Countering the Effects of Brain Drain Through Education: Suggestions for Liberia


By Dr. Sakui Malakpa


The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
September 26, 2005


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Socio-economic pundits emphasize that the constant flow of skilled human resources from developing countries to the developed world is bound to deter the socio-political and socio-economic development of the developing world. This flow, referred to as the “brain drain,” is said to be orchestrated carefully by developing countries which are greedy and insensitive to the plight of the developing world. Other pundits castigate intellectuals and other skilled individuals who leave the developing world. It is said such individuals are greedy gravy seekers who leave their poor countries that educated them in search of greener pastures abroad.

A review of the literature regarding the brain drain theory reveals a fascinating multiplicity of views on the causes and remedies for the flow of skilled human resources from the developing to the developed world. While my literature review continues, my present reaction to the brain drain theory is threefold: (A) skilled manpower from the developing world is not only drained from, but often driven by, the developing world; (B) whether drained or driven, the flow of skilled human resources from the developing world deters and delays socio-economic development of poor countries; and (C) the loss of skilled human resources from the developing world does not yield only negative consequences; there are benefits. In line with this last point, we offer some suggestions for Liberia.

Whether brains are drained or driven, the fact remains that skilled human resources continue to flow from the developing to the developed world. Doubtless, this has negative consequences for the development of poor countries. However, it need be realized that in the face of negative consequences, positive fruits can be harvested. For example, those who leave gain experiences an many remit funds back home. Additionally, if developing countries play their cards smartly, they can utilize skilled expertise abroad, and several developing countries are doing so. How can Liberia follow this trend?

There are thousands of skilled Liberians all over the world, especially in parts of West Africa, Europe, the United States and Canada. While thousands of these Liberians individually remit funds back home, they contribute vitally through alumni associations, county associations and other Liberian organizations. Certainly, these contributions are commendable. However, it seems most likely that, for national socio-economic development purposes, organizations based on professional or skill areas will cut across alma maters, counties, partisan affiliations, and any other groups to focus on “development sectors” of the country.

No one needs to be reminded of the tragic consequences of the protracted Liberian civil war. On the other hand, Liberians abroad who contribute to their families and nation through remittance of funds and service within various organizations are among the hopes of the nation’s future. As Liberia moves into a new and brighter phase of its history and development, it is imperative that the skills of these devoted Liberians be harnessed for the benefit of the country. To that end, I am proposing the formation of professional area Liberian associations abroad. As a professor of education for twenty years, I am proposing, as a start, the formation of The Association of Liberian Educators Abroad, ALEA. This organization will have one major goal; it will contribute to the education sector of Liberia. Toward that end, we initially propose the following objectives (presented in no specific order):

1. Contribution to the reconstruction of teacher training programs at tertiary level
2. Contribution to the reconstruction of the nation’s two teacher training institutes
3. Renovation of schools throughout the country, starting with government high schools in every county seat
4. Supplying of educational materials to the nation through the Ministry of Education and our sister organization in the country
5. In addition to supporting elementary, secondary and tertiary education, supporting various areas of education, including special education, adult education, and vocational education
6. Offering of time and expertise to teach free of charge for a semester or a year,
7. Participating in training workshops and seminars organized by ALEA
8. Through our sister organization in Liberia, supporting principals and school administrators, including the giving of awards in recognition of outstanding contributions to the education sector of the country
9. Establishing a scholarship fund for future teachers of Liberia, FTL
10. Across partisan lines, supporting legislative action in favor of education in Liberia.

CLARIFICATION: It is proposed that ALEA should not only be a professional organization engaged in research and publication in all academic areas and disciplines as related to Liberia. The Liberian Studies Association does that very well and some of us are proud members of that professional association. Rather, ALEA is to be a socio-professional association concerned mainly with education in Liberia. The association will be non-partisan and non-military but certainly political in that it will lobby the national legislature and the powers-that-be for sound education policies, adequate funding of the education sector, and respectable salaries for teachers. However, ALEA will not be a group of education know-alls whose only aim is to criticize and/or impose changes from their ivory-tower perspectives. Instead, ALEA will be a support group, working with our sister organization (the teachers association) with the aim of improving the education sector as one means of contributing to the nations development.

Membership: ALEA will be open to all who share its goals and objectives but caters mainly to past, present and prospective professors, teachers/educators, school administrators and other education specialists. However, people who doubt or question our integrity and sincerity need not belong if, for example, even before we are established formally, they dismiss us as having other motives under our sleeves beyond a genuine interest in improving education in Liberia. We are looking for serious-minded Liberians and friends of Liberia who truly care about the education sector of Liberia and would like to contribute to the efficacy of that sector. This is not to imply that no one can question what we do; we welcome constructive discussion of issues but discourage doubters and detractors whose only aim is to dismantle what others struggle strenuously to build.

Proposed Membership Dues and Obligations: Dues will be two hundred dollars ($200.00) per year. Members will be expected to attend one regional conference and an annual convention. Likewise, among others, members will undertake fund raising activities, collect and ship educational materials to Liberia, and participate in training programs organized by ALEA. (I am advancing the first three hundred dollars toward the formation of this association.)

Organizational Format: ALEA will be a democratic organization with its bylaws and constitution governing its officers and activities. Hence, the goals and objectives proposed herein are mere proposals; the first national convention of ALEA will discuss, among others, the goals, objectives, dues, and organizational structure of the association.

Scope: It is proposed that ALEA include the United States, Canada, Europe, West Africa, and other regions that members deem necessary to add and/or sub-divide.

Interested? Liberians and friends of Liberia interested in ALEA are encouraged strongly to call my office (419-530-2047) or, if the answering machine is full (optimism), send me an email: or (Please include your name and contact information.) As we gather members, we will hold a tele-conference to elect interim officers and plan for a national convention.

Beyond ALEA: Educators are not the only Liberian professionals abroad. We therefore propose the formation of various Liberian professional interest associations. Ultimately, the aim is to establish an Association of Liberian Professionals Abroad (ALPA) as am umbrella organization to the various professional groups. Toward this end, it is a joy to note the existence of the Association of Liberian Journalists in the United States and the Association of Liberian Ministers. If these organizations are willing to participate in this venture, and if noble Liberians rise to this call to spear-head the formation of other professional interest organizations, it is proposed that ultimately, representatives from the various professional groups will form the nucleus of ALPA. I therefore encourage other professionals to take leading roles in the formation of sister organizations. Suggested organizations:

Association of Liberian Nurses Abroad, (ALNA) or Association of Liberian Health Workers Abroad (ALHWA), or Association of Liberian Medical Doctors and Nurses Abroad (ALMDNA)
Organization of Liberian Engineers Abroad, OLEA
Association of Liberian Electrical Workers Abroad, ALEWA
Organization of Liberian Lawyers Abroad, OLLA
Association of Liberian Interactive Technology Specialists Abroad, ALITSA
Association of Liberian Social Workers Abroad, ALSWA
Association of Liberian Criminal Justice Officers Abroad, ALCJOA
Association of Liberian Finance and Business Professionals Abroad, ALFBPA
Association of Liberian Forestry and Agricultural Specialists Abroad, ALFASA
Organization of Liberian Public Administrators Abroad, OLPAA
Other …

Conclusion: After a long history (sometimes rugged and other times tumultuous), Liberia is going through an unprecedented experience. Whether, as a cynic, one thinks there will be a messy-party elections in Liberia or, as an optimist, multi-party voting, elections in Liberia are to be celebrated because, for the first time, a huge mass of Liberians will choose their leaders in what we trust will be a free and fair election. On the eve of this historic process, electioneering is colored unsurprisingly by partisan bickering, hopes that one’s candidates prevail, and dreams of positions supporters will occupy. Without doubt, some participants in this historic process are driven by genuine love for their country and a sincere desire to effectuate positive change. Whatever the motives, as gracious losers are rare, when the election dust settles, we pray the ire of losers will not obviate Liberia’s long-awaited peace, unity and development. Meanwhile, it behooves Liberians and friends of Liberia to embrace the truism that elections will not change Liberia’s fate overnight; national reconstruction will be a slow and tedious process. In this light, Liberia’s skilled human resources abroad are challenged to contribute decisively. Without expecting anything in return, this is the time to redouble our efforts in giving back to a country that has blessed us with all we are and all we have. This is the time to rebuild the country that is the pride of our ancestors, the true home of our children. This is the time to ensure peace, unity, and development in Liberia and to resurrect the nation’s dignity at home and towering image abroad. In the reconstruction of this precious nation, as we are not an island entirely by ourselves, we cannot do it alone. We welcome assistance from others but ultimately, we must do it ourselves or, at the very least, take the leading role. Thus, if you already remit money back home, contribute to an alumni association, actively participate in county or other Liberian associations, we commend and encourage you strongly to continue in those ventures. In the same vein, you are encouraged to contribute to development sectors of the country. In that regard, if you are a former, present or prospective professor, teacher, school administrator, or education specialist, please join the Association of Liberian Educators Abroad, ALEA. If you have a different professional orientation, play a leading role in establishing a professional interest association and ultimately becoming a part of ALPA. Expecting others to take action is a recipe for inertia. Please act now for Liberia awaits in dire need, and I pray that election results will not change your mind for this is for Liberia, not for a person or party.