I am certain that you have heard or seen by now people making arguments or commenting on the Dutch Passport versus(vs) Ghana PHD conversation.

It started with a gentleman who lived a major part of his life as a Ghanaian and got the chance to leave Ghana. Today he works in the Netherlands as a janitor – someone who cleans public spaces – and he is so proud of being a janitor; something I admire about him.

He made a comment on his social media handle where he compared a Dutch Passport as more valuable to acquiring a Ghanaian Doctor of Philosophy (PHD). Something which didn’t sit well with a lot of people, mainly in the academic community. However, those outside the academic community find the gentleman’s statement or comparison as the ‘truth’!

I don’t know this gentleman personally and I have not followed him for long to know what his motivation is for saying what he said. But when I consider the hardship I go through as a Ghanaian with a first degree, and the living conditions of a number of PHD holders I have come across; my ‘hustling mindset’ agrees with this gentleman.

Somewhat, I like how ‘smart’ he is by comparing a Dutch Passport to a Ghanaian PHD only and not PHD in general. Yet no matter how difficult it might be for us living in Ghana and all the hardship our leadership has encouraged to inflict on us, ‘no right-thinking member of society’ should pick a Dutch Passport or any kind of passport over a Ghanaian PHD.

A Dutch Passport is only an identification document and nothing more. It is a document that tells that a person is recognised by the Dutch government or a particular country and for that matter should be given access to move (travel) or in the case the holder of that passport is stranded in another country; they can be given some assistance. Better still that person should be given the needed assistance a Dutch citizen is entitled to.

The title of a Doctor of Philosophy (PHD) on the other hand is a testament in the highest order in one’s academic growth. To acquire or earn a PHD shows that one has ‘authority’ in a particular field of study. One will develop critical knowledge and understanding of a particular research area. Hence can contribute meaningfully to the sharing of knowledge in the field or related field. Our brother may be proud to be a citizen of the Netherlands but having a passport doesn’t make him or any passport holder an expert in any field of study.

PHD holders are required to publish papers which are derived from indepth research. These researches or studies may lead to the propounding of theories or lay the foundation for others to propound theories which enhance businesses, human relations, economies, public health, and etcetera. Research skills are valuable skills that have been at the forefront of the development of ideas and for the general growth of societies. These transferable skills do not come with acquiring a Dutch passport.

I was saddened by this whole conversation when I saw a vox pop of Ghanaian tertiary students choosing a Dutch Passport over a Ghana PHD degree. I did not know whether to consider it the lowest form of disrespect or the highest form of foolishness, yet I can understand that our people are just looking for a way out of the mess of a country Ghana has been. But Ghana is a special country even in our messiness.

Now if you spoke to the average or regular Ghanaian as to why they would choose a Dutch Passport over a PHD it is for one reason, ‘so that I can send money to my family when they need help’. That is the thinking of most people, they want to help, but help will not always come in the form of money, sometimes people need knowledge and understanding to be saved. You can give them all the money in the world and it will be used for ‘wasteful’ activities, sometimes.

For others, leaving Ghana is for them to achieve their dreams or to get opportunities to reach their highest potential and we understand. For others, it is a thing of survival for their lives; life and death! So we are not going to talk anyone out of travelling for greener pastures in another land. Consider the story of Joseph in the Bible; had he not been sold to the merchants who were travelling to Egypt, he would have been killed. If today you are the Joseph of your family and you believe Ghana is not your place, move quickly before it is too late. However, Joseph didn’t  believe his country’s worse circumstances pushed him out.

I stand by the belief, and I want to repeat strongly, that no right-thinking member of society will choose a Dutch Passport over a Ghanaian PHD. What skill does a person develop when they acquire a Dutch Passport? Can a person use their Dutch Passport, or any passport in general, as a qualification to get a job? Or a Dutch Passport makes one intelligent over everyone else? What transferable or employable skills can one develop in acquiring a Dutch passport? 

It is sad that we have reduced knowledge acquisition to how much it can fetch me. Rather we should be looking at how much good it can do to man and society. Ghana can be a better country than what it is now. ‘It may be a rough and muddy road but we will get there’ said Osibisa. We will not get there by acquiring Dutch passports, we will not get there through PHD holders alone, but anyone who will denigrate the acquisition of knowledge over the acquisition of a passport clearly does not understand the power of scientific knowledge in nation building.

All of these ‘powerful’ countries were built on centuries of knowledge gathering to better their lives. To the extent they used their knowledge to suppress other people just to make their countries great. And if one of us should get the chance to stay there and get a better life, the least they can do is bring the knowledge back home. And not sit anywhere and pass derogatory comments at the efforts people are making to discover and share invaluable knowledge and understanding.

A Ghanaian PHD can never and should never be second to any kind of passport from any country. Ghana’s education system may have its challenges but the acquisition of a Ghanaian PHD is not only going to prepare one to take advantage of opportunities that may come one’s way but it gives an avenue for scholars to add or better contribute to knowledge in any field one chooses to study – something a Dutch Passport cannot do.

I am yet to see a passport holder from a ‘powerful or developed’ country use their knowledge of passport acquisition to expand the frontiers of knowledge or fill the gaps in the knowledge we have. The rigour of publishing papers and research for one to acquire a PHD should not be walked on with a passport. No matter how much money one can leave for their people, if there is no knowledge or science on how to manage those riches; it will go to waste!

In conclusion, the choice to choose between a Dutch Passport and a Ghanaian PHD is not serious really but a subjective decision based on one’s aspirations and goals in life. If all one wants to do is eat and die, maybe a Dutch Passport may do. But if one wants to contribute directly to scholarship and leave a learning foundation to enhance lives through scientific studies; a PHD is the way to go and one from Ghana is definitely an admirable one.