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By Cathleen O’Grady
As vital as it is to provide promising young students in developing countries with educational opportunities, it can sometimes have an unwelcome and unintended effect: brain drain. Young, bright students with good qualifications may see foreign countries as holding better opportunities for themselves and their families, and – understandably – put their education to use building a life for themselves elsewhere.
Brain drain is a serious problem in Latin America, and has many negative consequences. It limits the number of skilled professionals available in the home country, who could be invaluable in helping to build the economy, provide training, and develop a solid skills base. However, it can also be detrimental to migrant workers, who often end up in jobs not commensurate with their education levels. Combatting brain drain is largely a matter of creating attractive opportunities for skilled workers, which may encourage them to remain in their home country.
Roots and Wings International, FBB’s Q4 Education beneficiary, recognizes the problem of brain drain and is committed to finding ways to encourage its scholarship recipients to remain in Guatemala. By employing only Guatemalan people on the board of the organization’s Guatemalan counterpart, RWI is creating jobs and providing job experience and training, while simultaneously ensuring that its policies and practices are in line with what is most needed in the country.
Recipients of educational funding from RWI are encouraged in many ways to reinvest their skills to build a stronger and more stable Guatemalan economy. Scholarship winners study at universities near their home villages so that they can remain vested in their home communities, and all winners make a commitment to use their education to promote community development. Students are also encouraged to maintain some type of employment throughout their studies, contributing to the local economy while gaining the skills to help it grow even further.
RWI recognizes that the essential work of promoting education in a developing country also requires careful thought about how to ensure that this work benefits the country in the long term, and is committed to emphasizing the importance of community investment. It is constantly working toward new programs that will combat brain drain in Guatemala, and that will help investment in education to sow local benefits.