Stuff African People Like: Degrees and Advanced Degrees

Graduating gown

Tertiary institutions have absolutely no need to advertise in sub-Saharan Africa: we are convinced. From the moment a child springs forth from the womb of Africa, the parents have decided that he will be a wealthy lawyer/business owner/pilot/insert name of well-moneyed professional here.

For that reason, school is compulsory and to get your University degree is a must. To quit school is treated as a sin worse than blasphemy.

“Why can’t you just go, get your degree? Just get your degree! Then you can do whatever you want.” That is an African parent’s plan A when they catch a whiff of a black child trying to commit the unspeakable act. Should it fail, ambushes, beatings and emotional blackmail soon follow.

Of course once you get that undergraduate degree, you are reminded of your best friend’s smaller brother who has a Master’s Degree even though he is three years younger than you. And so, deciding that you will not be beat in this race to acquire degrees, you knuckle down for another two to three years of:



Once that degree is got, you remember that your second Uncle on your mother’s cousin’s side is actually a professor and think to yourself, “I’ve been here most of my life anyway, may as well continue.” And all this, so they can call you Dr. before you are thirty years old.

Should you meet an African, you must prostate in fear before their degrees. Just in case you may be wondering, “Where should I look for these degrees to bow before,”, look through all the walls of his home and workplace, they’ll be there somewhere.

Each degree should also be bowed before and complimented separately. The Oos and the Aas must increase in awe as you go up the degrees ladder with the smallest Oo going to his high school diploma and absolutely orgasmic excitement being directed at their PHD in Actuarial Remedial Photosynthetic Polyamorous Subculture Studies.

Also be sure to call them Dr. as soon as they enter the PHD program, even though they never complete it. Also remind them that they are:

a) The only African in their class

b) The youngest person in their class and;

c) They are so brilliant to be going for a PHD before their 30th birthday.

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  • By Sunny, May 11, 2008 @ 3:46 am

    You are so on point with this one. Obviously it is done with legitimate needs of the continent at first, but whether all the PhDs return to help Africa remains to be discovered.

  • By Mwangi, May 11, 2008 @ 3:56 am

    @Sunny: I disagree; in my experience the intentions behind the degree are usually quite selfish (’I want to achieve this’, “I want to achieve that”) and usually only become selfless when one is discussing their immediate or extended families.
    I know very few people who went into academia with the purpose of improving African society. If you know them, I’d love to meet them.

  • By akiey, May 11, 2008 @ 4:29 am

    Mwangi, been a minute since I stopped by your joint & am just catching up on what I’ve missed. Again, another raw series you have going on here. Should make interesting read.

    I agree about the degrees and the higher the education the better, the more unique & challenging of study the better…the list is endless but us Africans really do love that degree. Heck, most of us love em more than we care about money. Not sure if it’s a social status thing or the fact that it’s the best & most stable, profitable investment.

    One thing for sure, I will encourage my kids to attain the highest possible and apply it to better Africa and humanity at large. Am making small steps but I won’t lie, the other reason I went for higher ed was to better Africa and Africans at large.
    Will be back…

  • By Mwangi, May 11, 2008 @ 4:39 am

    Hey akiey,
    Indeed long time no see or hear….you are most welcome back. The most interesting thing about it is that a lot of people get degrees for so many reasons. You would think we would all do it for the same reason but not really. Let’s see some of the reasons I know:
    1) It’s what I’m supposed to do (auto-pilot to life approach)
    2) I owe my parents for housing me and educating me all those years (the dutiful child)
    3) I want to be the best thing since Spike Lee and Denzel Washington made a movie (the self-actualizers)
    4) I want to feel real smart for something real rare ( the intellectual class folk) and on and on and on
    I am so glad that you are doing it for the sake of society….that officially makes you a rare, highly valued commodity. Hope you enjoy the rest of the series…depending on how people respond, I will keep it going till people get bored of it.

  • By seinlife, May 11, 2008 @ 8:54 am

    Just to add…i think too that we seek higher education especially here in the west because we feel that we need it to be more competitive? I think sometimes as africans when we go for interviews we tend to be scrutinized more than say an ordinary western person (american, brit etc). So to curb this we set to achieve as much education as can possibly be attained.
    But yes spot on with our love for the books and excellence!

  • By Mwangi, May 11, 2008 @ 9:12 am

    @seinlife: Interesting perspective that I never thought of. Add that to the list, though of course the degree of scrutiny definitely varies from place to place.

  • By akiey, May 11, 2008 @ 9:38 am

    Ok, couldn’t help notice your time stamp as you reply faster than we could comment! it’s mind boggling that you Aussies are probably done with breakfast on Sunday while am still wondering what to make for dinner. It’s 7.40 pm here but I digress, hehe!

    The way you broke the points down makes sense and am sure many pple would see themselves in those categories. No.2 & No.4 just crack me up beyond belief despite that being the absolute truth in many, many cases.

    Of course we owe our parents for all the sacrifices and their guidance but I can imagine that would be a lifetime of a payback. Enough for 15 degrees, lol!

    No. 4 is a cool factor in iteslf but it’s a gift & a curse. Being the only one brings with it the “It’s Lonely At The Top” disadvantage so yep, will be paid well, probably overpaid but definitely overworked too.

    Seinlife nails it too with her facts. I agree that there’s endless situations of scrutiny but I’d rather an employer have some lame excuse like my race or country of origin than my skills. That’s one area I’ve not had problems with, the typical African me, lol!

  • By akiey, May 11, 2008 @ 9:48 am

    @ Seinlife, a thousand apologies in advance for using the ‘her’ wnen I meant to type ‘their’ since I am unsure of your beind a dude or a gal.

    @ Mwangi, had to break this into two, hope you don’t mind. Jusging from the previous the few posts I’d missed and am still reading you’ve had a good baraza going on here so this one will be no exception.

    Regarding education for personal fulfillment and going for higher ed to serve the community and Africa in particular, I was sure by the time I was halfway through with undergrad that my bachelors would be good enough to serve my personal needs for probably 10 yrs. The next step(s) was more a way to broaden skills and gain experince to match that with the undergrad to be able to serve self and community comfortable. I’d say so far, so good, kind of depending on the keen observers’ perception.

    PS: I still suggest you think up a book thingy with this.

  • By Mwangi, May 11, 2008 @ 9:49 pm

    @akiey: The situation with the time gets even more confusing because I am on the computer like 95% of my waking time AND I work through the night so don’t be surprised if you see immediate responses at odd times…..I just remembered that I live in the first place to experience New Year. One time I should try traveling across the globe to catch new year everywhere it happens….not for any lofty idealistic goal but just to see if it’s possible….but I digress
    I definitely think owing your folks can be a lifetime thing because most children are pretty aware that at some point they will have to take care of their parents so I wouldn’t be surprised if there are many people who have been driven to busloads of degrees for that reason.
    I think to a large extent being abroad makes you used to being alone so once you are knee deep in the Masters Program a lot of us have learned our coping mechanisms for loneliness and/or being alone.
    Btw I agree with you 100%. That’s the approach I take to everything including this blog….you can not read the blog because of the content, my writing style, you don’t like me….but one reason I can’t tolerate is because I didn’t do my part to the max…so there we’re together.
    What course are you doing?
    You never know if this blog keeps growing at its current pace, the publishers may come to me (though ironically, if I’m at the point where publishers are coming to me, I’ll probably have a larger audience than most authors by that point……)

  • By akiey, May 14, 2008 @ 8:40 am

    What’s up Mwangi. A work project that just doesn’t seem to end has kept me off this place for a while but am forcing a 15mins break to catch up here.
    The hours you pull online sound a lot like my work schedule at times so I can relate.
    Great idea you have to catch the new year in different time zones. May be you can plan it out over a 5 yr span where each year you catch the new year in atleast 5 different nations/regions. It’s got to be an amazing experience that very few pple can dare say they’ve done. I’d put you in the same category as my fav businessmen Richard Branson & the recently deceased Steve Fossett. The daring, try-it-all kind.

    Finding ways to being lonely and far from all that’s been familiar to us for many years is one motivating factor for hard work & success. You’re spot on on that. It doesn’t matter how many new friends you make out here, once you’ve been removed from stuff and people you’ve known throughout your formative years it becomes a matter of survival but this time at the inner self level. You can’t lose your sanity so you keep busy and the rewards surely are fruitful for those who are focused.

    I am long done with grad school. I trained in translation so working with languages is how I mainly butter my bread while the multimedia stuff I produce helps create that balance every crazy intellectual needs. I’m glad I put up with the challenges of grad school for it sure can damage your head permanently, lol! Was and still is worth it & will encourage my kids to do better than me.

    Stranger things have happened to independent authors. I know a couple personal friends who’ve been approached by publishers not because of how many visits they get but mostly due to the content and scope of their writing. There’s unique writers with out of the ordinary styles and there’s unique publishers with out of the ordinary tastes just searching for them.
    If the opportunity comes knocking don’t say no. Take a few hrs to think up the deal but don’t say no.

  • By Mwangi, May 14, 2008 @ 9:10 am

    @akiey: You actually won’t believe this, but as soon as your comment was coming in, I was having a conversation with the folk at Kenya Imagine ( and I think we are now officially at the stage where we will test out and see whether we are compatible for each other and if so, I can contribute to the site every so often….so I guess I did kinda get approached.
    Have you read Branson’s book? I remember that was one of the first books I read when I landed in biz school and that man is absolutely crazy….most of it is stranger than fiction. I have never heard of Steve Fossett, what did he do (pardon my ignorance)?
    By languages do you mean programming or spoken/written?
    This blog keeps going the way it is, come New year 2009, I may do a video post from the weirdest of locations….stay tuned.

  • By akiey, May 15, 2008 @ 6:55 am

    Just left a note on your recent post to explain my haste today but good to see things are coming together and folks are coming out of the woodworks to give you a read and a listen. I’m sure more will be interested.

    Hope things keep working out at kenya Imagine and we’ll be regulars there once you start contributing.

    Haven’t read Branson’s book yet but have heard about it. Should make time for it. He’s my kind of CEO, I don’t deliberatley pattern my business/work style to his but I see very many, many similarities. He’s a real inspiration.

    Steve Fossett (RIP) and Branson were very close friends in business and adventure. Foessett was daring avaitor, sailor etc who disappeared in the Nevada desert just a few months ago while navigating a small aircraft. I still cant believe he’s ‘gone’. Here’s a glimpse into his life:

    Languages, yes spoken and written human languages so translating and interpreting from one to the other on the regular. It’s interesting work but can take a toll on the brain when it’s extremely busy.

    Go ahead with the video posts, we will follow. Have listened to some of the audio presentations and it’s good stuff dude. Big up!

  • By Mwangi, May 15, 2008 @ 7:35 am

    @akiey: Thanks for the support man. I like men like Steve and Richard: people who march to the beat of their own drum. I am actually about to begin reading a book about a Christian who decided to abandon all his Western comfort trappings and go and serve with Mother Teresa while he was in his 20s. I’ll be sure to check Steve out, and definitely make sure you read Richard’s book.
    It is pretty cool how over the past couple of weeks a lot of folk have started to become regulars on the blog. My hope is it’s of some use.
    Since you are a language expert, does that mean you managed to retain your native language? If so, how did you do it? I lost mine and I want it back.

  • By R, May 16, 2008 @ 4:05 am

    Ouch. Guilty as charged. :-) .

  • By Mwangi, May 16, 2008 @ 4:21 am

    @R: Never fear, there are many of us in the same boat..but do I say?

  • By Mwangi, May 16, 2008 @ 4:22 am

    @R: And btw, it was because of you and Seinlife that I even knew Stuff White People Like Existed, so big thanks to you and Seinlife, without you this series would never have come to fruition.

  • By afrikanbreeze, May 25, 2008 @ 11:00 pm

    I just read an article by a man in Texas who wrote about this. His take was that Africans in America seek higher degrees not just to get a competitive advantage, but also to be able to stay in the US longer and longer without being sent away.
    I know that my parents are always stressing the competitive edge. Since we are doubly doomed – black and African – we must be better than the others in our fields.

  • By Mwangi, May 25, 2008 @ 11:50 pm

    @afrikanbreeze:I fully agree with that….we do have it tougher seeing as we are outsiders and the lowest race on the totem pole…I always like the fact that this means that when it’s all said and done we work harder and contribute more than others ever would. There are times in my life when I have worn that as a badge of honour.

  • By StuffAfricanPeopleHate, June 28, 2008 @ 6:21 am

    HILARIOUS! Also check out

  • By Mwangi, June 28, 2008 @ 6:57 am

    @StuffAfricanPeopleHate: First of all, that is the most unique first name I have ever heard ;) . That article on the whole Afro-American vs African turf war must be linked to: I have heard about that one quite a bit.

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