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02.10.2005 Feature Article

Ghana lost In the Labyrinth of Brain Drain

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'If I don't write to empty my mind, I go mad' (credit: Lord Byron)

It is flabbergasting to read the proposition by the energy minister, Professor Mike Ocquaye, to the effect that Ghanaians should pray to God to reverse the imminent disaster awaiting to befall the Tema Oil Refinery, which is Ghana's only refinery. He further attributed the problem, tracing it from the death of the three urologists, the death of the former minister of youth and sports, Mr Edward Osei Kwaku and to the closure of some units of TOR to evil visitations.

From a religious point of view, why would an all-loving and omnipotent-God allow those selfless and dedicated urologists to die in their quest to free their fellow Ghanaians from the pangs of ill health and restore life, especially when it was on voluntary basis?

Similar questions may be put forward on the same premise of evil visitation regarding the death of the former youth and sports minister, Mr Edward Osei Kwaku and the imminent closure of the Tema Oil Refinery.

Finding reason to anchor an answer for these complexities of life is just as elusive as finding a reasonable and lasting solution to minimize the high levels of out-migration among the highly-skilled in Ghana and other African countries today.

It is convenient but largely problematic to assert that Ghana needs the intervention of the 'ultimate reality' in her national life to avert a crisis which is as a result of policy failure emanating from the brain drain of the highly-skilled.

Adherents or appellants may have enough ground to believe that the providence of an all-knowing God transcends human reason, wisdom and above all human power. That is why man may propose but the divine may dispose.

The religious solution becomes even more impelling when one alludes to the fact that even the omnipotent, in his wisdom, has endowed humans with the power of reason by which all the great human advances have taken place. The bottom line, therefore, is he is the giver of all things, including human reason, wisdom and TOR. So the giver can only have more than the receiver and not the obverse. By reason of this, what is in the spiritual realms is unfathomable to humans. Let's pray now to avert the disaster that is imminent.

But when one juxtaposes the religious theory with the available facts, one thing is clear: we are not using the power of reason and wisdom of which we are well endowed by the divine.

In the recent past, a young dipsomaniac South African woman, who was a vagrant as well, conceived in the streets and due to her excessive alcoholism cum addiction to other intoxicants, the foetus was affected in her womb. Out of ignorance, when she gave birth to a seriously under-weighted baby, whose brain was seriously damaged, she attributed it to destiny. She believed that it was God's design and purpose that her baby came the way he did.

A year on, when a charitable organization discovered this young woman and took her inn for rehabilitation, they showed a documentary to her as to how alcohol affects the foetus in the womb. She then woke up to the realization that her son suffered what is known as the Foetus Alcoholic Syndrome (FAS). At this point, she realized that her son was never intended to pass through this life a severely brain-damaged person.

Historically, the crashing and booming sounds produced by thunder called for sacrifices to Zeus among the ancient Greeks, who interpreted this geographical phenomenon to mean the angry roar of Zeus demanding sacrifices from helpless and sinful devotees or adherents.

The advent of philosophy in Greece, however, brought enlightenment. People began to ask why, where, how and when? What was religious, sacred and perplexing, hitherto, became nonreligious, common and clearer.

Returning to the death of the three urologists (May their souls rest in perfect peace) and the imminent closure of TOR, it is clear that Ghana is completely lost in the labyrinth of the current political and economic world order.

If there were adequate urologists in the country, the late Professor John Quartey, 82, and his colleagues would not go on an outreach programme and perish in the course of duty, and TOR will not be forced to close some of its vital units if it were also not hit by brain drain.

A few years ago, our generation experienced the most disastrous scientific scandal in recent history when His Excellency Thabo Mbeki, the South African president, could not see or acknowledge the link between HIV and AIDS in its sufficiency.

This scientific scandal dictated government policy and shaped the thinking of his people towards HIV/AIDS for sometime with dire consequences.

These two events from South Africa among others, explain how both religion and politics affect our lives even though we may not be religious or political in the sense of these words.

It is, therefore, essential for our policy makers to understand the dynamics of the current global political and economic order, in which our country and other Third Word economies are enmeshed. By doing this, they will be able to fashion out sustainable policies that will be responsive to our needs as a nation rather than wallow in the belief that we need divine intervention to avert a disaster as result of a clear policy failure which from all indications is unlimited to TOR.

Everyday the statistics confirm my opinion on how Africa is caught up in a vicious circle of exploitation. The slave trade took away the strong and the most able for the agrarian European and American economies. Today, the best brains and the most talented are being plundered for the benefit of the information societies with high demands for technical knowledge and expertise with blatant disregard for international agreements and cooperation.

Departments in Ghana's universities are closing down, health facilities across the country are operating with huge shortfalls in staff capacity required for service delivery, classrooms are empty, but they tell our people our Millennium Development Goals are on course.

If the words of Mr. Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbian don, who led the Millennium Project are measures of truth and fact: 'at the current rate, Africa South of the Sahara will meet none of the MDGs' (The Economist July 2nd-8th 2005), then there is reason for us to sit up as a people to rethink our development course.

The migratory routes are getting chaotic and murkier; the integration processes are becoming very moribund; and the consequences for Ghana's economy are getting topsy-turvy.

Ghanaian English teachers for sometime now have been on the move to China and other Asians enclaves. Botswana and South Africa already have them in their numbers. The new route now for Ghanaian engineers is Qatar and Omar.

African students abroad are caught up in a 'study trap'. They need to remain in the lecture rooms to retain their status. Many are those who have two or more master's degrees but can only stand at shops as security men and work on factory floors as packers.

But the philosophy that remittance from abroad has surpassed the main foreign exchange earners of most African countries is so strong that nobody cares to think about the cost to these individuals, their families, and our long-term economic sustainability.

The dependency nature of our economy is getting irreversible. Cuban doctors came to the rescue of our health sector and the Koreans are in to take about twenty folds what the locals were taking.

Lets not deceive ourselves that their could be brain gain one day in future when this factory workers return home with the expertise they have acquired abroad. There is a serious brain waste going on here.

Has the time come for a national debate on the issue of brain drain than praying and waiting on the divine to intervene? A word to the wise is enough. P.Y. Tsikata Department of Sociology The University of Warwick Coventry, England Views expressed by the author(s) do not necessarily reflect those of GhanaHomePage.

Prosper Yao Tsikata
Prosper Yao Tsikata, © 2005

The author has 111 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: ProsperYaoTsikata

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