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Opinions Wed, 18 Sep 2013

The throes of Ghanaian PhD students in New York

: President Mahama to their rescue?

By Cletus D Kuunifaa

Comrades, to borrow a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenges and controversy" and intoning from this, I urge you to stay strong, have a positive mind and believe that you have a President who is development-oriented and will give a listening ear to your throes and woes. I pray and I am confident that H.E President Mahama will work to finding a solution to your issues as soon as he understands your plight.

Question to ask is; what is the essence of studying abroad if not for the programs to provide students with the background they need to pursue their career goals in their home countries? In fact, I do think that the number one aim of most students wanting to pursue their courses abroad and especially in the USA, has always been to get a world-class education here in the USA and to put into use those skills in Ghana, and thereby help to address pressing institutional and humanitarian issues. “You bloom where you are planted, and you give back wherever you can” according to Professor Martin Michelle, the Augusta Baker chair in Childhood Literacy at the School of Library and Information Science at the University of South Carolina.

With this in mind, most committed and patriotic Ghanaians love the idea of coming home and being able to give back to the community out of which they came.

To that effect, the list of Ghanaians who have received their education in the USA and returned to serve and give back to motherland is much enough for consideration; President and former Presidents, Ministers, Parliamentarians, Professors of various disciplines, Medical doctors, Researchers, Accountants, CEOs of companies and the list goes on and on and on.

But, quite recently, it is not fun at all when some Ghanaian students, especially at the doctoral level have had to terminate, abandon and or defer their programs entirely. The painful decision to abandon, terminate and or defer a program might have been arrived at on the heels of circumstances beyond the control of the affected students. I cannot speak for all Ghanaian PhD students in the Diaspora, but I can affirm my conviction of some PhD students in the USA who are affected by this unpalatable situation. What I do know from those affected by this unfortunate situation are really in a sorry state of affair. Some of them have explained to me that their inability to register for classes have forced them into their inconvenienced situation. Surely, they ran into such situations as a result of circumstances beyond their control.

We must feel their pain as fellow Ghanaians. Just imagine the terrible situation of being unable to register for classes in a foreign land. It could even be more frustrating for these students when it is their last registration required to prepare for comprehensive examinations and they are unable to do just that. If this is not very frustrating, then what else is more depressing? Situations like these are not recommended for anyone to encounter, as they make one feels as though he or she has lost his or her purpose in life, especially when close to the dream of getting a PhD degree. The toll of the psychological and emotional stress brought on by these students’ own financial obligations will test them to its limits. By the way, some of these students have passed insurmountable obstacles to get to where they are today, but have no resources to continue.

At this point, should government abandon these students whose hard work would be in vain, if their educational pursuit was not completed?

I know critics would argue against support from Government for these PhD students, as they will advance arguments revolving around trust and relevance of programs of study.

Make no mistake about this: I will argue that trust will not be an issue as the Ghana Missions in the USA have comprehensive and detailed list of all Ghanaian students, level of programs and programs of study in various institutions. In an information age, it is very easy to filter and the Missions will be able to determine the patriotic and committed ones from the rest to knock out the trust issue.

My judgment is that, all PhD programs are relevant and what is of outmost concern is how to apply what we learnt to improve the status quo back home? Chatting with these students the last time I infer they are in various stages of their programs, ranging from; Information Systems to Knowledge Management, from Health Policy to Information Policy, from Social Work to Management and of course, from the Sciences.

We need these guys back home to partner in economic development. It is against this backdrop that H.E President Mahama must give a listening ear to the plight of these PhD students, who are in an academic limbo as a result of circumstances beyond their control.

Cletus D. Kuunifaa, Long Island University, LIU Post, New York. Can be contacted at dipnibe@yahoo.com or Follow him on twitter @ckuunifaa

Columnist: Kuunifaa, Cletus D