However I have had it up to my neck with people who I think are suffering with a disease I would like to refer to as degree-itis. According to my research any disease that has the suffix “itis” speaks to anything that one has an inflammation of. So when we inhale too much dust in our lungs we get bronchitis as our lungs/bronchia gets inflamed. Similarly there appears to be a growing sum of people who are obsessed and or inflamed with their degrees.
One of the things that our lecturers at UWI were careful to point out was that while your degree was good that it should not be seen as a divider between us and the rest of the society. I remember well when Harold Hoyte the Editor Emeritus of the Nation Newspaper gave the feature address at our graduation that he admonished us to use our degrees to help our communities and build our countries rather than an adornment or see it as an automatic appointment to some lofty post. Sometimes I wish that Mr. Hoyte’s speech could be replayed on our local radio and television stations when I see the attitude of some people young and old with degrees. They walk, talk and act like they are ‘the hottest thing since slice cheese’ simply because they have degrees.
I for one am sick and fed up of people who feel they have an opinion on everything simply because they are supposedly bright. They give the impression that they have a degree in EVERYTHING! I remember going to help out a particular team with a debate with one of my friends. My friend was making an excellent point which would have been key to the structure of the debate. However he was interrupted by someone else who said that they know better because they have a degree. Degree-itis! Some people would have left here as Phillip Jeffers but after their degree they want to be only referred to as Phillipé. Others want to be seen only as Mr. Jeffers. They act like dialect is a foreign language to them, turn up their nose to what they term as ‘simple life’ and walk as if “they can’t mash ants”.
They have no space in their empty air-conditioned vehicle to give a lift to a bystander. Those who suffer from degree-itis really believe that they are better than people and go as far as to say it. When you ask them who they are, they can’t simply say their names and where they were born or who their parents are but they have to add in their degrees. It is almost as if you remove their degrees, they are simply nothing. They are hired to work in X place on March 15th 2011 and by March 16th they want to be throwing around orders to people who know way more about the organization than them. Instead of humbling themselves and becoming acclimatized, availing themselves to training and gaining an appreciation for the ethos of the organization, they want to impose their degrees on people.
Some of them even feel offended when one of their superiors does not have a degree. They care not about institutional knowledge, job experience and technical know-how. They are so inflamed with their degrees and the fact that they have a college loan to repay that they believe they should make the most money. Some people have been offered five hundred dollars less than they expected and instead of taking the job and working their way up prefer to stay at home and sit on their pride, simply because they have a degree.
The real danger with our Nevisian society is that we are too quick to anoint and appoint people simply because they have degrees. We don’t believe that they should gain experience and work their way up the ladder. So whether it is a church, community group, political party or sporting organization we are glad to nominate them for senior posts simply because they have a degree. We care not for their background or their ability to do the tasks. I will be blunt enough to say that there are some people with Masters Degrees that I wouldn’t put to run any office that I have any interest in.
Some people with all these degrees still have no basic common sense, no sense of leadership, no sense of ambition, no sense of vision and no sense of verve. They are just people who were good enough to pass the tests needed to get the degree. I know some who I went to school with at UWI who were there for 10 years to do a 3 year degree. Some of them would have used their private parts to ensure that lecturers marked them favourably and some would have used their family connections to get into university and to graduate. While there are some people who I would readily say are ready to take up key roles professionally and otherwise within a couple years after completing their degrees, some of them need much more time and some of them will never be ready. What I have found particularly interesting is that quite a bit of them with degrees in the technical field cannot match those who have worked in said field for years in terms of the practical aspect. They may be able to write a better report but they certainly can’t trouble shoot better than a lot of them who they are supposed to be supervising. Let us not be so quick to anoint and appoint these people but rather judge them not by their degrees but by the content of their character.
I am one who believes that there is hope for everyone, even those with degree-it is. The fact that one has a degree in a country like Nevis should not lead us to being supercilious or super-silly but propel us to do more with our lives for more people. We are the ones who should be encouraging others to also pursue further education and advising them on the best way to do so. We are the ones who are supposed to be involved in volunteerism and community activism rather than just in our comfy offices and air-conditioned vehicles. We are the ones who are supposed to be humble enough to realize that some of us “jus ah come” and learn as much from others who are more experienced.
Our intellect should not serve to separate us from those without but must be used as a mighty weapon against injustice everywhere. We should be involved in the fight against criminality in the community. We should be involved into preserving our history and speaking to issues of conservation. We should be the ones helping to encourage our youth in the things of God, sports, culture, volunteerism, skills training and the like. The mere fact that we were given an opportunity to advance ourselves educationally must give rise to a concomitant commitment to advance our country in whatever sphere we would be best at. “For of those to whom much is given, much is required”.
A degree does not mean that we can’t clean and season a case of chicken for a fundraiser nor does it mean that we cannot lift 20 chairs, sweep or mop up after a function or help to clean a dirty bathroom. All men are created equal. My prayer is that those with degree-itis would humble themselves and pray and turn from their wicked ways so that God himself would hear from heaven and heal their disease. Selah.