from Ghana. It can be someone with a PhD from any of the world’s best universities living and working in Ghana. This man would not say the same about someone with a Ghanaian PhD and teaching in a Dutch university.

Maybe, we don’t have to limit it PhD holders. He could have said a medical doctor, or a lawyer or a top journalist, and he would have been right from his standpoint. If holding a Dutch passport offers him better prospects than holding a PhD in Ghana, we should not interpret it to mean an attack on PhD holders in Ghana. It is an indictment on Ghana as a nation, a vote of no confidence against our miserable republic.

The reference to a PhD may be erroneous because a PhD does not always determine success or excellence in a field. I have met incredible PhD holders here in Ghana. We also know many PhD holders who are shallower than the water in a kitchen sink. Having a PhD does not necessarily make one an intellectual.

How do we treat the best of our PhD holders, some of whom also teach in the world’s best universities? A young man who graduates from a university in Ghana and loiters in the corridors of power is more likely to accumulate more money and own more properties in four years than a Ghanaian PhD holder from Harvard who has taught in Ghana for 40 years.

Some of our medical doctors and specialists are leaving in droves because the lives of their seniors do not inspire any hope in the profession. We are losing some of our sharpest minds to the United States, Canada and Europe. Why? The state of Ghana treats them like rubbish.

And have our elders not said if you call your calabash worthless, you lose your right to complain if someone uses it to fetch rubbish?

Instead of attacking those calling us rubbish, let us hold those who have made us look like rubbish accountable for our miserable state. And some of the people we must hold accountable are those we see when we look in our mirrors.

I see the young man’s comparison as an indictment on Ghana, on us as a people. With all humility, I can say I am among the highly regarded journalists in Ghana. But a Ghanaian who migrates to the United States to do a cleaning job can easily look down on my salary. If he says being a cleaner in the United States is better than being a journalist in Ghana, I won’t insult him. I will understand him.

My perspective may be different from his, but that doesn’t mean he is wrong. I may argue that my journalism and its impact give me gratification beyond my salary, but that’s an argument a tiny fraction of Ghanaians are prepared to listen to. Instead of insulting people like this man and Twene Jonas, let’s subject their comments to critical introspection irrespective of how crudely they express them.

A professor—after being promoted from assistant lecturer, lecturer, senior lecturer, and associate professor— earns between 9000 and 12,000 cedis. Even if the allowances are added, it still will not give them the kind of living standards they deserve considering the ever-rising cost of living in Ghana.

If you’re a cleaner or salesperson at a shop in some states in the United States, for instance, you can earn $15 an hour. If you work 8 hours a day, that will amount to $120 a day. The cedi is now 15 to a dollar, so that will translate into 1,800 cedis a day.

In 30 days, this cleaner or salesperson will have 54,000 cedis. If you consider taxes and the cost of living out there and add the fact that some of these people do extra hours and live together to cut costs, this cleaner can save and come back to Ghana to build a house, which a university professor may never dream about.

That is not because the professor is useless. It’s because our nation is hopeless.

Many Ghanaians and Africans I have met in the United States have asked me what next after my studies. Anytime I have said I am heading home after completing my fellowship, the response has been as though I said the stupidest thing in the world.

If we sink so low that going back to your country after schooling in Europe or America is treated like an act of madness, then the problem does not lie with the individual professionals working here in Ghana or their qualifications.

We must look at it as our collective failure. The politicians—the main architects of our woes—are not the only ones to blame for this failure. The journalists who look away and allow politicians and their cronies in business to loot are part of the problem. The judges who take money or consider their promotion and party affiliation before determining who gets justice are part of the problem. The health worker who steals drugs or charges illegal fees or diverts fees into private hands while the hospital becomes a death trap is part of the problem.

The professors from the University of Ghana and UPSA who mounted a staunch defence of the stinking SML scandal ought to realise that if the over $100 million a year betrothed to that company—in Ken Ofori-Atta’s sweetheart deal and the monies wasted in many other such shady deals—were properly channeled into the development of Ghana, our country would be different.

And Ghanaian professionals, including PhD holders who mainly teach in our universities, would receive salaries and enjoy living conditions that would be better than merely holding a Dutch passport.

Note: The Dean of the Graduate School of the University of Professional Studies, Accra (UPSA), Professor Samuel Antwi, and Professor Ransford Gyampoh of the University of Ghana are among the university lecturers who have defended the SML scandal.

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DISCLAIMER: The Views, Comments, Opinions, Contributions and Statements made by Readers and Contributors on this platform do not necessarily represent the views or policy of Multimedia Group Limited.