Analytical Mind

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The Real Brain Drain

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(This piece is written based largely on the Nigerian society and educational system. It may or may not apply to other geographical locations.)

Suffice to say that the phrase ‘brain drain’ is so popular that it becomes unnecessary to define it. However, for the purpose of this piece, we will make use of the Webster’s Dictionary definition, which defines brain drain as “the emigration of highly skilled workers to other countries offering better employment opportunities.” The concept of brain drain is an economic one since the Nation’s resources are used to train these professionals, who then emigrate to produce for another country. This represents a loss of vital human resources and income required to enable and sustain national development.

Due to the poor economic and social conditions endured by the average citizen, many highly qualified doctors, engineers, computer scientists, lecturers and nurses have emigrated from Nigeria to other developed countries in search of better opportunities, in the process contributing significantly to the advancement and wealth of these already well-to-do nations while their mother-country continues to tumble into the economic abyss.

Having refreshed our knowledge on the popular brain drain, let us consider the ‘Real Brain Drain’, which I also call the local brain drain. To understand this unfamiliar concept, look at the secondary school system of education with a special emphasis on the transition from Junior Secondary to Senior Secondary Education. The educational tutors believe that irrespective of your scores in the Aptitude Test (taken alongside the final examinations in Junior Secondary School), you should be placed in the Science Class if you had a good grades and the Arts Class if you had poorer results.  The summary of this norm is that the intellectually capable students are herded into Science Classes in preparation for courses as Medicine, Engineering, Pharmacy, and Dentistry while average and below average students are promptly drafted into Arts Classes to do whatever seemed pleasant to them (many of them end up in government & politics with attendant consequences).

The educational system is not the only culprit in this case. Cheering and supporting on the sidelines is the society- made up of parents, media, religious bodies etc. As far as the immediate society of the Nigerian Student is concerned, vocations such as Law, Medicine, Accounting and Engineering are more prestigious and relevant to the society while other professions such as Entertainment, Art and Agriculture are of little or no relevance to the society. Therefore, the child is strongly advised and encouraged to pursue these careers even if (s)he doesn’t have a flair for the suggested vocation. It is therefore not surprising to see thousands of Nigerian students struggling to subsist in an intellectual environment for which they have neither the aptitude nor intellectual capability. The end-result is improper and unequal distribution of human resources with many people in vocations for which they have no natural ability or passion eventually leading to reduced productivity. This itself is the real brain drain. Think of it as a sort of rural-urban migration.

The concept of local Brain Drain may partly explain the poor quality of work output that obtains in most of Nigeria today as many workers have no passion for what they do. Instead, they go about their occupations just marking time, their only motivation being the payment of a monthly salary. It may also explain the high rate of unemployment given the fact that the ‘prestigious’ occupational fields are oversaturated with human resources competing for limited space while others fields experience a draught of qualified workers because only a few people attempt to study the ‘less prestigious’ courses. Local brain drain guarantees that the bulk of the country’s workforce are under-utilised, never attaining their full potential. 

The overall effect is retarded economic growth, because of unemployment/underemployment, further worsening economic conditions. Eventually, skilled workers have to relocate to other countries in search of better opportunities and the cycle continues.  

  • Having taken a critical look at the double-edged problem of brain drain, here are some suggestions to help reverse the negative trend:

  1. The counselling system of secondary schools should be reviewed.
  2. Adequate staffing with competent career counsellors who can advice students on vocations best suited for them is also suggested.
  3. Aptitude Tests should be standardized and their results taken into consideration when placing students in Senior Secondary School.

 Do you have more suggestions? Drop a comment below.

Ifeoluwapo Odedere

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