Good Intentions and Misunderstandings: A Response to William Saint
By Yosef Yacob
I reviewed the article by Dr. William
Saint, the higher education specialist for the World Bank, published in the
Dr. Teferra has provided substantive comments to Dr. Saint’ article “… with great care and utmost attention.” Notwithstanding, I am obliged to comment on the collateral issue of the World Bank’s failure to engage widely known, acknowledged, and published Ethiopian higher education experts on a matter on which they could make a significant contribution.
though my expertise is not in the field higher education administration
and policy, I am aware of at least ten published Ethiopian PhDs in this field
who are extremely qualified to participate in developing a national policy for
Ethiopian higher education. Common sense and a sincere interest calculated to
the course of my 37 years in the
we have all come to know, many are graduates of
Unfortunately, The article by Dr. Saint, resonates the rampant and condescending notion that “western experts” know what is best for Africans and characteristically attempts to ignore, ridicule, intimidate, and dismiss a respected and highly qualified African scholar who risked to comment on a subject matter which dramatically affects his people.
Western “experts” have not only, much like viruses, infected our institutions and leaders with this condescending perspective, but arrogantly demand unqualified submission and the final word on our destiny and find offense in any manner of self-expression or resistance by Africans. To the thinker, it is daunting to unabashedly claim to know what is best for the millions of Ethiopians from a cubicle in the World Bank offices based upon a brief collaboration of a selected few friendly government bureaucrats to legitimize eurocentric prescriptions.
Sadly, rather than attempting to engage, learn, listen, and persuade, Dr. Saint chose to belittle comments by a respected Ethiopian scholar as though Ethiopian scholars, despite their earned western credentials and unique indigenous knowledge, are somehow less relevant or able than western consultants. This patronizing and disrespectful tone should renew the aspiration of every African who reveries the day when native sons and experts such as Dr. Teferra, rather than some eurocentric “expert” from the World Bank, are offered a prominent role in shaping policy.
Too many westerners have claimed to be experts on our history, our culture, our traditions, our religion, our language, our problems, etc. For decades, these experts variously characterized as consultants, experts, advisers, and advocates have sought to shape our destiny and our socio-political-legal-economic policies, albeit paid with the ever-burgeoning World Bank Loans. The NGO industry and western aid workers are quick to mobilize to relieve the victims of failed western policies and experiments. Increasingly, some have even sought to supplant the role of the Ethiopian government - to speak for its people and to defend its decisions.
the truth is, these “experts” often interfere, manipulate experiment, engage in
endless consultations, conferences, and dialogue to produce or “co-author”
self-serving reports and books as yet another tool for seeking world bank loans, to sustain the employment of high paid
western experts. They continue to experiment and test their hypothesis at the
expense of future generation of Ethiopians. Indeed, the article by Dr. Teferra
was an effort to alert Ethiopians and to promote dialogue among Ethiopians,
given the four decades of failed World Bank “expert” advise and
experimentation, which has made
must admit that I, not unlike many other natives of the Southern Hemisphere,
often find myself wondering where
last decade is particularly replete with blunders of western expert advice in
developing nations and the corresponding calamitous outcomes. As in many other
developing countries, the indiscriminate imposition of western values is
painfully evident in the workings of every public institution in
need to begin to stop revering western experts as “gods” and look inward and
begin to listen to their own native scholars, sons and daughters in defining
their destiny. Defining
“experts” are not all-knowing divine creatures when it concerns our national
interest and the destiny of our country. It is time to entrust the further
self-respecting western consultant can be deemed qualified to effectively
render services to
Summoning Ethiopian experts from within and outside
the country and inviting them to engage and to collaborate in studies affecting
their country, as suggested by Dr. Teferra, poses no threat or danger to the
national interest. The only threat if any is the reclaiming of ownership of
Ethiopian people would be better served by calling upon