A keynote address presented on the occasion of the congress of the Teachers’ Association of Cameroon (TAC) held in Buea on the 26th February 2015
What is anglo-saxon education culture?
What do the people of the former West or Southern Cameroon want?
Anglo-saxon educational culture in Cameroon refers to the educational practices inherited from the British colonial legacy during and after the British mandate in Cameroon ended in 1961. These practices are the product of standards, norms, value systems and policies which are informed by constant research and development as it obtains in the UK and other “Germanic” countries. The system is imbued with checks and balances and is so rich and enriching, that anyone who identifies with it finds it to be a treasure and would want to uphold and protect it because it beats any other system, the world over. It also has as hallmarks, the encouragement of independent thinking and imparts responsible freedom which is a departure from intimidation and dictatorship.
Since 1972, political power in Cameroon has been monopolized by the majority former East or French Cameroon with whom the people of the former West or Southern Cameroon voted to unite in 1961. As such all the institutions of the minority Southern Cameroon have become vulnerable and have been systematically mismanaged and plundered one after the other since 1972. The anglo-saxon education system of the people of Southern Cameroon has not been the exception.
The people of Southern Cameroon who inherited this type of education but who lack sufficient political power to control, protect, manage and promote it, are always apprehensive of any attempts to interfere with their education. What they want then, is goodwill from those they united with in good faith in 1961 (La Republique du Cameroun) because they find that this cherished educational system which they inherited is gradually being eroded with the intention of completely annihilating it and assimilating the people who own it.
A HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE
Right from 1962 just one year after the two Cameroons united to form the Federal Republic, there was the first attempt to harmonize the two education systems operating in each part to form one coherent education system. A hurriedly planned UNESCO mission arrived the country from the 10th to the 20th of May to undertake the project of harmonization. But as early as this date, signs already started showing that the minority were about to be swallowed by the majority, whereas the latter had, through its leaders at various occasions promised that this would never happen. All the three proposals brought forward by UNESCO were unfavorable to the minority and took only the concerns of the majority francophones. It was like the extension of the French colonial power into Southern Cameroon. The Foncha government at the time rejected the proposals. Thus the Federal Law of 1963 which sought to harmonize the two systems of education was not implemented. The revised Primary Education syllabus which was established that year was blown off by the fact that the anglo-saxon primary school cycle being practiced in West Cameroon was reduced from eight to seven years.
Yet, other attempts to harmonize the two educational systems continued in 1973, 1976, 1989, etc. In 1966 The Minister of National Education set up a commission comprising educationists from the two federated states to harmonize secondary school syllabuses. In 1968 the same commission met again in Douala to perfect the work already done on the syllabuses. In 1971 the commission met at the Higher Teachers’ Training College in Yaounde to put finishing touches to the syllabuses produced at the Douala conference. Today nothing has been said or heard about those harmonized syllabuses for secondary schools. It would seem therefore that there was no political will to make this project a success as the work of all these different attempts ended up in the drawers of the Ministry. In 1967, an “Institut de Pédagogie Appliquée a vocation Rurale (IPAR) was created in Yaounde for the francophone sub-system. But it was not until 1974 that a similar institution was created in Buea for the English subsystem, to carry out educational research and curriculum development for the primary school system. The institution produced syllabuses which were not often approved. In 1989 a National Forum on education held in Yaounde with the aim of harmonizing the two educational systems. But this again was a fiasco because at the end the Minister instructed that commission reports be presented only in plenary. But more so he had instructed that commissions should work only on a six year primary school system, and a seven year secondary school system for the two systems, without specifying the duration of the cycles. Educationists of the English culture were apprehensive and suspicious of this tactic. They detected a plan to change the English- speaking system into the French type.
Then in 1991 there erupted the struggle from the people of the English – speaking culture for an examination board. It took three years of violent confrontations with the security forces in which the Anglophones risked their jobs, careers, livelihoods and even their lives before the government would cave in to their demands in 1993. As a result of this, the government now organized an umpteenth educational forum in 1995 which resulted in the famous education law No. 98/004 of 14th April 1998 laying down guidelines for Education in Cameroon and which provides in section 15 as follows:
“The educational system shall be organized in two subsystems: the English-speaking subsystem and the French-speaking subsystem in Cameroon which applies to nursery, primary, secondary grammar and technical education, as well as teacher training” thereby reaffirming the national option for a bicultural system.
But this noble ideal is hardly practiced because educational policies are still being crafted almost behind closed doors by government and implemented without consultation with specialists of the English speaking culture and without considering that there are two subsystems, each one having its own specificities. This is why problems have been occurring in all sectors of education in the English – speaking subsystem.
Policies are implemented without first testing the workability or consulting experts. Before any policy is implemented, it will be proper for expert in the field to be consulted and or carry out pilot studies before implementation. And sometimes the concepts found in policies are not well understood by those who implement them; concepts like competence – based approach to teaching and evaluation, or the sequence system. Many teachers do not understand that this actually refers to what in the English tradition is called continuous assessment. Teachers merely use the expressions but they don’t master the terminal policy. The same applies to the concept of competence. Until date, teachers do not evaluate competence instead they evaluate objectives. Other reform policies that are engaged in and implemented without consulting the English – speaking subsystem experts are:
- The massive transfer of voluntary agency schools and their teachers to the state in 1972 destabilised mission schools and Christian education values.
- The reduction of the primary school cycle from eight years to seven and then to sex years, coupled with the crammed syllabus is having a negative effect on both teachers and learners
- The policy of ‘non-repetition’ of certain classes (1, 3, 5), which boils down to whole-class promotion, should be revisited because the pupils can never be the same. Mass promotion does not permit an individual to progress at his/her own pace in any given class. A repeat in class is a motivation to the child for perfection and progress in effective learning.
- Under aged children are being admitted in schools. It should be noted that brain maturity, assimilation and reasoning goes with age and physical development without which, the educational phenomenon called cognitive overload sets in.
- Linked with this is the overcrowded or overambitious curriculum which is being implemented in our primary schools. Children of class six have between 19 and 22 subjects to cover in at most the 180 days of the school year. Yet these 180 days are interspersed with public holidays, Youth and National day weeks, etc. which whittles this 180 day period down to about 160 days. In some countries the academic year has up to 200 days or more. And this is in countries where the primary school is eight years. Here in Cameroon children study information and communication technology, environmental studies, civics, human rights, languages, vernaculars, etc, all in only a six year course.
- The rampant change of textbooks also affects the performance of children. Text books should be the same and should remain constant for a period of time.
The most outstanding anomaly in teacher training education in the anglo-saxon culture is the fact that students study in English, are assessed in English but receive attestations in French: CAPIEMP, CAPIAET, etc. This is in complete violation of the 1998 Education Law. In wording the attestations, only the abbreviation of the certificates is shown. Normally they worded in full before being abbreviated. This demonstrates an inacceptable levity in handling sensitive matters like education as a whole and certification in particular.
- The unexplained closure of all ten private denominational teacher training colleges in West Cameroon in 1975 has had untold effects on Christian education values and the general society.
- The entry qualification into teacher training colleges is basically acceptable but the periods or duration of training is grossly inadequate when one considers the contents of the syllabus to be completed. Holders of 4 O/L do a 3-years-course while holders of 1 A/L and 5 O/L do a 2-years-course. Holders of 2 A/L and more do a 1- year course. Experience has shown that the duration is really short to complete the syllabuses. Teaching practice period has been reduced to 2 weeks per-term. Normally holders of the above entry qualification should do a 4-year course, 3-year course and 2-year course respectively (to end up with which qualification?) and the periods of teaching practice should be at least 3 weeks.
- The transfer of elementary teacher training to the Ministry of Secondary Education has not helped in making that sector any better.
- Less than 10% of trainees in GTTCs have Mathematics or French; and less than 30% have the English Language at the Ordinary Level. This accounts for their inadequacy to teach the higher classes (five and six).
- Some important Subjects have arbitrarily been eliminated from the training programme: Practical agriculture; manual Arts and Home Economic, Also Maths /Arithmetic and Term Papers have been eliminated from the written part of the examinations.
With the birth of the Federal Republic of Cameroon in 1961, the two federated states controlled primary (or basic) education, while secondary general and technical education was controlled by the central government under the Ministry of National Education. In West Cameroon, only one person was appointed to serve as the mouthpiece of secondary and technical education, Mr. A. D Mengot. He was the sole technical and administrative officer of secondary and technical education. It then became easy for technical education to be eroded gradually. And that is how GTC Ombe which was the cradle of technical education was gradually dismantled to the dismal state in which it finds itself today.
- The most disquieting problem with our secondary schools is the age at which children get admitted. Children who are admitted into nursery school before they are 3 years old get admitted into secondary school before they reach 10 years and this is compounded by the fact that primary school cycle has been reduced from eight to seven and then to six years. In most parts of the world and especially in anglo-saxon societies, the primary school cycle is eight years at least.
- Our secondary schools are running a dual system between the technical and the grammar. While the grammar sector has a 5-year first cycle and a 2-year high school system, the technical colleges are instead run in the French style: 4-year first cycle and 3-year second cycle. This is the situation which has made people to believe erroneously that people of the former West Cameroon don’t like technical education. Rather it is more because technical education has been cleverly steered to look like the preserve of the francophone. So people of the English – speaking extraction only sent school drop outs to technical schools.
- Coupled with this is the fact that children of the former West Cameroon study in English but end up with certificates in French: CAP, BACC, Probatoire, etc.
- In 1983/84, the government embarked on a project which should have completely eroded the anglo-saxon secondary school system and turned into a hybrid francophone outfit. The people of the English expression rose up against this move in Yaounde, Bamenda and Buea. The then Minister of Education, George Ngango had to invite the Anglophones to present their problem. Just as he was ready to take their position into consideration he was suddenly dismissed.
- In the secondary school system, Continuous Assessment which now passes under the label, “sequence” does not seem to have been mastered by teachers. And so it becomes time consuming as too much time for lectures is lost in conducting tests.
- Recently, our secondary schools have become flooded with duty post holders. There are too many vice principals (sometimes as many as 13) in some schools. Many of these appointees are self-seekers who bribe their way into those positions and so schools become filled more with duty post holders than competent teaching staff.
- On the 11th of December 2013, Anglophone parliamentarians addressed a petition letter to the Prime Minister about the gradual degradation of anglo-saxon education in Cameroon in the hands of the dominantly francophone government. But that has not received any reply till date.
- And yet the system continues to suffer decay in the sense that most schools are now financed only by the PTAs. In most schools the PTA, recruits and pays teachers with meagre wages thus reducing the quality of teaching. They also recruit and pay secretaries, attendants, security personnel, etc. They provide water and electricity in schools, build and fully equip laboratories, libraries, provide furniture in the classrooms, etc. The notion of PTA is an anglo-saxon phenomenon but the government of Cameroon has turned it into a public corporation with civil administrators like D.O.s being members. This has provoked a journalist writing in a newspaper to ask whether GSS Ebonji is a government school or a privately owned property.
THE GCE BOARD
As early as 1997, just 3 years after the GCE board started organizing exams, the government wrote a different text of application and got Dr. Omer Weyi Yembe to come and implement at the GCE Board. That is how exams like BACC in English and Probatoire were introduced at the Board. This meant that children of English – speaking extraction and culture in Cameroon would in taught throughout primary school in English; would do another seven years in English in secondary school, and end up with an end-of-course certificate in French.
The text governing the GCE Board clearly states that it will be managed only by individuals who have pursued their education in the English language and show a mastery of the anglo-saxon culture of education. But today, francophones have made themselves members of the governing council of the GCE Board. They have even become permanent members of the examinations executive council (The EEC) which is the highest academic organ of the GCE Board. While parading the corridors of the GCE Board they have sometimes been heard saying, “C’est nous qui payons, nous devons gérer”. And so they have introduced another phenomenon called a bilingual GCE by inserting a subject called intensive French for francophones. These innovations are clearly inimical to the mission and vision of the GCE Board as it was set up.
The GCE Board’s functioning is all the time beset by lack of staff and finances. The number of staff that organised the GCE for 60,000 candidates in 1994 is the same number that is organising it now for 160,000. The Registrar’s appeal to increase staff and create liaison offices around the country and man them with trained staff so as to make the functioning of the GCE Board more efficient, regularly meets resistance from government. By now (20 years after creation) the GCE Board should have become a consummate cooperate body with trained staff to make its work of assessment management and research more fluid. But it fails to do so because it is incapable of setting standards for itself since it relies heavily on government subventions to survive. Even the financial and legal independence which was it meant to possess has been eroded because of too much influence from the government. Recently the Registrar was in Yaounde to demonstrate with facts and figures, the need to either raise registration fees or for government to provide its subventions fully and in time so that the GCE Board can operate better. But a francophone authority listened attentively to the Registrar’s submission and simply retorted that the Registrar’s analysis and presentation is logical and correct but politically wrong.
The public has been led into the illusion that by organising the GCE and publishing results, the GCE Board is fulfilling its tasks completely. This is a poor conception. As one professor recently put it in a keynote address during a syllabus review conference in Victoria, “the GCE Board should rise above being just an exam-obsessed institution and become involved in all educational processes from the conception of educational policy through curriculum development to the teaching/learning process and evaluation”. The GCE Board is meant to be a robust corporate entity operating a robust research department which responds to all educational questions in a timely manner. This year for instance, as in all the years before, the performance of candidates at the GCE was dismal. This is a report that should have provoked enough debate and research because in the anglo-saxon educational tradition, there is what is called educational accountably where the assessment organ concerned should find out first the “hows” and “whys” of such a performance and also be able to make a statement on what happens to the more that 65% who failed. Normally the Minister should not have given the go ahead for such results to be published. In the anglo-saxon tradition, exams are not organised to make the examinees fail. But in Cameroon failure seems to be the norm.
The University of Buea was set up in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of university management and culture. One of the main tenets of this tradition is that it serves as a nursery for democracy. It inculcates democratic values and standards in its community (students and staff) and preparing them for governance since they are the potential leaders of the future. That is why their vice chancellors and other departmental heads are elected in clearly defined democratic manner so as to promote an atmosphere of healthy intellectual and leadership competition. Student unions are encouraged to be democratic institutions and made to be part of the administration. This way, students already start learning and practicing good values of democracy which they will need as tomorrow’s leaders.
But in the University of Buea, all members of the administration are appointed. That is why the lecturers get involved in all sorts of dirty games and rivalries so as to position themselves for appointment. Instead of involving themselves in research and other intellectual activities which is their calling, they even sponsor student protests so as to discredit other rival lecturers in their bid to get to higher positions. The student unions have been pocketed by the administration and they cannot evolve as a budding cradle of leadership. Leaders are formed in the universities where students start learning the art of governing in the faculties. This is what the University of Buea was meant to be doing but it has veered away from this noble objective because it has been invaded by students, lecturers and administrators who do not have this mind-set and are instead taught vices that turn them into sycophants. It is also worrying that those persons of the English – speaking culture who graduated from the best Anglo-Saxon universities around the world have been helping to perpetrate the sad ordeal which the University of Buea is witnessing.
- The biggest anomaly which has provoked a lot of ink and saliva has been the fact that children who have gone through primary and secondary school in English fail to find admission in the University of Buea, whereas frandophones who have never studied in English, get a six-week crash course in English and find easy admission. This phenomenon had been rejected by so many opinion leaders but the complaints fall on deaf ears.
- In 2005, the University of Buea organised an entrance exam into its school of health. but the Minister forced the names of some candidates who did not even write the exam into the list of successful candidates. This provoked an outcry which spilled into a rampage. The security forces stepped in and four students were killed and till today no one has taken responsibility for those killings. Today the Ministry has simply contrived to be organising a single entrance exam for all students wishing to enter any health school in the country. This way the government alone decides who gets admitted into which higher education school of health, the result being that all higher education schools of health in the English speaking zones are flooded with francophones. The people of the former West or Southern Cameroon see this as a way of containing and smothering them out even in all spheres of life. This assessment is more poignant when it is considered that a few years ago, the government suddenly closed down the faculties of health which were being run by the Catholics and the Presbyterians in the English – speaking zones. The hidden agenda as some saw it was to reduce the impact of the denominational formation as they did in 1975 b y closing down teacher training colleges owned by the Catholics in the English—speaking provinces.
- More recently it has been the question of the two HTTTCs, one in Bambili and the other in Kumba. Already, the one in Bambili is already flooded by francophone teachers and administrators as well as students thanks to the open (and sometimes hidden) admission and recruitment conditions set either by government. There has been an outcry because the questions for the entrance exam into HTTTC Kumba were to be translated into French to give the francophones an added advantage which the Anglophones never enjoy anywhere. The Anglophone people see this as unjustifiable but in spite of all the complaints, the questions still ended up being translated.
It is necessary to note that these are only the surface issues gleaned from a plethora of many other issues and factors which for want of space and time cannot be enumerated here.
1. Throughout history, all attempts to unify or harmonize the two different educational systems in Cameroon have proved abortive, mostly because the government refuses to implement the outcomes, or, in implementing it the government fails to implement those aspects of the harmonization which reflect entirely the English – speaking culture. Sometimes during the harmonization conferences, the government tries to bludgeon the process into coming out only with a French oriented system. This happened in 1989 when the Minister dictated that the primary school system should only end in class six and the secondary school system should be seven years but without prescribing how many years of each cycle. In 1983/84, the government dismissed the Minister of Education because during loud protests from Anglophones which resulted in street confrontations with the security forces he allowed the people of the former West Cameroon to present their own views and was in favour of it. Therefore what is happening in all schools in the two subsystems is dictated by the majority francophone government.
2. The people of the former Southern Cameroon came into unity on a one-to-one base with the people of the former French Cameroon. But since then (for 58 years running) no one of the English – speaking culture has ever been Minister of Education. So the English people have never exercised any political power with which they can defend and promote their own educational culture. Instead when it reaches certain climax points they have to pile pressure which results in confrontations to put order in the disorder which the francophone dominated government always tries to bring into their educational culture; witness 1983 and 1993.
3. If the education law of 1998 prescribes bilingualism and biculturalism, as reinforcing the national option of the same prescription, then this factor should be seen to be operating clearly. It is an asset, but in its implementation it could turn out to be a liability if the government which is charged with its implementation tends to see the majority as the privileged ones. Instead it should be the reverse, where the minority must have certain special considerations and concessions which they need to protect their own identity and culture. The power structure ought to be shared right down the middle since the unity was entered into on a one to one basis. The people of the former West Cameroon need this kind of dispensation for self-preservation. Anything out of this only shows how the francophone majority intends to smother the English – speaking minority.
The English-speaking people of Cameroon need to share power with the francophone on an equal basis to reinforce biculturalism. At the moment of writing this, in the Ministries of Primary and Secondary Education, the people of English-speaking expression start coming third in rank. In the power structure of the country they start coming fourth. Therefore the implementation of bilingualism and biculturalism, is grossly in the disfavour of the English heritage. The Southern Cameroonian people are uncomfortable with this and will ensure that the situation is redressed.
Prepared by the Educationists of the English cultural subsystem in Cameroon