Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Skills theft

I was involved in a conversation the other day that got me thinking. It was the kind of conversation that was giving me an uncomfortable feeling. Basically a South African was telling an English guy how lucky the UK is because of the stream of highly qualified Saffas that are coming over. (The way he was saying it, it was as if the English guy should be on his knees, worshipping our awesome presence. I am sure that the UK does benefit from our skills, but trust me they can pick and choose from the best of Europe, SE Asia, Australia, and whoever else is desperate to work over here. They don't actually need us).

This conversation got me thinking about not what the UK has gained, but what South Africa has lost. In my case, I studied at UCT. Degrees are subsidised by the government, and I actually got a scholarship, so I did not pay a penny for my education. The country essentially paid for me. 

Now I did not mean to leave for a long time, I came over to the UK on a working holiday visa, with the intention of coming home after it expired. But things changed, and I have been over here using my degree and skills in the UK. I still want to come home, but I don't think I need to go into the myriad reasons why all of my family and friends are discouraging me from doing so, and why I am slowly but surely starting to have some doubts.

Now there are millions of people like me over here, whether they left intentionally or just stayed on after traveling. And they all got their skills in SA universities and tech's, partially subsidized by the government. The majority of us are white, but I have met South Africans of all colours and creeds over here. Just imagine the skills loss. I see it more as robbing the country of its investment in us.

When I put it like that, it really does seem that SA is boosting the UK, getting our skills for free. I wonder what the pro-African anti-colonisation people in SA think of our country contributing to the success of the old coloniser?

I am not a career oriented person myself, but in the field I work in, Biology, there is not a good future in SA. Equipment, job prospects and salaries are far better overseas. Most young scientists of any colour will consider leaving SA. 

I think that SA should try to tempt some of its skilled citizens back to its shores, because if you really think about it, the country is being robbed of the investment it has put into people.

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