Mediocrity and the ‘I have a degree’ syndrome

I don’t know whether to call this phenomenon complacency or sheer ignorance but whatever it is, the ramifications are negative and far reaching. The fact that Rwanda is a nation without many natural resources to boost her economy, has prompted the Government to employ creativity by piling all the weight on the development of its human resources.
Yes, I have a degree
Yes, I have a degree

I don’t know whether to call this phenomenon complacency or sheer ignorance but whatever it is, the ramifications are negative and far reaching.

The fact that Rwanda is a nation without many natural resources to boost her economy, has prompted the Government to employ creativity by piling all the weight on the development of its human resources.

Drawing examples from some nations in Asia and elsewhere, which are similar to Rwanda in the sense of background or nature, the state, has invested heavily in developing its dilapidated human resource base, by sending students abroad to acquire a cocktail of skills and at the same time strengthening local learning institutions.

But then as the human resource base progressively gets developed, instead of triggering the expected indicators, other factors ostensibly come into play and this is blamed for the slow progress in all spheres of the state machinery.

These factors, according to different analysts, have different origins some of which are entrenched deep in the background and history of this country.

The aspect of a poor working culture which to a big extent is blamed for the prevailing pathetic customer care attitude is something known to all; locals and foreigners alike. When people acquire knowledge and are released to the job market, the ‘inbuilt’ attitudes come into play and the skills acquired slowly go to waste.

It is evident that people only scramble to go to school with the intention to collect academic papers rather than the real education and the skills that go with it, which is the real intention of the Government in the endeavor to build an economy driven by the population of the country. Once they have spent the mandatory years in school and graduated, they pick the papers and storm the job markets brandishing the papers ostentatiously screaming for all to hear “be afraid, I have a degree!” But in essence, that’s about all they have.

Once they are comfortably settled in their dream jobs, they fail to see any reason that should make them strain since in their wisdom, the hard work at school should be compensated once one gets the job that befits their time spent in school.

This about explains why this country is surging under the weight of professional mediocrity.

Until people understand that there is more to learn after school than in school itself, all the resources being poured in the development of human resources will be in vain.

The general attitude that makes people think that a strong academic paper is enough a license to indispensability should be shunned. Rwandans should know that the end of learning in school actually leads to a new endless learning phase which defines and guides one’s entire life.

Failure to comply and strain to keep in step with the ever evolving professional trends will definitely lead to one being discarded to the dustbin of non achievers, or worse still, life failures.

The scramble for academic papers is raging every other passing day.

But the real problem is the fact that people do this otherwise noble endeavor only to climb professional ladders and earn big money instead of setting their eyes first and foremost on developing their skills for their own intellectual betterment and for the development of their country.

This burning desire to acquire mere academic papers has even more often than not led people into trying to find short cuts around this by purchasing the papers off the black market and go ahead to use the same to obtain jobs.

Others, for lack of qualification standards enroll in bogus institutions that are only interested in the money rather than imparting skills and the ultimate products are half cooked professionals that only add to the frustrations of the job market and impede development of the country.

I say frustration because due to the lack of a qualified labor force, employers, both private and public are in no way to choose between bearers of papers issued by the different institutions strewn around the country and beyond.

Once one has the academic paper called a degree, they will never want to be told that they lack what it actually takes to be employed.

In many working places mediocrity is so potent can it can be touched. This is as a result of the convergence of the several factors mentioned above.

At any work place in Rwanda, you should bet on finding a cocktail of the well educated (those who went to prestigious universities), those who opted for the short cut and bought papers off the black market and those who went to substandard universities.

There are also those that due to different circumstances have failed to make it to universities or are still struggling to complete.

The first three are the most dangerous because ironically, you will most likely find that they are the less productive.

Instead of outsmarting each other by way of output, you will find the three groups bickering over papers and institutions.

Comments like “I went to a better university” and “a degree is a degree” are the cannons used to fire at each other every day during the battles for workplace supremacy.

The existing labor laws to a certain extent also helps fan the fire because of the unconditional credence it accords academic papers instead of also looking at productivity.

The grading of the workforce by academic papers only lends a hand to mediocrity since someone will say “oh, since it’s a degree you want, I will give you a degree!” and once one attains that, he will be telling his employer “ok, now that I have a degree, sack me if you can” and indeed the employer will find himself in a big dilemma once he finds himself sandwiched between the walls of a degree and mediocrity.

Now the trend is that of job-hopping. Once someone is recruited, they spend the next few months trying to fumble with their responsibilities but at the same time perusing through newspapers and the internet trying to find another job (you can imagine how much work is done during this time).

This is a strategy for many mediocre because they would not like to be appraised and given the sack which would taint their CVs. So, by job-hopping they first and foremost avoid being discovered to be incompetent and second, they use this as a way to swell their CVs, hence the ‘experience.’ When asked why they moved so often they will simply say “for career satisfaction.” 

The unsuspecting employers will welcome the mediocre to their ranks not knowing that what they take to be an experienced personnel is actually a smart mediocre masquerading as a highly experienced professional in search of career satisfaction which they hope he will find in their establishment and get settled.

But before they know it, he has caused more harm than good instead and is on the move again.

In my opinion, in order to get rid of mediocrity from Rwanda’s human resources, it is pertinent that the academic papers be considered along with personal skill, experience, talent, commitment and the will to work.

Otherwise we might as well confer degrees on all the 8 million Rwandans and there will be nothing to show for it in a million years. A degree or a diploma is not the best remedy for mediocrity.