How students abroad become a target for brain drain

Some students who complete their studies abroad are reluctant to return home. /Courtesy.
Like any maturing child in the family, there are disciplines that must be  highly regarded and so was my  first discourse with the man mandated with the responsibilities of guiding and supervising all my academic engagements through-out my doctoral course.  He said, “Welcome to the world of stress but of-course with boxing gloves of victory. Work hard and your emails, wechat, messenger and all other social media platforms must be active since I will need you all the time in the office.” It was not long before I got home sick, that I asked him to grant me a one month holiday. He accepted and gave me a paper to submit for presentation at the University of Melbourne.

I then began my summer holiday on a good note, with friends and family back home. In-fact all my summer holiday plans were going as initially planned, including the visit to my late father’s birth place “Nyaruguru” in the southern part of Rwanda.

However, amidst the family bonding and all the fun that comes along with it, I was sure, at the back of my mind, that at any time I would be requested to be in the office within two days and prepare for the presentation, and so I kept alert.  As we headed south, a message appeared and I was asked to prepare for a presentation in a week’s time as the paper had been approved. I guessed it was the end of my holiday but as we continued I meditated what to write down and how best would I design the presentation. The fun ended and I packed my bags to school and eventually to Australia for a presentation. Like any visitor, on my arrival to Australia, I searched for friends with whom I would hung-out with, after a serious academic presentation. A high school friend, now a Roman Catholic priest working in Melbourne catholic Parish, first came to mind.


Africans students and migrant workers


Fast forward, what was meant to be a mere presentation turned out to be an academic network and re-union with longtime school mates, currently  graduates and professionally working and living in Australia with no hope of ever returning  home to make use of their knowledge, and contribute to national development.


While labouring to explain the prowess of their exposure and experience towards their societal development as well as their individual growth, one fresh graduate said, “I don’t intend to go back to Africa. I go to Uganda towards the end of every year and I come back here. I am a skilled worker, I am happy here, you guys can remain and develop our countries for us.” While I marveled at his response, another invited friend from Nigeria chipped in, revealing how the Australian government has a clear policy towards skilled workers and how they can be integrated into the system. She added that when it comes to our countries, some officials are fighting to make one look irrelevant, especially when one shows how knowledgeable he or she can be in a certain domain.

Why the escalating brain drain

Brain drain does not exist in a vacuum, there are always facilitating forces behind this phenomenon but what is rather challenging is the gap that is left in their home countries hence the persistence unemployment, skills gap, among others which provide the deliberate and selective promotion of immigration in especially more developed and industrialised economies.

Unconvinced demands for quality education and more-so  for higher education and skills, which have been created-by the knowledge-based global economy, have generated unprecedented opportunities in knowledge-intensive service industries. The multi-trillion dollar industries which range from information systems communication, finance, business, education and health across the world is a trigger that is targeting African brains that are currently undertaking their respective degrees in those developed economies.

These are the fulcrum of knowledge-intensive repair industries and at the same time act as centers of research and development in the several disciplines. Gifted individuals from across all divides are targeted, through selective immigration policies for the purposes of employment opportunities and ultimately, students especially from developing countries, flock into these institutions as interns from their several universities and eventually get retained.

The pursuit for higher education by students from developing countries in developed economies remains a serious channel for brain drain hence knowledge transfer. Dr Nkwameh Nkrumah once said of the prospects for the future of Africa; “If we don’t build strong institutions, our grand children will blame us for the re-enslavement and brain drain.” Fifty years later, our talented boys and girls are seeking knowledge from the western world.  Together career and educational opportunities drive “brain drain and recirculation”. The departure of a large proportion of the most competent and innovative individuals from developing nations slows the achievement of the critical mass needed to generate the enabling context in which knowledge creation occurs.



The writer is a PhD student at Beijing Normal University



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