Migration is only a symptom of the actual problems
Say the word Africa, and see what comes into most people’s minds first. Not the green, beautiful, exotic, virgin, wealth endowed continent that it truly is. Africa now connotes the harshest extremes of poverty, violence, disease, hunger, corruption and helplessness. The image of this beggar Africa is the repellent that is suffocating, and chasing away the youngest, most skilled, and the most talented of Africa to flee their homes in exchange for an ‘opportunity’ to live in Europe, further plunging the continent into even deeper misery. Africans either escape at all costs or stay risking their dreams and ambitions dying with them. Those who endure the pains of this suffocation either stay and pass on their poverty to their next generation, or they take the driver’s seat. Now away from the realities of real poverty, they have forgotten their past. They have become the new oppressors themselves.
I am a Sierra Leonean, an African born in the early days of our country’s civil war. In the first decade of my life I have experienced the bitter realities of war, of losing my father and very close relatives. In the second decade of my life I have experienced the bitter realities of sleeping on an empty stomach, my brothers and close relatives dying of easily treatable diseases, and the crushing effects of a corrupt society. I endured the pains of my brothers and sisters (and almost I) dropping out of school because our mother cannot afford to bear the huge costs of sending all of her children to school.
I am at the start of my third decade now. Up until now, my only dream has been that of getting highly educated and living in Europe, turning the tables around for myself and my family. I was dreaming of becoming a medical doctor by then. Things changed for the better and I am presently a teacher. Actually, my mother still prays for that ultimate luck, the day I escape the shores of my country to live overseas. That way, I shall be sending money so my family can build houses, open shops, become a wealthy family, and live happily forever after. But where does this leave my already poverty-striken country? Almost every young person in my community is desperate to run away to Europe and find the green pastures they need to forage for success. Many fellow Africans have lost their lives and their dignity in this process.
Sierra Leone’s schools are also seriously disadvantaged. How able is a poorly trained, under-paid, and ill-supervised teacher to deliver effective instruction to a hungry child, enduring the heavy weight of poverty in his daily life in a school where children have to sit on the floor, and where learning has to be stopped any time it rains because the school doesn’t have a roof? Well, this situation is not uncommon in my country. Except if you spend all of your time helping Africa hiding in the cities or big towns, and not in the very many rural areas where you find the Africa really needing help.
Sierra Leone's schools are also disadvantaged in that national and international scholarships, by the nature of how they are organised and supervised seem to have become the entitlement of only those whose relations hold positions of influence, not those actually needing help. Such a system leaves many young talented people disgruntled and in a constant search of routes to escape.
To reduce the disadvantages, those governments and agencies organising schemes to help Africa should invest instead in strengthening African educational institutions. This is more sustainable if the impetus remains to help transform Africa, and not merely a business strategy by rich countries using Africa to achieve their goals. There must be stronger mechanisms to ensure that aid reaches people truly needing help, not just thrown into the pockets of the already rich.
I believe that our trends of migration can only be put under control when the world takes proactive steps to reduce the concentration of disadvantages in countries like ours. We need support in promoting high quality education, food security and health, infrastructural development, good governance, and the provision of adequate life opportunities for all. Then, young people like me may not need to migrate as much given that their countries too can provide the greener pastures needed for success. What is happening in Syria, Nigeria, C.A.R, recently with Ebola etc., and their effects on migration in far corners of the world gives a clear illustration that the peace, security and lasting prosperity of the world depends on the peace, security, and lasting prosperity of each and every country of the world no matter how small or remote.
Invest in managing the concentration of disadvantages in every country and people have less need to migrate. Let us make every country of the world a better place to be and a miracle awaits us. Until then, we are just getting started.