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Société Construire la démocratie à partir des problématiques locales - A chronological synopsis of the attempts at assimilating or annihilating the English Subsystem of Education in Cameroon

Construire la démocratie à partir des problématiques locales - A chronological synopsis of the attempts at assimilating or annihilating the English Subsystem of Education in Cameroon

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Index de l'article
Construire la démocratie à partir des problématiques locales
Democracy and the Minority Problem in the Domain of Education in Cameroon
Retrieving And Consolidating Values Of Anglo-Saxon Educational System
A chronological synopsis of the attempts at assimilating or annihilating the English Subsystem of Education in Cameroon
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A chronological synopsis of the attempts at assimilating or annihilating the English Subsystem of Education in Cameroon
Specifically, the Focal Point, Dynamique Citoyenne Nord West, Executive Secretary General of CATTU requested me to give a chronological synopsis of the attempts at assimilating or annihilating the English Subsystem of Education in Cameroon. I hope that at the end of my presentation, I would succeed somehow to do just that.
At Independence in October 1961, many things concerning the nature of the relationship between West Cameroon and La République du Cameroun were not settled or agreed upon. In the business world, when two companies have to merge, they have to work out the terms of the merger before the merger actually takes effect. This is especially the case because the two companies have different set-ups, different management style and human resource regulations; different financial procedures, marketing and purchase principles and styles. The type of merger must be firmly agreed upon and papers signed before the amalgamation takes place. In the case of Companies, there are different types of mergers

a) A complete takeover of one company by the other
i) With the company taken over (or bought over) completely losing its original identity: - its name, its business style, management style, personnel, etc, and all its assets and liabilities are assimilated into those of the buyer. In such a case, after a few years, little is remembered of the company that was bought over.
ii) Or the take-over may be the type wherein the company taken over maintains its original name and products but comes directly under the management of the company that has bought it as a subsidiary. In this case, some changes are made in the human resource management, administrative and financial management of the bought over company with the ultimate management being placed under the parent company.
In both these cases, the original shareholders of the bought company are paid off by the parent company and whatever is done with the purchased company is no longer their business.
b) Another form of merger is the type in which two companies decide to merge in order to benefit from synergy. They may pool their resources together, work out a combined system of management, taking the best from each other and benefitting from economies of scale, maximizing their capacity and minimizing costs through the elimination of wasteful competition.
In this case, the original shareholders of the merged companies are maintained. The benefits of the merger accrue to all of them in proportion to their stakes in the merged company. They may take off their old names and adopt a new name entirely or they may maintain both names.
c) A third form of merger is the type in which two different companies agree to work together for common benefits with each company maintaining its full autonomy and merely collaborating with each other in certain areas of their operations. One company may be a source of some raw material for the other or a marketing outlet for the other or one may provide a chain of transportation or distribution for the other. In this case each company maintains its identity, its management personnel, etc. and merely benefits from the advantaged position it holds with its partner. This type of collaborative partnership allows each company the autonomy to develop independently of its partner.
Now coming to Nation States- The merger of two national entities follows almost the same principles as the merger of companies. What type of merger took place between the English Speaking part of Cameroon the Southern Cameroons and the French Speaking part- La République du Cameroun. Was it type a) i) or II); type b) or type c) above?
Did one of the states buy over the other so that the bought-over state had to lose its identity completely how-be-it slowly and tactfully? Note that in this type of merger, whatever the buyer decides to do with the company bought is his business because the original owners have nothing to do with it anymore. If that was the type of merger, then the parent state or those who claim to be so, think that they are justified to demolish everything in the bought-over state and introduce their own system of management, their own system of justice, their own human resource style, system of education, you can name them.
Did Southern Cameroons merge with La République du Cameroun like in b) above in order to benefit from synergy, to maximize their joint capacities, tap the best from each other, benefit from economies of scale, enjoy a larger population and thus a larger market, and minimize costs, etc.?
Or was the Union like c) above in which the two states agreed to maintain their full autonomy and merely collaborate with each other in certain areas of national business?
From all the discussions that have been going on since the so called Unification of the two Cameroons till today, it seems to me that La République du Cameroun was thinking of merger type a) i) above while Southern Cameroons was thinking of Merger type b).

Why do I say so? The leaders of French Speaking Cameroon have all along behaved as if they bought over Southern Cameroons. For some time, they allowed the Southern Cameroons (West Cameroon) to go on with their system of Education, their judicial system, their mobile police force, their House of Chiefs and their Parliament, their marketing Board, their Prime Minister, their multi- party democracy, etc. Soon after wards, leaders of French Cameroon started gnawing into the Anglo-Saxon systems bit by bit. The multi -party democracy of the Southern Cameroons / West Cameroon was "abolished". Then the House of Chiefs and the West Cameroon Parliament was abolished. The mobile police, and West Cameroon police force were absorbed and assimilated into the National Security of Cameroon. The post of Prime Minister of West Cameroon was abolished. The marketing Board was taken over as National Produce Marketing Board and placed under the management of a Francophone but responsible for marketing only products from West Cameroon. Dissolving the government of West Cameroon meant that policy making in every area of national life had been transferred to ministries in Yaounde.
Of course this was the stepping stone to assimilation and the complete take-over of the English speaking Cameroon or what some would like to refer to as annihilation of everything Anglo-Saxon.
The unfortunate thing is that there was no real negotiation, agreement and signatures on the merger agreement by the two parties before the merger took place (if it actually took place). Such an agreement needed to have been scrutinized by the lawyers of each party and adopted by the general assemblies of the shareholders of the two parties ie the parliaments of the two states before the agreement comes into effect. Such an agreement would have put in place certain checks and balances that would have constitutionally protected the cherished values of each party to the merger.
One way of absorbing or assimilating a people is to wipe out their cultural heritage - their language, their cultural practices, their names their administrative set-up and above all their educational system.
It looks to me that successive leaders of La République du Cameroun have a tacit agreement among themselves to tactfully demolish all these in an imperceptible but sure way.
There were several moves by different Ministers of National Education to water down our system of Education. The Cameroon College of Arts, Science and Technology (CCAST) which was meant to be the pre-cursor of the University College for Anglophones did not become what Dr, John Ngu Foncha meant it to be because Mongo So'o who was Minister of National Education at the time converted it into a High School. This was the first big blockage against Anglophones getting university degrees because thousands of them could not go to the Federal University in Yaounde because of the French language handicap or to foreign universities because of financial handicap. For this reason, the number of Anglophones who would have been highly educated since 1961 was greatly diminished.

Technical Education in the English Subsystem in Cameroon
The Oobe Technical College: This college trained technicians in motor mechanics, civil engineering, woodworks, building construction, electricity and electronics, etc; and was meant to grow from the training of middle-skilled manpower to high level skilled engineers and technicians. But as soon as we "merged", Ombe Technical College suffered a worse fate than CCAST Bambili. A new Principal was appointed there who knew nothing of the original plan of the Southern Cameroons for the college or he might have feigned ignorance of the plans. The institution was plundered and diminished almost to a skeleton of its former self! The destruction of Ombe Technical College led almost to the death of Technical Education for the English Sub system. Students graduated from Ombe with CAP which was taught in a language that was neither English, nor French nor Pidgin nor any of the Cameroonian local languages. (Bakweri, Mungaka, Lamnso, Laikom nor Aghem). The opening of more of such so-called technical colleges and Technical High Schools in other parts of the Southern Cameroon/ West Cameroon/ North West/ South West Cameroon did not improve the situation because it looks to me that the situation was never meant to be improved upon! The language of instruction in the confines of those classrooms has remained the same as I have already described above. This is testified by the technical examinations taken by the English speaking children of this country for 53 years of our unification. Is it that we are incapable of translating exam questions from French to English or setting the questions in English or it is a deliberate attempt at depriving Anglophone children of Technical education by frustrating them?
It took more than 30 years since Unification for a Grade i Technical Teachers Training college to be created to train grade One Technical Teachers in the Anglophone zone (GTTTC Mbengwi) and in the frst year it was created, it was not advertised in the NW and SW Provinces to the effect that more than 70% of the pioneers trained there were Francophones. Until 2010, ENSET Douala was the only Institution to train Teachers for Technical Colleges and High Schools and was almost exclusively training only Francophones. Very few Anglophones were ever admitted there. By 2010, not up to 2% of the total number of teachers trained in Douala were Anglophones. In 2010, a HTTTC was created in Bambili purportedly to train teachers for Anglophone Technical Colleges and High Schools but unfortunately, again, very few Anglophones are being admitted to this school. Instead, more than 60% of the students are francophones and in some Departments, francophones are more than 80% of the undergraduates.
The National School of Polytechnic in Yaounde was and remains a school reserved basically for Francophones. Few Anglophones are admitted to it. The same scenario or even worse prevail in the schools of Public Works, P&T School, School of Surveys, National Institute of Demography, etc. In short Anglophones have been systematically deprived of technical education in this country. I have heard some people say, Anglophones don't like technical education or regard technical education as inferior. To some extent, I agree with those who say so but when we ask why Anglophones in Cameroon should hate technical education when science and technology are Anglo-Saxon the world over, the reason readily comes to the fore! In Cameroon, Anglophones have been manipulated to hate technical education by the way technical education is presented to them. Teaching in some form of obscure guttural language and examining it in an unearthly kind of grotesque language can only generate hatred and a low quality image for technical education by Anglophones. (Note that Francophones are taught technical Education in good French and examined also in good French)

Grammar or General Education in the English Subsystem in Cameroon
From 1961 until 1972 Grammar education in West Cameroon was allowed to continue virtually undisturbed except that the only High Schools in Anglophone Cameroon were CCAST Bambili created in 1962 and CPC High School Bali, created in 1971. As mentioned earlier, the Minister of National Education in Yaounde did not want to recognize the status of CCAST Bambili as a junior University College that it was meant to develop into. That was the beginning of obstacles on Anglophone educational progress.
The University of Yaounde was created in 1962 and became known as the Federal University of Cameroon. Although in principle it was supposed to be a bilingual University, it was indeed a francophone university patterned according to the French system of Education. Most of the lectures were in French also because few courses were taught by Anglophones who were a small proportion of the teaching staff. Anglophones who enrolled in Yaounde Federal University had a language handicap and this reduced the number of Anglophone students willing to enter the University. Those Anglophones who could afford it went to Nigeria, Ghana, Sierra Leone or Liberia for their University Education. Many others just had to remain at home with their Advanced Level GCE because they could neither go abroad nor go to Yaounde.

ENS Annex Bambili was created as an Advanced Teacher training College by the West Cameroon Government to train Advanced level holders to teach in Secondary Schools but the Minister of Education in Yaounde converted it to an annex of the ENS Yaounde, basically to train secondary school teachers for the Anglophone Subsystem. For many years this school trained only first cycle secondary school teachers. Several attempts were made in later years to water down the importance of this institution. There were several attempts to cause it to give only one year training in Bambili for the students to go complete two years in ENS Yaounde. For some time students had to go write the exam only in Yaounde and attend orals only in Yaounde to enter ENS Bambili. The school remained undeveloped in terms of infrastructure for more than 35 years. The Budget for running the school was centralized in ENS Yaounde. The school used old Primary school buildings of the defunct NA School Bambui/Bambili and borrowed some old dilapidated structures of the former Rural Education Centre that were previously handed over to CCAST Bambili. Fortunately Anglophones of good will stood their grounds to resist the attempts to take it back to Yaounde until from 2005, the current Minister of Higher Education started to implant ENS Bambili more permanently in Bambili and adding more Departments and even creating a Higher Technical Teachers Training College and raising both to the second cycles as well in 2009. This was not done without a big struggle by Anglophone teachers and parents. Here I pay glowing tribute to CATTU and its late Executive Secretary General - Simon Nkwenti who championed the fight for the creation of an Anglophone HTTTC.

The area in which successive Ministers of National Education made overt attempts to demolish but met with stiff resistance by the Anglophones was in the GCE. Several attempts were made to "harmonize", or more accurately "francophonize" the GCE. There were attempts at converting the single subject exam into a group certificate exam like the Brevet or the Baccalaureate; attempts to compress all the sciences into one subject called "natural science" like the "Science Naturelle" of the Brevet; etc, etc. When the GCE formerly organized by the University of London was taken over by Cameroon in 1977, we all hailed the move as one that was meant to build the capacity of Cameroonians, customize the examination for Cameroon without reducing standards and reduce the very high cost of the examination to parents and students. Little did we know that all these advantages notwithstanding, the ministry was again on another attempt to destroy what remained of the Anglophone subsystem of Education - the GCE. (Note that Technical Education had already been completely destroyed.) From 1984, examiners of the GCE were no longer being paid their marking dues and out of station allowances; invigilation dues were withheld and Directors in the Ministry of National Education who had nothing to do with the GCE distributed huge sums of GCE money among themselves. Anglophone teachers who spent six weeks marking the GCE in Yaounde went through a lot of hardship and heavy expenditures. The situation came to a head in 1991 when Anglophone teachers led by the Teachers Association of Cameroon TAC organized boycotts of the marking exercise until all accrued arrears were paid.

The Ministry of National Education used these boycotts to destroy the GCE. Questions that were usually sent to London for moderation under seal were no longer sent. The seals on the packages were destroyed and the questions were "given" or "sold" to Ecole Normale and used as entrance examination questions into ENS Bambili. As if that was not bad enough, in 1992 the Ministry of National Education decided to type the GCE O/L and A/L in the ministry using Francophone typists. The effect of this was that question papers were terribly typed with horrible errors, some in French, wrong pagination, omission of whole parts of questions; missing pages; some instructions in French etc; etc. There were no candidates lists, no individual time table for the examinations, insufficient question papers etc. Question papers were brought to centres either on examination days or a day or two after the exam date. Question papers were sent through taxi drivers and in open cartons. This was a complete disaster for the GCE. Because of this, the University of London decided that it was not going to endorse the Cameroon GCE anymore. This meant that those who obtained the Cameroon GCE from 1992 onwards were no longer going to gain admission into universities abroad anymore.
The 1992 disaster with the GCE led TAC to abandon its original course of fighting for the payment of accrued marking dues to fighting to preserve the dignity of the GCE and the Anglophone Subsystem of education. TAC decided that until an Examination Board was created to handle all Anglophone Examinations from Primary school to High School and teacher training colleges, it was not going to rest. The decision by TAC was totally bought over by Parents and Anglophones of all walks of life. The struggle was intense and persistent and in July 1993, The Head of State signed a decree creating the GCE Board which eventually took over the organization of the GCE. (A Bacc Board was also created as a consequence of the fight for an examination Board).

While TAC and the Anglophones were fighting for the creation of an Anglophone Examination Board to protect the Anglophone Subsystem of Education in Cameroon, they were at the same time fighting for an Anglo-Saxon University to be opened either in Bamenda or Buea. Before the GCE Board was created, a decree was signed creating the University of Buea as an Anglo-saxon type University in 1992.
The creation of both the University of Buea and the GCE Board and recently the University of Bamenda, has not stopped the various attempts at either assimilating the English subsystem of Education or trying to modify it without the consent of the Anglophones. While it is normal for any system of education to evolve, one wonders why in Cameroon it is always the English subsystem that must be changed not by Anglophones but by Francophones while leaving the French subsystem untouched?
As long as policy makers in this country are basically Francophone, it seems that Anglophones have to be constantly on the watch out to cry foul whenever attempts are made to assimilate or annihilate their subsystem of Education which has proven to be of high quality not only in Cameroon but everywhere in the world. As individuals, Francophone parents cherish our system of education that is why there is a big rush into our type of schools by them and their children. But policy makers seem to be bent on wiping out the special characteristics of our subsystem of education. Who gains from this is still what beats my imagination. One would have thought that having realized the value of our type of education, Francophone Ministers of Education and the powers that be would have simply adopted that system for the entire country. Reforms in Education should be done in full consultation with the major stakeholders and objectively with no covert motives to marginalize any group of people or their culture.

Officially, we have the GCE Board and two Anglo-saxon type Universities in Buea and Bamenda. We now have a Higher Teachers Training College and two Higher Technical Teachers Training Colleges in Bambili and Kumba. Practically however, these institutions need to take care of the Anglophone Subsystem of education by recruiting more Anglophones than Francophones into their training programs. Let me quickly add that I do not prescribe that these schools admit Only Anglophones but that to fulfill their mission, they must give a proportionately high place to Anglophones than is presently the case in Bambili. Those responsible for admission to these schools should provide a mechanism for minority protection in these schools that does not necessarily replace competence! That can be done transparently.
My perception is that we are in a long process of merging that has not yet been concluded even if the process has taken 53 years. The only way to ensure that Anglophones and their subsystems are protected is to return to a federation in which the Anglophones can determine policies regarding those subsystems reserved for the federal states. Until then, we are condemned to be on the watch out at all times. The Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions and Associations (CATTU and TAC) must continue to be the watch dogs of our Subsystem together with the PTAs.
John Taiti Fodje

1- Various Press Releases by TAC, from 1991 to 1994
2- Various Press Releases by the Confederation of Anglophone PTAs 1992-1994
3- Various Communiques by CATTU 2006 - 2009
4- Memorandum of the KNDP to the UC of September 1964 on Matters of National Interest.
5. Letter from the General President of CPNC- Dr.EML Endeley to President Ahidjo of 21/3/ 1962.
6- UB and UBa websites
7- Report of the Special Commission on the Creation of an Examination Board 1993
8- Past Questions in various Technical Examinations for Anglophones- "CAP & Baccalaureate" 1992-2004.

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