Archive | April, 2013

Cameroon: Professors Without Publications

9 Apr

According to the 2013 University Web Ranking  for the top 100 best Universities in Africa, none from Cameroon or in the Central  African sub-region features on this ranking! Seriously!!?? 

Apart from public secondary schools in Cameroon that charge small tuition fees, primary and university education is free for Cameroonian nationals. The only fees expected are annual admission/ enrollment or registration fees. However it is one thing  to have free university and another thing to have a financially independent and self sustaining university. Most universities in Cameroon are state created-funded-administered institutions, the lack of independence makes university bureaucracy an exhibition of the country’s  actual  political and social configuration.

 The University of Yaounde in its milk and honey days was a center of academic reference and excellence in Francophone Africa, noted for its bilingual profile. This put it on firm ground with other celebrated universities as Makerere in Uganda and Ibadan in Nigeria. Following the university crisis of the late 1980’s, the government decided to de-congest and decentralized this university  to found five other state universities in the regions with the 1993 university reform law. However, this offspring universities soon began experiencing the same problems the mother university had laboured with. Even the newly created University of Bamenda, has had difficulties starting up and running because of the over politicized issues of ethnicity over its geographic location and staffing. Even as Chancellors of the Bamenda University are being  installed into office, let us ask where is the University campus? By manipulating around with E.N.S BAMBILI doesn’t equal to constructing a University in Bamenda. 

Government had simply spread the problem through the creation of other universities, but had not solved the origin causes of the university crises with yearly strikes by staff members over the non-payment of their arrears and other delayed allowances. Most lecturers are there on the job because it rewards a salary, not because it’s a place to conceive and deliver ideas that can better society! Since 2005 till present, strikes and riots have become sporadic and with characteristic violence from student demonstrators and law enforcement officers.

In the same light of disbelief and sheer condescending, one is prompted to ask how could Somalia which is struggling to recover from more than two decades of civil war and plunder, or Burkina Faso, Rwanda and Mauritania, all of whom Cameroon supersedes in terms of human development index and per capita income earn a place on that list while we with far more higher institution numbers have none on that list!? This means Cameroon universities wouldn’t even appear in the first top 1000 of the world! There is no bias at all in that ranking as English, Arabic, French and Portuguese speaking universities are represented. Breaking them down by African regional blocs, once would notice that there is no university from any of the ten central African regional group of countries on the list. Interesting isn’t it?

It is equally disgraceful and shameful that most alumni cannot proudly refer their global network of friends in other countries  to their alma maters websites, as the latter only shows how frail, irrelevant and neglected the internet as a tool for research and networking is to the national higher educational system. It’s still an awe striking sight when one sees 21st century university students copying down pre-prepared and dictated notes during lectures from their lecturers. Handouts and pamphlets while initially intended as special readings recommended by lecturers to fill the vacuum created by under-stocked university libraries and lack of access to online journal databases have tended to promote student dependency and underdevelopment of extra reading and researching skills for new information and sources. With its cramped up classes from converted secondary schools into university amphitheaters, with few functioning image projectors and sound equipment, small computer labs with 100 computers running on a very low internet speed  to serve more than 10,000 students on campus, that pretty much paints the portrait of a typical university campus in Cameroon.

Moreover, Cameroon universities suffer from identity crisis. It’s hard to tell if they are actually switching their model over to the Bologna Process on higher education or are they still caught up in their hybridization of the French and Anglo-Saxon systems? Courses and exams in some state and private universities are offered in one of the official languages: English or French and students reserve the discretion to answer in whichever of these two languages. Every discipline has a subject language and philosophy in it so personally, I find this form of promoting bilingualism unproductive and disadvantageous to the students, particularly when one national language becomes dominant for a particular course for which the student is not a primary speaker. Hence the object shifts from seeking the epistemology in the course to being bent on ‘validating’ the course with a pass mark.  This has spawn an informal parasitic institution which specializes in offering  “translated notes, translated classes, and preparatory classes for exams” most often by former university graduates or ‘brighter’ peers, all at the students cost.

Despite the particular  exemption of many academics from this generalization, I find it very appalling that despite the plethora of  ‘university professors and doctors’ that Cameroon hosts, a Google search with the names of some of them as keywords yields little no results of publications or research breakthroughs to their credit when compared to their peers elsewhere. It appears as though once  made a ‘Prof.’ or ‘Dr.’ most forget about research. Some are clearly elevated to this grades to become political elites and power brokers,  not academics within the university community. Most will be quick to blame the small or limited research grants offered by the state for research or are quick to accuse censorship, I still find it not plausible that with the real limitations faced from few peer reviewed or full fledged journals in Cameroon, there are however many more journals and databases hosted within and out of the African continent where most could publish.

The choice of the University of Yaounde II to host the sub-regional faculty of Governance Humanities and Social Sciences of the Pan African University created by African Union is evidence of the recognized potentials the country has in higher education. Clearly the government and private stakeholders need to do more about university infrastructure and furnishing, research and cooperation, telecommunications, grants and scholarship funding, student and central administration governance, academic curriculum, lecture and teaching patterns for quality assurance, accreditation, mobility, recognition of degrees, classification professionals masters/research masters, doctorates and PhD.

The questions now are thus;

– Are our degrees and graduates at par with their colleagues in academia or are our public and private universities simply degree mills and places to pre-occupy the youths? – Now do you agree that we need another university reform, since the 1993 reform and the 2007 LMD reform (Bologna adherence)?

By Nwanatifu Nwaco



4 Apr

When a Chinese says to you, “I am called John Smith.” You raise your eyebrows in disbelief and tell him: “Oh, that’s weird, I thought you had a Chinese name like Xi Chan.”

When an Indian tells you, “My name is Raphael Gonzales.” You freeze and retort that: “Oh, I thought you had an Indian name like Rajiv Amrapali.”
When an Arab says to you: “My name is Maurice Le Baron.” You get stunned and tell him: “Oh yeah! I thought you’ll say I expected to hear something like Mamoud Al Abdullah?”.

But when an African tells you: “I’m Paul Green Stew,” You find it more than very okay and normal. In contrast if he said: “My name is  Pishong-Akeh Alah’pifoo.” You will find it abnormal, tongue twisting and with a sigh of annoyance and bewilderment, you will retort: ” iiissshhh! In fact, don’t you have another name? A more common first name? An English name, A christian name or something easier and pleasant?”

Who among you here can deny that this hasn’t happened to them or they haven’t thought or done so to others?

Ever wondered how culturally poor and insane we all are? When we in our homes call our children ”Mac Brown” and speak to them in pure English, French or which ever foreign tongue, we are not doing our cultural legacy any good or justice. No wonder we are the laughing stock and entertainers of the world! When will we stop this cycle? If in the days of cultural emancipation and national independence we are still voluntarily giving our children names that our own parents and theirs were beaten and forced to adopt as trademarks of colonialism and religion, then something is seriously wrong with our sense of cultural identification? It is funny how some of us today carry double foreign names with one or no other culturally revealing name.

Globalization for many of us has meant giving up our own cultural values and foundations of identification in preference for those of others. When we are unable to export our own ethno-linguistic attributes to these foreign lands, then that globalization becomes hegemonic and extirpating. A win-win globalization means multicultural familiarity across geo-ethnic boundaries. The rationale behind giving tourists and visitors souvenirs of our culture such as names, titles and clothing representing their respective cultures and communities is because we want them in turn to be our ambassadors and heralds when  they return to their communities.

 So much of oral history is being lost because the youth are speaking in a language that the elderly can not comprehend. Our grand parents are failing to connect with their grand children because the latter  understands only one language which is absolutely out their parental language family cluster. Worsening this further is economic pressures on parents that causes them to spend greater family time at work and return home tired out and stuck with the language of the work place leaving their children at the mercy of the community lingua franca.

 It is common to hear or see a great many folks ashamed or specifically ask a kin not to be call or speak to them their mother tongue or be addressed by their real name while in public. What are we ashamed of? Whether we like it or not, our children will become members of society and will at avenues such as at school, in worship, at markets, in social groups and clubs shall learn every other official or national language. so the only true cultural identity and heritage you can bequeath them is your mother tongue and a name.

I have seen people tremble and sweat in confusion when an application form is given to them to fill, usually the name section is the last thing they will fill in, to which one will recite to them what is the difference between “Name”, “Middle Name” and “Surname”! I wish all that was asked on those forms was simply ‘Name’! Cultural inferiority and primitive self complex may be! It’s okay to speak your ethnic tongue and bear an etymological name, as long as it doesn’t become a reason or excuse for you to witness or serve prejudice to and from others.

We are quick to  to complain about us being discriminated against and also for  our ranking last within the concert of nationalities, when we ourselves have decided to be followers, not leaders of our cultural destinies. So I ask again arr our names cultural brands tagged on us like trademarks on goods in a shop or are we a culturally independent and social interdependent entity? Decolonize and emancipate yourselves from ethno-religious and cultural colonialism.

By Nwanatifu Nwaco

Is Cameroon a Transit Hub for Deposed Dictators?

2 Apr


1974, Cameroon for Pan-African reasons granted asylum to the deposed Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, even though the later never took it.
1975, General Yakubu Gowon of Nigeria was flown from Uganda to Togo via Garoua in Cameroon.
1982, Goukouni Oueddei of Chad fled to Cameroon en route to Algeria.
1990, Hissene Habre of Chad escapes to Cameroon for Senegal.
2003, Ange-Félix Patassé of Central Africa, escapes to Togo via Cameroon. Died later in Doaula, Cameroon in 2008 on his way to the hospital in Equatorial Guinea.
2006, Charles Taylor detained and returned by border guards as he tried to cross the border into Cameroon from Nigeria.
2013, General Francois Bozize of Central Africa flees for refuge in Cameroon with his family in hope to subsequently find a permanent host country. 
…Including countless political exiles and dissidents from different countries.

I thought I heard the army general of the multinational force threaten full force against the Seleka rebels if they as much as moved an inch over the cease-fire line! I seriously wonder what happened to the standby “FOMAC” regional force and the South African troops stationed on the outskirts to prevent any match on the capital Bangui?? Chicken out or did the rebels have powers of teleportation? 
In the beginning Bozize invited the French to intervene and even called them “Cousins” but they turned their backs and went to Mali instead. Now the French have sent in troops to secure the airport. I ask them for whom are they securing it? For French nationals and government looters to to escape the country I guess. The French, the rebels and former Bozize government members in Bangui must dance to the tune currently being played by the new kids on the block- La Seleka.

Cameroon’s policy of non-confrontation and non-meddling in the internal affairs of it’s neighbours despite it’s own looming internal discontent have earned it the surname of ‘an island of peace in an ocean of turbulence’. It is the only country that has not experienced a typical civil war or successful coup d’etat as all its six neighbours have.
Despite its leadership and apparent superior economic, logistics and military capability within the CEMAC region, it has refrained to counter frequent hostile actions from Equatorial Guinea and its only external military action were skirmishes with Nigerian troops during the Bakassi conflict and in internationally backed peace keeping missions. Its preferred recourse to resolve disputes is by international law and institutions. 
Given the above scenario, Cameroon is sure to entice any neighbouring leader deposed in a coup, however this is not the case. Faced with the dangers of a fracturing and long serving regime, it is in the regime’s vital interest to keep out transnational militants pursuing fleeing presidents by its denial to grant asylum to these exiles, except for rights of passage to a third country. 

Like every central African state, the CAR is very rich in earth resources. not long from now US diplomats and Aid groups will start going there to ‘build local capacities’ for democracy. The Chad-Cameroon pipe line is America’s largest macro investment on the continent, with the US drones already deployed in Niger, the whole region from Dakar to Mogadishu is a Uranium belt that falls in America’s most strategic national interest. In-land insecurity has the direct consequence on the Gulf of Guinea oil and maritime corridor.

Chad already is a restive country despite its active military force. Cameroon is the last remaining pawn on the regional chess board that is yet to be moved by supra and sub-national forces. Over in the Sudans, the situation doesn’t look any better with the ever increasing militia groups. Besides the Ugandan bad boy Joseph Kony is still being hunted by US commandos in CAR, DR Congo and S.Sudan. Nigeria already is under the full radar of the US which has even simulated a military drill to respond to the regional insecurity in case the country splits up in 2015. Honestly, the ripeness theory for bold and tougher action is testing positive here. It should not come as a surprise to anyone if the US AFRICOM finally moves its base from Europe to an equatorial state. Those who chose not to confront the rebels or might come in to broker peace deals could be the ones coaching the rebels to  topple the regimes they had once propped up and maintained. Set a thief to catch a thief.

Rebels are dictators best friends turned enemies….


By Nwanatifu Nwaco