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Opinions of Wednesday, 7 April 2021

Columnist: Dr Justice Boakye Appiah

Why Ghana has so many fake degrees and PhDs

I have just spent the last 15 minutes trying to catch up on happenings in the professional world on LinkedIn and a few profiles caught my attention. The number of real-life unemployed friends we all have who are CEOs, life coaches and Public speakers with plenty post-nominal letters after their names on LinkedIn no 3h..... Please let’s leave MR Sonnie Badu alone. He is only a victim of the industry. Herh! People have positions and titles oh!

Fake degrees and honours is a whole industry on its own. While some fake institutions sell these degrees for money, other accredited ones also confer the degrees in exchange for cash and publicity. In fact, there is an agency I know which specializes in building Wikipedia pages for people. All they need is your email address and some news item or publication on you and next thing you know, they’ll be sending you emails with proposals of how good a Wikipedia page will look on you. Forget the many people who have Wikipedia pages to their names, most are purchased contract jobs. Those in academia and research bear witness to the countless number of emails they receive inviting them as guest speakers to some mushroom conferences or as editors to some rubbish journals just to boost their CVs and self-esteem.

First time I received one of such emails (4 years ago), we had recently published a paper and the invite went ahead to quote the paper and describe it with such embellishment that you’d easily think we had just discovered the remedy to death. And then they added an invite to register for a conference as a guest speaker. I looked at my life and I knew naaa mate, no credible conference will be inviting me as a guest speaker at this stage of my life and career. Whom am I? Whom am I? But a still small voice whispered to me that this could be the work of GRACE. “No!!! This must be a mistake”.

So, I forwarded the email to my supervisor asking if he’d be interested in speaking at this conference since he’s the boss. He interpreted the gesture as me being a humble subordinate but, in my heart, I knew I was only seeking his opinion on how credible the whole thing was. The man walked from his office to mine just to laugh and show me how to fish out such emails in future. As I’d later get to learn, the advantage of being invited as a guest speaker is the fact that your registration is taken care of for you so if they ask you to pay, then you know you are being catfished. One of my supervisors was a medical doctor with a PhD in immunology and fellowships of both the American and UK colleges of Physicians. Fellowships are the medical specialization equivalent of PhDs so you can imagine. He was a proper professor in rank and output but even his medical students called him Tom. He never introduces himself with any titles lol.

It’s a whole industry of fake degrees, honours, awards and visibility schemes preying on our need for validation. If you are not stable in your thoughts, you may out haughtiness and an imbalanced assessment of your relevance fall victim. It’s big business! And there are currently more fake PhDs than genuine ones in the system.

But sadly, many “prominent” people in Ghana walk about with such fake titles and awards. A number of them are in the media and politics. They are not ashamed to call themselves Dr when it’s even honorary. A pastor friend of mine without a degree once almost enrolled in a 6-month PhD program at the Kumasi Cultural center. But for my teasing and taunting, he was ready to pay tuition fees and had already started calling himself Doctor.

The need for validation! Maslow was right in his theory of needs. “Nipa didi wie ah na ato no ne Ns3mhunu”. That is the twi summary of his elaborate sociological pyramid which explains man’s aspirations. Lol

But after spending time on LinkedIn, I don’t think Ghana has an unemployment issue. We have too many CEOs, life coaches and Public speakers to have an unemployment problem. What!!!! Packaging be this!

Oh, but who else noticed that Mr Badu’s Professorship certificate was dated September Nineteen twenty-twenty? Yup 192020!!!

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