Alagi Saidy-Barrow: Runaway Academic Inflation

Today I learned a new phrase from Omar Touray and boy it got me worried. At the rate we are going, there will come a time when getting a job as a dog-catcher in Badibu will require a PhD. Ok, may be I’m exaggerating but my point is, to be competitive in this dog-eat-dog world, saying you have some bachelors or masters degree will simply not suffice. And that’s because nowadays, the focus is more on degrees than on skillset. If you don’t believe me, look around you. Almost all your friends have a degree in something! But ask them to draw you a simple plan on how to catch dogs and you’ll be faced with blank stares. And yes, catching dogs requires a plan and if you don’t know how to properly plan, you’re part of the problem!

You go to any office in The Gambia and you’ll find a long line of degree holders sitting behind computer desks waiting to minute some document. If degrees were what it took to make a country successful, Gambia would have realized it’s so-called Singapore dream a long time ago. That we subsist in the doldrums and can’t even maintain a single stadium donated to us over thirty years ago is indicative of our reality. Talk to anyone who is subscribed to the email list of our highest degree holders and you’ll see what I mean. If you don’t have a PHD or know someone of influence, you can’t be part of this special group of Gambians. Degrees have come to represent nothing beyond an amour propre booster for many of us. Folks run around with all types of degrees but have very little skills in anything else. And so many hanker for government jobs because working in African governments often require no skills whatsoever!

And we continue to produce graduates whose capacity there’s always a need to build. We continue to inflate our countries with degreed individuals whose degrees are mostly useless to us. Yet, it is these degreed folks we rest our hopes on to salvage the people from the doldrums. Those with skills but no degrees are frowned upon! We prefer the kind that “bagged” degrees from this university or that institute. We forget that many of us do not go to school or get these degrees in order to better the lot of our people. Rather, education for us means a way to get a government job so you can grow rich. What we have is academic inflation mixed with rapacious and inflated academics trampling over each other to get to the top. But most don’t even have the basic skills to do even that!

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