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27.03.2009 Feature Article

PhD: A degree worth acquiring?

After going through all the hustle and bustle in the week, one would have wished to have some rest during week-ends. Unfortunately, social activities such as funerals, weddings, family gatherings, graduation ceremonies, etc. make it quite difficult to have such expected rest. In fact, some of the invitations are so crucial that one could not turn them down.

It was one of such functions, a funeral, which took me to a town (name of town withheld) recently. I really admired the strategic geographical location of the town, the proper planning of buildings and the abundance of foodstuffs. Being curious to know more about the place, I engaged one of the natives in a conversation.

In the course of our interaction, my newly-found friend told me many good things about the town. He however made a startling remark which I would like to share with you. According to him, they had too many people with PhDs in the town, resulting in apathy among the people towards development projects.

Students who have ever written dissertations or theses in partial fulfillment for the award of their first or second degrees would testify about how tiring and sometimes frustrating those academic exercises could be. It is in this regard that I personally respect and admire those who have gone a step further to have the letters “Dr.” preceding their names. In fact, their contributions to knowledge in society can not be overemphasized.

I was therefore surprised to hear that the very people I respect so much (PhD holders), who are supposed to be role models in society were rather retarding the progress of the town. Judging from my countenance, my friend asked me whether I understood the meaning of PhD. I quickly answered “Yes, of course! It is the abbreviation (short form) for Doctor of Philosophy, the highest university degree”

He smiled and said I got it wrong. According to him, it meant “Pull Him Down”. He explained further that the “PhD” was a title for people who use all kinds of methods, means and strategies to destroy or betray others. Put differently, it was a qualification for saboteurs.

Since the purpose of my visit was to mourn with a colleague but not to conduct an anthropological research, I thanked my friend for his company and joined other mourners on the funeral grounds.

It would be very hypocritical to say that the “pull-him-down syndrome” does not exist. In fact it is almost everywhere – at work places, within political parties, in villages, in families and even within religious organizations.

I witnessed an incident while on campus. A Student Representative Council (SRC) contestant, who was doing very well at the early stages of his campaign and won the admiration of many, had to abandon his campaign to chase testimonials from his former schools to prove to the student body that he was not a rogue; and that he had never been sacked from any of his former schools for rape as alleged by one of his fellow contestants. There was even news that he entered the sixth form with a fake certificate. Instead of concentrating on his campaign message, he used the greater part of his time trying to repair his reputation, which he considered to be unjustifiably damaged. In fact, he moved from hall to hall, posting copies of his testimonials on notice boards. Unfortunately, his opponents had already gone far with their smear campaign, making it very difficult for the gentleman's damage control to have any effect on the electorates. That is how far “PhD” holders could go. - Deliberately damaging people's hard earned reputation for positions and power.

I heard a story about a gentleman who tried to use his own initiative to secure a grant for the improvement of some social amenities for his home-town. Unfortunately, the town was involved in a serious protracted chieftaincy dispute. Since the gentleman was suspected to be the financier of one of the factions, the other faction wrote a letter to the donors, informing them that the gentleman they were dealing with was a well known criminal and a fraudster. They cautioned the donors that any business they transacted with him was at their own risk.

The grant, which was almost through, was thus turned down at the eleventh hour. It was after the donors' own independent investigations that it came to light that the allegation was false. Unfortunately, it was too late to give out such category of grants. So who lost that opportunity? - The gentleman or the entire township?

As students, we used to patronize a well known “chop bar” during my secondary school days. The bar's services were excellent. Their environment and cooking utensils were spick and span. It was therefore not surprising that they had many customers.

On my way back from work last month, I ran into a former classmate, whom I have not met since we left secondary school. It was very nostalgic as we recollected many past events including how we were once caught by our senior housemaster on our way back from that chop bar. I told my friend I would definitely visit that bar anytime I visited my former school.

Shockingly, he told me the chop bar had collapsed. According to my friend, there was litigation over the plot of land on which the bar was situated. As a way of “pulling down” the business, the claimant spread false rumors about the owner of the chop bar that she (the owner of the bar) was using “juju” to enhance her business. Some people even said they saw the head of a live snake in her soup. In view of the large number of customers who patronized the bar, the rumors spread like bush fire. Consequently, the bar became unpopular and finally collapsed. That is “PhD” for you!

As for the “PhDs” at work places, the least said about them the better. Some people, out of envy, shirk their responsibilities when it comes to the processing of promotions and other important documents of their colleague staff. Innocent persons are also sometimes framed up by “PhD” holders for reasons known to them. (Possibly to win some kind of favor from their superiors) Unfortunately, some bosses also do not take their time to properly investigate such reports and complaints before taking actions. This, sometimes, results in the dismissal and victimization of innocent staff.

It is interesting to note that saboteurs are found in families too. A gentleman narrated to me how his uncle thwarted his plans of traveling outside the country. According to him, he lost his mother at a tender age and had to stay with his aunt. He served her aunt loyally and devotedly for several years. The only child of his aunt, who resided outside the country, had therefore decided to reward him by inviting him to the United States of America. Out of excitement, the gentleman innocently informed his uncle, who became envious of him. In order to grab the opportunity for his son, his uncle maligned the gentleman and succeeded in convincing his cousin that the gentleman was a thief. He said if he did not want any disgrace in America then he should rescind his decision of inviting the gentleman.

The man therefore changed his mind and invited his cousin (his uncle's son) to the United States. That is how far some people could go when it comes to sabotaging others.

It is amazing to learn that these “degree” holders are found even in the House of God. I have a friend who used to attend a particular church. Unknown to me that he had left that church, I was commending his Head-Pastor for the good work he was doing. He then disclosed to me that he was no more with that church. Apparently, there was a break up in the church and some of the members, including my friend followed one of the associate pastors to form their own church.

Some of the reasons given for breaking away were that the Head Pastor was a dictator, he was embezzling the church's funds and he was also indulging in sexual immorality. The Head Pastor however came out openly to deny all the allegations.

Well, I could not hold brief for anybody. After all, who am I to judge my fellow human beings and 'Men of God” in particular?

I do not have any problem with pastors who decide to form their own churches. My advice is, if they want to be called 'founders and leaders of so, so and so church”, they should do so quietly without destroying the hard earned reputation of their colleague-pastors.

But is it only pastors who are guilty of this? What about some church members who have appointed themselves “shadow pastors” in churches, opposing whatever their church leaderships do or say?

I am not suggesting that we should condone evil in the society. My point is, in exposing wrongdoings, we should be careful not to destroy the reputations of innocent people.

As families, corporate entities, political parties and a nation, there is the need for us to see ourselves as one people with a common destiny. There are many qualifications we could and should aspire to have. However, for God's sake, it should not be the degree in pulling down people.

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Sammy Dzandu
Sammy Dzandu, © 2009

The author has 15 publications published on Modern Ghana. Column Page: SammyDzandu

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author(s) and do not neccessarily reflect those of Modern Ghana. Modern Ghana will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

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