A doctoral degree (PhD) is a personal journey, one stop along the unending journey of an academic, one that should be exhilarating in its pursuit and achievement. PhD is a wonderful thing showing one has persevered and masters to the satisfaction of a disciplinary research area, a topic of study.
The ability to transfer that knowledge to others or in public service in a way retained is a whole new level of artistic and creative work. But a PhD should not be counted as a mark of intelligence and one’s ability to monopolize knowledge over non-PhD holders. Let me also repeat an uncomfortable fact: No one has a monopoly on intellect; on knowledge or on access to historical facts and figures.
History is no longer written by the victors/status quo or those connected/beholden to the status quo thus with access to elite academic institutions. Technology and the internet have given persons previously “hunted” the ability to outwit the erstwhile “hunters” and do so much quicker and with an aplomb that leaves said “hunters” flat-footed and lashing out in anger and frustration! History is a combination of the good, the bad and the ugly that humans can do.
Prof Basil Davidson is perhaps one of the most widely quoted scholars on African history. His name has appeared in almost every PhD dissertation on African history in the past 50 years. Prof Davidson did not attend university. He had no bachelor’s, master’s or PhD degrees, and yet he was one of the most accomplished historians. After high school, he was a reporter for various media houses, rose to university professor and wrote some of the best books of history.
He became an honorary fellow of the School of Oriental and African Studies in London to teach at university. He wrote many influential books, including Africa: History of a Continent (1972), Africa in History (1966), A History of West Africa 1000-1800 (1965) and African Civilization Revisited: From Antiquity to Modern Times (1990). If someone had insisted on a PhD, the world would never have known him.
His name is mentioned with those of great historians B.A. Ogot, E. A. Ayandele, J. F. Ade Ajayi, A. B. Itandala, I. N Kimambo, A. J Temu, Roland Oliver, J. D. Fage, Terence Ranger; Philip Curtin, Ronald Robinson, Adu Boehen, Walter Rodney, Jack Gallagher, William Robert Ochieng’, Robert Maxon, and John Iliffe.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o is perhaps Kenya’s most famous professor. He does not have an earned master’s or PhD, only his good bachelor’s degree and he is one of Kenya’s best-known authors. Some of the greatest African professors, including Chinua Achebe, Cyprian Ekwenzi, and Wole Soyinka never had PhDs.
Noble Laureate in Literature Wole Soyinka has served as professor in Ivy League universities such as Harvard, Yale, and Cornell, and other prominent universities such as Emory, Nevada, Las Vegas and Obafemi Awolowo in Nigeria.
Prof George Magoha is full professor of Surgery and distinguished urologist of no mean standing and former vice-chancellor of the University of Nairobi.Prof Magoha does not have a PhD, but he is one the most accomplished university administrators.
A PhD is not a sine qua non to success in university teaching, research and in public service.
In the Gambia’s best public intellectual scholars such as Halifa Sallah, Sidia Jatta, Nana Grey Johnson, dean of the Journalism school, Gabriel Roberts, Fafa Mbai, Justice Hassan Jallow, Lenrie Peters, and Swaebou Conateh, who did not have PhDs, but just good master’s degrees. The lack of PhDs did not deter them from delivering effectively. Many universities in the developed countries still employ lecturers without PhDs. The entry point is a master’s degree, and many are ranked highly in terms of quality teaching, research and service to community.