OPINION: Disenfranchisement of Anglophones:
Fame Ndongo’s Hand Caught in the Cookie Jar
By Ntumfoyn Boh Herbert
Cameroon’s Minister of Higher Education, Jacques Fame Ndongo, who has a long history of showing disdain for Anglophones and has, clearly, worked hard at undermining the Anglophone system of education, is at it again. His latest sneak attack at the very heart of the Anglo-Saxon education system comes the same way all previous efforts by “La Republique du Cameroun” have been rolled out…
Prof. Fame Ndongo probably auditioned for his current ministerial position, promising to pull off what he did to Anglophones during his time as Director of the Yaounde University School of Journalism (ESSTIC). At ESSTIC, he deformed many an Anglophone student, force-feeding them a harmonized version of French-inspired journalism.
As my twin brother, Ntemfac Ofege, and one of our professors at ESSTIC, Dr. Tatah Mentah can confirm, we watched in horror as Mr. Fame Ndongo found excuses – time without number – for not hiring English-speaking lecturers at ESSTIC. “There are no qualified Anglophones,” he claimed every time we complained.
Under Fame Ndongo, Anglophone students at ESSTIC had no choice but to be educated in French. We had to do part of our internships in French with media outlets in France; being graded by French professionals who spoke “zero English” and cared less for it.
A staunch supporter of the failed effort of the 1980s to harmonize the General Certificate of Education (GCE), Mr. Fame Ndongo threatened ESSTIC students with dismissal if they joined the strike to decry earlier versions of the scheme Fame Ndongo now hopes he can pull off. The pretext for the scheme of the 1980s was a wild complaint by Francophones that passes in at least four and two papers in the GCE O & A-Levels respectively was not sufficiently demanding of Anglophones.
In this latest attack, Prof. Fame Ndongo was probably betting that no Anglophones would be standing guard.
God bless everyone at the Buea University Chapter of the National Union of Teachers of Higher Education (SYNES) for crying “stop thief” in a memorandum that, hopefully, scares away this “thief in the night”. Our people know how to call out and shame a thief. Listen to SYNES pick some choice words for their Minister:
SYNES want Fame Ndongo to know that they don’t believe the lie he is evoking to justify why he is doing this. The official reason the Minister has put forward for the harmonization is to do away with difficulties students reportedly face when they are trying to transfer from one university to another in the course of the year.
SYNES draws attention to the “phagocytic tendency of the harmonization scheme”, describing the real objective of the Fame Ndongo harmonization as an effort aimed at scrapping Common Law from the University of Buea in favor of (what else?) the French equivalent: “Droit Public”. The teachers aptly call it a “ploy”, pointing out that it “derides the quest for excellence… makes a mockery of the Anglo-Saxon character of the University of Buea” and pursues a goal that is at odds with Cameroon’s “national objectives… save to destroy one system”.
Calling the thief by his name, SYNES notes that “the only thing this harmonization will yield is the disenfranchisement of English-speaking students in Cameroon and buttress the perennial problem of disregard for Anglophones”. Similar schemes, they explain, have left parts of the country “disaffected, disenchanted and aggrieved”. This “rising mound of abuse,” writes SYNES, “has a traumatic effect on our psyche as lecturers”.
The teachers offer advice that Prof. Fame Ndongo would be foolish not to heed. They urge the Minister of Higher Education “to relinquish” what they describe as a “nefarious project”. SYNES rightly warns that the scheme “has the potential to cause discord and heat up the polity”. If this were to happen, SYNES says, everyone will hold Prof. Fame Ndongo “responsible for any social unrest this will cause”.
Will a professor who has sold shame heed their advice? This is the man whose bootlicking of and praise singing for President Paul Biya must have been an important part of the resume that won him a cabinet position. For him, Mr. Biya is a god and the “Creator” of Fame Ndongo.
If one of the education systems in Cameroon needs urgent harmonization to catch up with the best global systems, it is not Anglo-Saxon education system. Prof. Fame Ndongo does not have to listen to SYNES. President Paul Biya, the “man-and-god” whom the Minister adores as his “Creator” can tell Prof. Fame Ndongo why even the “god-man” at Etoudi Palace sent his son, Frank, and daughter, Brenda, to school in the United States of America – instead of France. The education in urgent need of harmonization is the kind that yields the culture betrayed by praise singers like Fame Ndongo who are so willing to be uneducated so long as they can hang on to a ministerial position.
I am tempted, but I won’t close by shouting “shame on you, Professor Fame Ndongo!”
Washington, DC, 4 June 2016