The Director General of Communities says that the report entitled “Cape Verde Migratory Profile 2009,” which analyzed the students leaving Cape Verde in the 1997/1998 academic year and who should have returned in 2002/2003, shows that during the period in question some 77% of students who went abroad to attend university without a scholarship did not return to the country. Among scholarship holders, this rate fell to 45%.
“The number of Cape Verdean students who don’t return to the country has begun to grow more quickly and become a cause for concern. In certain areas, such as medicine, the situation is truly critical,” warns Francisco Carvalho, adding that, according to a study entitled “Is the Brain Drain Good for Africa?” by William Easterly and Yaw Nyarko and published in 2000, Cape Verde has one of the highest rates of brain drain in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cape Verde (67%) appears as the continent’s main issuer of brains, followed by The Gambia, with 63%.
The reasons for non-return are many and diverse, affirms Carvalho began by pointing to factors such as “the presentation of excellent working conditions, in terms of both remuneration and installation and equipment for performing one’s profession, in addition to good career possibilities in the countries where they study. This happens especially on the level of professions related to life sciences such as medicine, as well as in the area of engineering.”
Uncertainty as to integration in the job market in Cape Verde is another factor to be taken into consideration, “because many begin to condition the possibility of returning to having a concrete contract. They would rather perform jobs far below their skill level than return unsure of a tangible work contract,” stresses the Director General of Communities.
Carvalho says that the lack of direct relatives in Cape Verde can also make students decide not to return. “Sometimes it so happens that those who go abroad to study are the children of émigrés and they go and join their families in that country. After graduating, they no longer consider the possibility of going back,” he explains.
In Carvalho’s view, working at certain university study centers and progress in a research career can also be factors. “When they go from one research project to the next, they always end up staying in the host country. In the meantime, they start a family, have children and their plans to return home become increasingly remote,” he says.
Although the non-existence of a work contract or even people’s individual freedom can be used to justify this, Francisco Carvalho is peremptory in saying that “it seems to us that, ethically and morally, there are demands to be made here, for we believe we must not lose sight of the context of the granting of a scholarship as part of a public policy for the promotion of the country’s development.”
In other words, graduates in these circumstances should remember that the state made an investment in them as individuals, providing them with all of the conditions possible to carry out their studies, even making available scholarships to attend college abroad. If, in the end, the individual opts to reside abroad, he or she “will not be providing any return on the investment the state has made in them.”