The PhD Buyers had red and black robes. Their hats were twice the size of their heads. They had red stripes on the arms of each robe. Some had two stripes, others three. They stood side by side under a mango tree and faced a man who appeared like he was recovering from a hangover. There are several unfinished buildings around. The man had a medal-like star hanging on his neck. He altered a few words before another man, dressed in a red and blue robe, appeared on the side, and walked in front of the group.
“Dominion, Dominion,” the man shouted in his husky-Ariogbo voice.
“I have the power to rule,” the group responded.
The man repeated his Dominion chant three more times as the group responded.
“Somebody, shout Yaaay,” the man said again, throwing his fist above his head.
“Yaay,” the group responded in like manner.
I know what you are thinking. This is not a scene from a cult initiation and the group is not waiting for a cup of blood to be handed to them to drink. It is also not a scene from one of Thampèreh’s low-budget movie productions. This is from a graduation ceremony, and the husky-Ariogbo man is about to give the PhD Buyers a different kind of cup, PhDs, that would allow them to suck the blood of Thampèreh – its resources. The man is the founder of the Dominion Christian University of Thampèreh.
This is not the first or second time he has organized such ceremonies and awarded what authorities later call “fake” PhDs. Dozens in Thampèreh benefited from his power to rule courses, including (allegedly) the village’s Inspector General of Police and the clerk of the People’s House. But his sheer “power to rule” charm failed him, prompting him to reach his Waterloo, where, coincidently, is his university’s location.
So, how did we get here?
You see, Thampèreh has a problem – well, it has many issues though this is one of its major ones. The village was known for producing some of the brightest minds in the entire Green Kingdom in moons past. And as other villages emerged from the barbaric times of colonialism, they built even stronger education systems to allow them to produce more brilliant minds in their villages instead of sending them to Thampèreh, whose education system was also on the verge of crashing. But many in Thampèreh wanted the world to believe or see that the village still has a robust education system. Over time, the pretence led to its total ruins. Instead of grades for merit, the entire system became a commodity, meaning you can buy your way to the top of the village’s education system if you have the money (or body) to pay.
For several moon circles, the culture of pay for grades grew bigger and later transformed into an industry of its own. And as that culture expanded, the trust level of all the village’s education system declined. Even when the few hardworking students tried beating the odds to obtain what they worked for and deserved, the system, through its gang of rogues, found ways to cripple the minds and made it harder for those hardworking students.
For many, regardless of how hard students work and how much extra time they sacrifice, the system still gave them a reason to look for money (or an attractive body – for women and men) to pay their way through.
This, coupled with the other culture of people obtaining what they don’t work for (the massive corruption), led to the influx of cult-like institutions like husky-Ariogbo owned Dominion Christian University. And because the village has an enormous obsession for PhDs, PhD Buyers, or people with the doctor title, even though most of them hate sciences, many would empty their savings to pay for a PhD, even if it meant obtaining it under a mango tree. It is the power to rule and the fakery that comes with it.
Dominion Christian University has reached its Waterloo, or maybe not. But there are dozens of other Dominion-like fake universities posing as learning institutions that are still on their way and will take decades to arrive in their Waterloo. So, either those tasked with shaping Thampèreh’s education system begin to board Poda Podas or Kekes and go looking for them or lazily wait till those institutions arrive on their own.
Alhaji Njai, one of the village’s most revered professors (a real one) had this to say:
“Maybe we should all just buy PhDs, legalize cheating in schools and academic fraud, fake our way to positions in society, and in that way, we save big time on educational investments, and bypass all the daunting requirements for hard work, integrity, ethics, and excellence. Maybe we should just accept it as who we are, what we have become in 60 years, and how we have perceived success.
Maybe this is what we truly are, a society where mediocrity is rewarded and promoted, and excellence marginalized. So why do I have to do the right thing, when the basic tenets of integrity, hard work, honesty, and excellence do not matter anyway; Those who cheat still get ahead and are rewarded in the system.”
But we cannot give up now. We need to do better. Thampèreh is already a failed village. We mustn’t allow it to crumble or perish. Even though these problems have been with us for over seven hundred moon circles, they do not make us who we are.
And until more voices join in the calls for institutional and systemic changes, the leeches will continue to shout with their Ah Riogbo-like voices saying, “I have the power to rule.” And their gullible supporters, the PhD Buyers will always be there to answer “Yaaay” to that.