Opinion

'Useless degrees' find use post-coronavirus

'Useless degrees' find use post-coronavirus
  • Whereas Covid-19 caught us unawares, the same shall not be said of its effects.
  • We must inquire on how we’ll recover the uncollected taxes.

Since Covid-19 erupted, the world has put its trust in health scientists. Medics, virologists, epidemiologists, modellers and disease experts have stolen the show, rendering fields such as social sciences dispensable, if not useless, as often declared.

On countless occasions, we have been told that the coronavirus is first a health issue, and that’s why health experts have been deployed with abandon. Regardless, we must remain alert to the aftermath of the pandemic. Top on the list will be a battered economy.

Whereas Covid-19 caught us unawares, the same shall not be said of its effects. And this is where experts in humanities and social sciences must showcase their mettle. They must get set to pick up the baton from health scientists once the storm calms.

IDEALISM

Of note are economists. They must assess the situation rationally and realistically, devoid of the usual idealism. Social distancing has reduced production and consumption of goods and services. The governments’ main source of funding, taxes, is curtailed.

Various options have been floated, including debt restructuring and more borrowing. But these are dependent on foreign economies, which are equally battered. We must plan with that in mind, conscious of a dip in the diaspora remittances. Most of the solutions will, therefore, be sought within.

That brings me to our response to challenges. Recently, the National Research Fund (NRF) sent out a call for health science researchers for Covid-19 investigations.

I saw this as duplicity.

Granted, many inquiries — and at high levels — are under way. Thousands of related reports are freely floating on Elsevier, Nature online journals and elsewhere. We can build on them to save time and money.

I expected NRF to equally send a call to social scientists inviting inquiries on how the economy should be resuscitated. Or are they waiting for politicians to provide direction?

MEGA PROJECTS

We must inquire on how we’ll recover the uncollected taxes. One way is through limiting expenditure, which can be achieved if corruption is purged.

Another way is through scaling down mega projects. Of course they spur the economy; unfortunately, they are major conduits of corruption. Hence, we are caught in a cyclic web which requires critical thinking.

We should ask why some interventions failed or could not be adopted. For instance, the much-hyped total lockdown wouldn’t work in Kenya.

Social scientists should, therefore, be tasked to propose job creation avenues, jobs that equally solve some of the problems that we have long experienced, like food security.

As we prepare for low donor funding, higher poverty levels, demand-pull inflation, higher taxation, among other nasty eventualities, we must enlist all relevant professionals to provide direction. Crime rates are likely to soar, and so are social and psychological problems.

Therefore, experts such as educationists, economists, counsellors, theologians, philosophers, historians, sociologists and jurists ought to be part of the post-pandemic war chest. Mathew Flinders, a professor of politics at the University of Sheffield, said Covid-19 revealed the weaknesses of thinking in mono-disciplinary terms.

All professions matter.

Mr Osabwa is a lecturer at Alupe University College, Busia.