Rev. Dr. Evaristus Yufanyi
Education sponsorship in Cameroon
This brings us to the issue of education sponsorship in Cameroon. Expenses on education are recurrent. Education can be compared to an ocean into which money is poured every year. No money gets back but you must keep on feeding the ocean with money. It is a timeless expenditure.
The second study was done to see how much it cost to educate a child in a mission secondary school and in a government secondary school. The difference was enormous. One would have expected that mission bodies be invited to take a more active part in primary education in Cameroon especially in schools in rural areas where government teachers would be too reluctant to go. In most countries such studies have guided educational policies but in ours, because of political interest and lack of political will, this has never been the case. The policy was also devolved that government would sponsor education in Mission schools and liberalise education in private schools. Private schools were classified as profit making schools not deserving subvention. Mission schools were to be classified as non profit making schools and were to enter a contract with the State and will be offered enough subventions to run their schools and be given more opportunities to run schools in rural areas. That was just at the think tank and paper work levels. Nothing has ever come out of it. It has become more lucrative to offer more subventions to private schools because of the so called kick backs to those through whose hands the money passes. Mission School Administration can never indulge themselves in that.
The State takes over Mission school teachers
For over three years the Minister of Basic Education has been draining teachers mercilessly from Mission and private schools, explaining that they are looking for more experienced teachers, regardless of whether they are married or not. For the first time in Cameroon, education has become one of the instruments of destroying family life. Newly trained graduates from Government Teacher Training Colleges are not employed until they have had a year or two of teaching in Mission and private schools. From the Archdiocese of Bamenda alone over three hundred and fifty teachers have been taken over and posted mostly to Francophone Cameroon to teach English in Francophone schools. Before they recruited teachers below 35 years, but from this year they have gone for teachers even above 50 years. This means all Mission and private schools will loose all their teachers to the State. Are Mission and private schools not also educating Cameroonians? Why can the Minister not limit himself to recruiting teachers from their own Teacher Training Colleges where many teachers have been trained? The Minister is using Mission and private schools as guinea pigs to offer practical teaching experience to their own teachers.
On the other hand during the same period no Francophone has been posted to teach French in the Anglophone Zone. How does the government expect Anglophones to view this? In the Cameroon society of tomorrow, most Francophones would be bilingual and will get the top jobs, while most Anglophones would be dumped in the cold. Is this not a discriminatory policy with a hidden agenda? Education is once more being used as an instrument to create inequality among Cameroonians and to perpetuate the continual flux between Francophones and Anglophones in this blessed country.
Attempts at education reforms in Cameroon
In an article, “Structural Reforms In Education In Cameroon”, Therese Mungah Tchombe situates the ideological underpinnings that have motivated reforms in education in Cameroon for each historical epoch to revolve around ruralisation, bilingualism and harmonisation. In my assessment of these three axes, two have been a failure and one has been transformed from harmonisation to incorporation of what is good in each sub-system of education in Cameroon. This, however, has been good for all Cameroonians.
Ruralisation through education
As far as ruralisation is concerned, education has instead caused the migration of half baked educated pupils and students from the villages to towns in search of greener pastures. Imagine a class seven leaver telling one that he or she has come to town to “learn computer”, the magic subject these days. The child has not got the academic capability to learn computer. She may learn it but what can one expect from him or her. It would simply be garbage in garbage out. No development projects have been built in the villages or even attempts at transforming village life with what they have, namely land which is one of the greatest resources in Cameroon. At the level of structural development, students have not been put to task to transform local structures in the villages where buildings are springing up every day with the same old styles. They must migrate to towns and end up swelling the number of thieves and prostitutes in town because of the lack of gainful employment. The philosophy seems to be, where you cannot earn money from the sweat of your brow, steal it by all means or your body becomes your resource.
Bilingualism in education
This too has been a failure. Imagine that for more than fifty years Cameroon has not yet achieved bilingualism. The major obstacle has been the colonial garbage which the Francophone or Anglophone carry which blocks them from seeing themselves simply as Cameroonians. The Francophone will prefer to see himself in terms of the French colonial master and the Anglophone the English. They all have a phobia for each other and this has been one of the stumbling blocks of offering and receiving the other’s expression with objectivity. The second obstacle lies in educational planning. The policy remains discriminatory as English is offered to Francophones and French to Anglophones. The bias of our colonial past still plays a strong factor in offering French and English to Cameroonians. This also smacks off political underpinnings and manipulation to make sure that one part is better trained to take a greater share of the national cake in the Cameroon of tomorrow. The government should have the same drive to offer French to English speaking Cameroonians as they have in offering English to French speaking Cameroonians. Otherwise the two types of Cameroonians would not have equal access to the facilities in the Cameroon society of tomorrow.
Harmonisation of education
In this area, one must admit that we have come a long way. Since 1995, the policy of harmonisation was abolished and education in Cameroon has been allowed to grow except for the punitive intrusion into the Anglophone Sub-System to rid it of its moral and religious formative quality, though there is an official approved syllabus for Moral Education in schools. Cameroonians too are free to educate their children in any of the sub-systems. We have noticed there is a serious and honest attempt to appreciate and borrow what is good in any sub-system. The goal has been to make sure that education offered in schools in Cameroon prepares candidates for jobs in the global world. The aim is to make sure that at this level Cameroonians acquire certificates which can be accepted anywhere in the world without the unnecessary humbug looking for equivalence in the fast running world when people do not even like to take the pains of doing anything anymore.
Globalisation has been a very powerful liberating force for educational planning in Cameroon. While this is taking place at the top level in Cameroon, the same spirit is lacking in the planning of nursery, primary and secondary educational programmes. This might partly be attributed to the fact that it is not educational technocrats who lead educational planning at this level, but people from other professions who do not seem to know what the business of education is all about, apart from the fact that they use the schools for political gains. We hope the example shown at the university level in Cameroon might be taken up at the nursery, primary and secondary school level. This will not easily come until Cameroonians liberate themselves from their colonial mind-set and the use of education for political gains. These make educational planners loose sight of objective education planning.
One must applaud the Cameroon Government for the high literacy rate it has pitched for Cameroonians. But there is still the need to make education the pivot at the service of human, moral and material development in Cameroon. At the global level Grammar schools seem obsolete. There is a need for the government to invest more in commercial, technical and professional education. This is where the market lies in the future either in Cameroon or anywhere. The world needs managers and professionals in all fields. Are our schools set for this? The multiplicities of Grammar schools created in almost every village are only a recipe for frustrated Cameroonians in tomorrow’s society.
While it has been very easy for our university men and women to put in place an objective system of education that serves Cameroonians and is versatile, one laments the rigmarole in what used to be called the Ministry of National Education now sub-divided into Basic and Secondary Education. The indecision, hesitancy, and reluctance to devolve an objective system of education for Cameroonians because of other interests not related to education, beats one’s imagination. Educational diffidence has destroyed some of the pin heads in our country or driven out some of them from Cameroon. Some of the policies are exclusive and discriminatory. One doubts whether both Ministers are either thinking of all Cameroonians or only of some Cameroonians. Some educational policies are so sporadic that before one attempts to implement one, it is no longer a policy.
Do these Ministers think of the fate of Cameroonians in Mission and Private Schools? One can compare them to a parent who cares excessively openly about some of his children and does not care a dime about others. Such a parent should know that he is setting the stage for a future fight.
While we praise the Government for its persistent drive to set up colleges almost in every village in Cameroon, one must be quick to remind her that what Cameroonians need is no more grammar schools because they are obsolete but commercial, technical and professional schools because what even Cameroon needs are managers and professionals who can create the wealth for us or somewhere else to our credit.