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Cameroon GCE Board: 20 Years Of Stagnation? (1) 

By Jude Mbi Ojong
 

CameroonPostline.com — The title of this long treatise lends itself to the suggestion that the Cameroon General Certificate Examination, GCE Board, may have achieved about nothing in its 20 years of existence. Well, it must be stated clearly that the Board has been taking strides to keep itself in the limelight of technological advances, which have enabled it to improve on its ability to serve the public and the ever-increasing candidature more efficiently.

The work of the Board is time bound; that is, it must complete any aspect of its activities within a certain time frame each year. And with the ever-increasing number of candidates, it requires that the institution acquires the necessary technological know how and the wherewithal to cope with this pressure.

Here, the Board has excelled marvelously. It was a wonder when, at the very beginning in 1994, the Board immediately took the bold step of completely computerizing and automating all its processes from registration of candidates, the production of candidate lists and individual timetables, the entry of candidates’ marks scored, the production of complex data and information tables called the Mark Distribution Sheets, to the production of the results slips. Many Cameroonians are not aware that it took bold steps to immediately move from the manual processes to this complete computerization. And it worked! And excellently too is the role the Board has played internationally in Africa.

The GCE Board has, for example, organised and hosted the annual conference of the Association For Educational Assessment in Africa (AEAA) at the Conference Centre in Yaounde twice: in 2000 and in 2009. This association brings together examination boards in Africa and has a training centre in Nigeria, in which some employees of the Board have received training.

Other employees of the Board have served as resource persons at seminars, training sessions and workshops organised by the AEAA in other African countries. Successive Registrars of the Board have held important executive positions in the AEAA. This boldness is what characterised the Board at that beginning and therefore it is worth looking at how the Board came about.
 

Genesis
 

Many Cameroonians of about the age of 30 or less may not be aware of the story of how the GCE Board came into being. But the greater disappointment is with people of about 40 years or more who seem to have forgotten or ignored the story. If such people were minded enough to remember, then they would be in a position to understand what we mean by INERTIA as far as the Board is concerned. For us, it is the complacency and outright sycophancy which has eaten into most Cameroonians of English language expression that is responsible for this inertia, and which has botched both the progress of the Board and the Anglophones themselves as a people.

I am aware that any mention of “Anglophone” pricks those who benefit from the present regime of this country sorely, because they keep trying to sell this illusion of “unity”, “reunification” and all that “crap” which allows Mr. Biya and his regime to continue taking the rest of the country for granted. So it must be stated clearly that this article is about the failures of the Anglophone component of this polity called Cameroon, which is engineered by the Biya junta in Yaoundé.
 

The Cameroon GCE Board was set up when Anglophones of this country rose up like one man against the regime and forced it to do what it hated to do. The teachers formed what was called the Teachers’ Association of Cameroon, TAC, under the leadership of Mr. Andrew Azong-Wara.

The Association later on combined forces with another association called the Confederation of Anglophone Parent and Teachers’ Associations (CAPTAC), led by Mr. Peter Chateh. These two associations brought all Anglophones together and it took meetings, formal written requests, mass rallies, school boycotts, clashes with oppressive forces of the Biya regime, etc, lasting from 1991 to 1993, for the Board to come into being.
 

It is worth noting that faced with the obstinacy of the Biya regime, the Anglophones actually went ahead to start the Board themselves. That is, they made a signboard bearing Cameroon GCE Board and placed it in front of the IPAR building in Buea, then sat inside the building and continued doing TAC and CAPTAC work, including holding meetings, writing memorandums, etc. This was partly what coerced the regime into accepting the GCE Board idea.
 

Even after the GCE Board was formally set up, the struggle did not end there. The first text of application did not include Technical Education Exams and it took more pressure and boycotts for it to be included. And even after including Technical Education Exams, Mr. Robert Mbella Mbappe, then Minister of Education, declared that he would die before such Technical Education Exams take root at the Board. For this uncouth behavior, the regime has not yet apologised to the Anglophones. The regime just carries on as if it is what Anglophones deserved.
 

This is one perspective of the way the GCE Board came into being, and it is in the light of this perspective that this article is written. That is, it took a spirit of unity for a people to stand up and fight for what is right for them, (amidst oppression), as well as boldness, courage and risk-taking, to ensure that the victory won was not lost.

Unfortunately, Anglophones have lost all these victories and have instead sold themselves cheaply to the Francophone regime in Yaounde. As can be seen, this write-up takes its thrust from the 20th anniversary of AAC1 which took place from April 2 to 3, 1993, as well as the creation of the GCE Board in July of that same year.

Hijacking!
 

For long, many writers have tried to demonstrate the inability of the regime headed by Mr. Biya to score victories in any issue. Rather, while the regime concentrates itself with embezzlement and squander mania, it spends the rest of its time in condemning the noble initiatives put up by individuals or groups of individuals and when they eventually succeed, the regime goes ahead to arrogate their victory to itself.

And after stealing their victory this way, it proceeds to make complete rubbish of the prize of that victory, thanks to its disastrous governance policies. More significantly, the regime lost the fight for the GCE Board, but has turned round and hijacked it. This hijacking is the major cause of the inertia that has characterised the GCE Board over the years.
 

The process of hijacking started way back in 1996. After the GCE examinations suffered massive leakage in 1996, the government appointed Dr. Herbert Nganjo Endeley (late) to head the investigation. At the end, he did not find the Board guilty, but went on Cameroon Calling (a radio program) and announced as recommendation that part of the running of the GCE should go back to the government.

This statement signified that either the leakage of the GCE of that year was remotely controlled from Yaounde, so as to make the Board fail, or that Dr. Endeley was being prepared to take over the GCE Board from the bold minded, no-nonsense people who had risked their jobs, their freedom and even their lives to get the Board setup.

And sure enough, by February 1997, Dr. Endeley was appointed to replace the valiant Mr. Sylvester N. Dioh (late), an erstwhile Educationist who was in the leadership train during the struggle for the Board. If Dr. Endeley was not the regime’s lynchpin, to help hijack the GCE Board, then we ought at that time to have known what was his opinion or point of view (not to talk of his contribution) in the three year-long battle to get the Board created. He was, unfortunately, one of those people who saw the struggle for the Board as a Northwest mafia, aimed at dominating power.

And these are the type of people the Yaounde regime likes and even sponsors. There has been a popular notion in this country that it takes an Anglophone to kill Anglophones. The regime in Yaounde does not need to hire mercenaries to suppress Anglophones because it does not lack Anglophones who are willing to do its bidding and play the role of Judas Iscariot on the GCE Board as in many other Anglophone interests.

Dr. Endeley had hardly settled down in Mr. Dioh’s seat than he went round getting some members of the GCE Board Council replaced. An example was the replacement of the representative of the Catholic and Moslem Education. These new people who came in were given the main agenda: “Get Azong Wara voted out as Registrar”. 

Even the old members of the Council, whom Dr. Endeley maintained, like Mr. Jackoi (late), who was also involved in the struggle for the Board, were also schooled to obey the agenda: Azong Wara must go! That is how Endeley succeeded in executing the government’s plan and this is how the Board went into a coma.
 

The revolution that created the Board died. From then on, it was easy to bring in Dr. Omer Weyi Yembe, who had always been an apologist of the Ahidjo/Biya regime. In taking over from Azong-Wara in March 1997, the regime wrote a new text of application of the Board, which included an examination called BAC in English and Yembe was to come and execute it. Since then, the Board, instead of developing its own Technical Examinations fashioned like the GCE in general education, which they were already handling with dexterity, instead started grappling with this BAC in English imposed by the regime.
 

It should be noted that one of the teething problems that have induced the flow of huge amounts of ink and saliva among the Anglophones was the introduction by Dr. Yembe of the Board running two similar exams in technical and commercial education, one imposed by the regime, and one which it tried to develop since 1997.
 

Recently, the present Registrar, Mr. Monono, tried to continue the development of the GCE Technical Examinations through a syllabus review process. But the results are still to be seen. However, considering the spirit which achieved the GCE Board, it is still difficult to understand how the BAC in English came to be part of the Board and the Anglophone education system. In fact, the toil and pain which Azong-Wara and his team at the helm of the Board went through to get the GCE technical examinations off the ground was just wasted.

Faced with threats from Mr. Robert Mbella Mbappe, (an incarnation of this regime), the pioneer Registrar of the GCE Board got two pioneer Examination Officers, Mr. Victor Nyenty and Mr. Oliver Binda (late) to get the examinations in commercial, business and industrial subjects started. This was as early as 1995. By then the fervor which characterised the struggle for the GCE Board was still on.

These two people, with Azong-Wara coordinating as Registrar, trekked, spent their personal money, convened meetings of stakeholders in technical education, put in their intellect, spent energy to get the GCE Board to organise this examination in 1995. On top of all these hardships Mr. Nyenty had to borrow money from tontine (njangi) houses in Tiko and other places to sustain the GCE Board and its work, although the teachers and Cameroonians vilified Mr. Azong-Wara for embezzling funds.

The determination then was to develop this examination from the few specialties which were being offered, to a full-fledged examination in technical education. But this was not to be because by 1997 the GCE Board was taken over by men who were essentially apologists of the status quo, ready only to do the will of Yaounde, instead of doing what is right and good for their Anglophone heritage.

If that spirit which started the GCE Board had continued, we would not have two parallel technical education examinations running, one with a phony name which exists nowhere else in the world: BAC in English. Anglophones would have ended up with complete technical examinations set up from which even other countries would be borrowing ideas. That was part of the mission and vision of the GCE Board. Some observers have asked if the Francophones also have a GCE in French in their own part of the country thus; the BAC Board?
 

Continued in next issue………………..
 

First published in The Post print edition no 01476

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