Reckless Use of Academic Titles In Africa

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“Hello, you are speaking with professor, doctor, architect, engineer, psychologist,  barrister Dan Fodio. Who is on the line?“

 “I am emeritus professor, doctor, pharmacist, senior pastor, apostle, solicitor, sir, judge, chief justice, engineer, Agric officer, vet doctor“¦“¦ Hello, Are you still there“¦“¦?”

Welcome to Africa. Tell me your titles, I show you the degree of respect accorded to you.

Recently, the indiscriminate use of academic titles by unqualified people has reached alarmingly an apex height. The situation is so deplorable that many educated individuals have decided rather not to use their titles for the fear of being stigmatized or categorized wrongly in the same group as their uneducated counterparts, who recklessly use unmerited academic titles with impunity to promote their image and status. Definitely, the rampant use of these titles by unqualified individuals is a serious slap on the face of academics as well as a ridicule on educated professionals, who have spent difficult years pursuing academic works.

Clearly, the blatant misuse of academic titles has become a subject of intense discussion in many African countries. Recently, many academic professionals have voiced their disapproval of this irresponsible act and suggested that the culprits must be criminalized to act as a detriment to others. According to the Inter-University Council for East Africa (IUCEA) Executive Secretary, Dr Mayunga Nkunya, the East African countries are in the process of drafting a higher education policy through which legislation will be ultimately drafted to criminalize the academic title abusers. The IUCEA will effectively harmonize the quality of education and training within the East African states and introduce reforms to promote consistency in application requirements at all levels of education. According to the plan, “training or education activities, formal professional acknowledgement or other services to the community“ will be the prerequisites for awarding academic certificates to individuals. With this clear condition in mind, therefore, only individuals who have been awarded doctoral degrees   – the most abused degrees – will be entitled to the title ‘doctor.’ The IUCEA hopes these steps will deter the indiscriminate use of academic titles by unqualified individuals and act as an impediment to others.

However, will the proposed measures act as a hurdle or obstacle for the ineligible academic title users in other parts of the continent as well? Our interviews with illegal academics title users in Nigeria, Ghana and Cameroon revealed amongst others, a clear laxity on the part of the government to tackle the menace. Further, there is a huge degree of title consciousness amongst citizens of the named African countries.

“Going to school is a waste of time. You go there, spend many years and study and study while I am here busy doing business and making money. After your school, you call yourself a doctor. That one good. But me, I use my money and buy any title I want. Who get more respect? I ask you if there is a fundraising occasion in your town, who is made the chairman or chief launcher of the occasion? You with your useless title without money or me with my title plus money? A chubby Nigerian businessman, named Nathan challenged our reporter arrogantly.

Meanwhile, even though Mr. Nathan`s utterance might be considered by some as arrogant, irresponsible or irritant, looking at the cultural reality of the West African countries, where he belongs, one might excuse his utterance, as well as understand why the academic title is being disrespectful abused in that region. We are talking about a culture that pays much attention to the title and money; coupled with endemic corruption and naked sycophancy. It is, therefore, no surprise that one is being lavished with praise and respect, once they effectively address themselves with bombastic sounding academic titles, backed up with some money to buy inglorious praises by fastidious sycophants. Unfortunately, most of these title zealots cannot defend their claimed academic achievements. But how many would care about this failure in a region where the majority of the citizens pay more attention to money than proofs of one`s academic qualifications?

Definitely, the various governments in Africa must indeed care. It is bad enough to see an illiterate rich being addressed as a doctor. But consider a situation, where one does not only claim to be a “doctor,“   but insist they are capable of curing different ailments? Little wonder, therefore, why recently, some avaricious Africans who claimed to have academic degrees have marketed themselves as professors or doctors, capable of curing all kinds of sicknesses such as diabetes, Anemia, Aids, tuberculosis, chronic pneumonia, stomach ulcers, bronchial asthma, impotence to name just a few claims. With this type of false hope, many sick people e.g., those for ARV treatment, who would have gone for better medical treatment, are exposed to sham professionals or worse still, these patients even shunned their medications. What of African albinos ““ special those vulnerable albinos in Tanzania ““ who are living in perpetual fear of phony native doctors (or professors, if you want to be considered part of the mainstream culture) who myopically claim that albinos` parts are the most effective medicines against various illnesses? Does this send a chilling message to your body? Accepted that you are not an albino; have you consider the danger posed by those bogus academic title users, who effectively destroy the lives of others through wrong and malicious diagnosis? Have you forgotten those collapsed buildings, built by fake engineers? How many lives had they taken?

“It often starts with: call me a doctor or an engineer. It is then followed by I can do this or that in the name of trying to defend the academic titles they bestowed on them. This is a latent, slow but dangerous illness, which if not fully and quickly cured, can lead to the lethal destruction of the social fabric.“   Mr. Clifford Nebuwa, a lawyer by profession, told our reporter.


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The above story is a parody.  It is entirely fictitious;  therefore none of the characters mentioned in the story are real.