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Cameroonian intelligentsia: Education and political interference

When even war ravaged Somalia supersedes Cameroon

By Aloysius AGENDIA

 Any reliable educational system aimed at inculcating veritable knowledge to students for self and community development is certainly very cautious of  its leaders making fanatical, divisive and partisan political linings.   Teachers in general and university professors  in particular, have the obligation of   not only imparting knowledge, but above all, helping students build independent, critical and analytic minds, to be able address situations.  Professors and university lecturers make a great bulk of the intelligentsia of most societies.

However, political correctness in certain societies has pushed many professors to abandon their prime role and rather focus more on sycophancy and the propagation of what I may call “pseudo-educational values and political rhetoric”. If lecturers have fallen short of their basic responsibilities and acting as models to learners, what then is expected of their products-students?

 On August 18, 2010, the national bilingual daily, Cameroon Tribune published a list of 110 university professors, administrators, students and business people who supposedly signed a “motion of thanks and support to President Paul Biya” at the end of a forum on professional education and Youth employment for horizon 2035, organised by the Ministry of Higher Education from August 11-12, 2010 in Yaoundé.

 On what basis can students and lecturers thank the president and ask him to hang on to power when an overwhelmingly majority of the graduates are unemployed, and when the educational system in heavily tilted towards dependence or not creativity and self employment? Moreover, it is neither the social nor academic responsibility of any university to send motions of support or hatred to politicians.

Though a lot of controversy arose after the publication of the list, with some university professors such as Innocent Futcha of University of Buea (according Le Jour newspaper) distancing themselves from the list, it must however be admitted that professorial-sycophancy in Cameroon has gained grounds and has contributed in its own way is destroying the education system, and narrowing the reasoning capacity of many students. I will not dare talk of the repercussions, be they economical or political, when students cannot develop independent, critical and analytical thought.

Among the signatories was Professor Narcisse Kombi Moëll , current director of the School of International Relations and Diplomacy IRIC. In 2004 the same professor was head of a similar motion.

I was astonished when I saw among others, the names of Professor Vincent Titanji, Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea ( UB) and Dr. Victor Julius Ngoh, Deputy Vice Chancellor of the same university.  I am more worried with these two persons because they are aware of the demands of Anglo-Saxon education.  Professor Titanji, a house hold name in the Scandinavia is certainly aware of the difference between education, school management and sycophantic partisan politics.

The same partisan political blunders by erstwhile Vice Chancellor of UB Pr. Cornelius Lambi made the latter to be dishonourably sacked from his position, given that “I hereby resign” is not common in the language of pubic servants in Cameroon.

It may be needless again to mention the leader and brainchild of the document, the Higher Education Minister, Professor Jacque Fame Ndongo. He had in one of his outings said they are all “creatures” of Paul Biya. Just as most professors of his type in Cameroon, he hardly ends any public meeting or construct two sentences without paying allegiance to Paul Biya, the 78 year president of Cameroon who has already been in power for 28 years and who Professor Fame Ndongo and his group want him to continue in power.

I see the complaints of lecturers who might have claimed that they were not part of the signatory with scepticism though some may be genuine. Prior to presidential elections in 2004, a similar list was published still by Cameroon Tribune and no lecturer officially distant himself through a public meeting or by challenging the list in any court of law or in the same publication that carried it.

  This umpteenth time scandal came at the time when Cameroonian acclaim financial analyst Celestine Monga in a respond to a recent incident during which he was refused to speak on the occasion of the death of Pius Njawe, described Cameroonian political leadership as overzealous, incompetent guys who behave as if they were in a foreign land. He made special reference to the Advance School of Administration and Magistracy, ENAM, an institution believe rightly or wrongly, to be churning out corrupt, incompetent and neo-colonial administrators?  But, what about IRIC, whose director was among the top signatory and where some of its students (future “diplomats” and “academicians”) were recently caught pants down cheating during examination?

Furthermore, in response to Monga’s letter, the Director of ENAM, Benoit Ndong Soumhet overzealously came up with a rebuttal in which is described Monga as a “pseudo” intellectual. Unfortunately, what Monga said was exactly what the university professors some of whom teach in ENAM, IRIC, ASMAC, state Universities etc did. By signing the said motion of support and humiliating themselves just because they want food to eat  or want to be promoted , or want to be considered by the “grand master” as those singing his praises most.

It is this same political interference that is destroying our most cherished Cameroon General Certificate of Education Board; CGCEB, an institution that is suppose to steer clear of politics and partisan political appointments.

It is very urgent that politicians leave education to educationists. From the recruitment of teachers, the teaching itself, education management, selection of text books etc should be done by non partisan independent bodies.

Paradoxically, this incident occurs at the time when the Webometric Ranking of World Universities published the list of the 12000 best universities in the world. The first in Africa which occupies the 340 position in the global scale is the University of Cape Town-South Africa.  Even the University of Mogadishu in war ravaged Somalia occupies the 90th position in Africa and 6971st of the 12000 best universities in the world, still far ahead of any university of Cameroon.

 It is therefore really disturbing that university professors and administrators instead of dedicating their time and duty to do what they are expected to do best (imparting knowledge), they spend much time on baseless partisan political wrangling just because they want food, money and promotion.

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