Some people have observed that Malawi has not benefitted from the numerous graduate degrees attained by our ‘brightest minds’.
Many Malawians have gotten merited master’s and doctorate degrees from the best universities worldwide as well as domestically, but the nation, some argue, seems to have reaped little from that.
In some cases, many of our highly qualified people have chosen to remain abroad and find jobs there.
Are these people not patriotic enough that they don’t want to come back and help fast-track our much-needed development?
For those who came back, did they learn nothing meaningful to propel our nation to greater heights? None of that!
In my opinion, our public governance system is the problem. We send people abroad to study, but without sound plans on how we are going to utilise their expertise once they come back into the fold.
Come to think of it, our civil service does not guarantee promotion or anything better to individuals who attain a master’s or doctorate degree.
Although such qualifications give one a higher chance of being promoted in the future, the preceding observation is indicative of a system that does not fully reward or take advantage of quality academic qualifications.
A valid argument may arise that one does not need to be promoted to effectively contribute to the development of our nation.
But a counter-argument may dwell on the frustration that comes with that as having an effect on an individual’s productivity.
Many individuals come back home with those papers but are rewarded with the same positions and attention that they were getting before they left.
Some of them are perceived as a competition to those who have been rooted in the system for long. In other instances, their suggestions against the ‘norms’ are met by the “this is how we have been doing or do it” comments.
I have heard others are ridiculed akufuna akhale ngati ndani iyeyu (Who does s/he think s/he is).
The frustration from that has forced some to return abroad and seek greener pastures oftentimes in countries where they got such qualifications.
Those who rise above the frustration and opt to stay may not be motivated enough to give their all to mother Malawi. Nothing good comes cheap.
While many countries are involved in a global war for talent, we seem to care less. Our well-trained human capital ends up getting big jobs elsewhere, fetching huge salaries and paying huge taxes that develop countries other than our own.
If you are looking for further examples of how our public governance system does not take advantage of better human capital, here is one.
Since 2016, the Japanese government is sending Malawian secondary school teachers on 18-month training to its various universities. The aim has been to build their capacity in terms of better knowledge and skills for the improvement of their teaching practices and our education system in general.
To date, over 50 teachers have been trained.
None of them has been engaged by the Ministry of Education on how best they can transfer their newly-acquired knowledge to boost our education system.
Any sane governance system would find ways of utilising such teachers in training other teachers or better still involving them in informing education policymaking.
Instead, those teachers are back in their schools and teaching as they used to like nothing significant happened to their professional journey.
There is a need to ensure that our highly trained people are given a platform to contribute what they have learned abroad at the highest level of policymaking.
Instead of seeing them as competition when they come back into our offices, we should devise ways of collaborating with them for the good of our country.
We can learn from the Iwakura Mission, a famous Japanese diplomatic voyage that was sent to understudy how American and European government sectors function and bring back blueprints to industrialise their country.
The mission performed wonders.
This should give our nation an idea on the importance of highly qualified human capital.