The right move | Daily News

The right move

The decision taken by the Education Ministry to get tough with University lecturers who fail to return to the country at the end of their post graduate studies overseas is a move in the right direction. A front page story we carried in yesterday's issue of the Daily News quotes the Higher Education and Cultural Ministry Secretary J. J. Rathnasiri as saying that at a Vice Chancellors' meeting it was decided to prosecute University lecturers who play truant in this manner. The Secretary said they will also prosecute the sureties of the bond that the University lecturers entered into with the UGC in the event these lecturers fail to return following their overseas stints, if their whereabouts abroad could not be traced.

Overseas lecturers agree to serve four years in the country following their government funded overseas post-graduate degrees. The Secretary said such a measure was required since an enormous amount of public funds are spent on these scholars for their overseas studies. ''Not only that, the government spends lakhs of rupees in public funds for their education until they complete their degree''. He also made the disclosure that they (the lecturers) continued to be paid while they pursue their studies overseas. It was also decided at the VCs' meeting that the University lecturers who go abroad for further studies should return, or, pay the full amounts that were spent on them.

We often hear of athletes in poor countries who go abroad to participate in the Olympics, or, similar international sporting events, decamping in the host country, particularly if the country happens to be an affluent one, to the great embarrassment of the country that sent them. This, more often than not, is a desperate bid to escape the poverty prevalent in the home country and also in search of employment.

These academics who fail to return to the country after completing their studies abroad too could be placed in this category of persons who bring shame to their motherland. Like the athletes mentioned, these men and women too are sponsored by the government and all their expenses borne by the state, over a long period. Also like the rogue athletes, these men and women of learning too receive their training at tremendous cost to the government and are even recipients of expensive scholarship bursaries.

Besides, decamping in this fashion after being maintained by the state is nothing short of a traitorous act. Nay, it is tantamount to a criminal act and steps should be taken by the authorities to issue an Interpol arrest warrant on those who cheat the state by the millions in the same manner an Interpol warrant has been issued on the former Central Bank Governor Arjun Mahendran who had allegedly caused losses to the state running into billions.

The move is all the more necessary given the brain drain that is often being spoken about in all quarters. Only recently did the President strike a serious note on this phenomenon and pleaded with the country's academics and professionals not to take their talents elsewhere, or, at least, serve for a specific period in the country of their birth. He also called on the professionals already domiciled in the affluent West to return to the motherland and give of their expertise that they, no doubt, acquired in this country.

By turning their backs on their country after being nurtured by it all their adult life these University lecturers are also setting a bad precedent, in that those next in line for the overseas scholarships would follow in the footsteps of their predecessors and decide to stay put in the host country. Not only that, they are also likely to sponsor their fellow academics and batch-mates to join them in their adopted countries to secure well paid jobs. The problem could only exacerbate given the various study courses currently being offered to youth who have attained a certain level of educational qualifications to live and work in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada. Very soon the country will be bereft of all the educated and qualified men and women necessitating the import of talent, at tremendous cost. Besides, with the Universities in turmoil, the production line of educated professionals, no doubt, would be slowed down considerably, adding to the problem.

Be that as it may, the government too should create a conducive environment to prevent our professionals leaving the country seeking greener pastures. Prime attention should be paid to their welfare and incentives made available to retain them in the country. It was only two years ago that the salaries of the University lecturers were adjusted to be commensurate with their qualifications and academic attainments. It is not known how many of them left the country before that due to this anomaly. Similarly, the proper milieu should be created for the return of our professionals, from abroad. No one would want to come to a country that is politically unstable and where uncertainty is a common feature. What is important is to create the necessary confidence that would lure our professionals back to the country.


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