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Don’t Present Fraudulent Documents To Study In America– Education Advisor 

The Education Advisor at the US Embassy in Cameroon, Richard Ewane, has cautioned Cameroonian students seeking admission into universities in America to desist from presenting fake documents for the purpose. He said the Embassy has resolved that when such fake documents are discovered those concerned are not only barred from entering America, but they will ensure that the culprits are arrested by the Cameroonian law enforcement authorities.

Ewane made the revelation and more in an exclusive interview granted The Post in Yaounde, as the diplomatic mission went out on a campaign to get Cameroonians with the right documents come and get the right information on how to study in the USA.


What special relations does the US have with Cameroon as far as education is concerned?

I’m not sure there are special relations. What I can say is that there are many Cameroonian students studying in the USA now. In Sub-Saharan Africa, only Nigeria and Ghana have more students studying in the US than we do. We have about 1,200 students studying in the US. The number is actually declining for a few reasons. There is no special relationship other than the fact that Cameroonian students seem to adapt very well in the US system.

So, how many Cameroonian students have studied in the US for the past 10 years and what accounts for this decline you just talked about?

I’m not sure of what the number was 10 years ago. I know that five years ago it was close to 2,000, three years ago it was about 1,800 and now it’s about 1,200 students studying in the US. This is because we have more people showing up with fraudulent documents. In the past few years, the Embassy has build very good relationship with the Ministry of Higher Education, the GCE Board, the BAC Board and other institutions. The Consular section too has become stricter to make sure that fraudulent documents don’t get through and people who legitimately merit these positions are taken. When people come here with documents, the embassy double checks and if there are any fraudulent documents, not only will you be denied entry into the US, you will be arrested by the Cameroonian authorities. So, people just need to come with the valid documents. The number is decreasing which is one of the reasons why we are trying to go on an information campaign so that all the myths around applying for studies in the US can be eradicated. Stories like; you need to have about 50 millions in your account before you apply is not true. You have to be able to show that you can pay for one year of your studies that is if its 5000 dollars you need to go to school, then it’s the amount you need to have in your account. When people say you need to have 50 or 60 million is fallacious and not true and this is why we are trying to make people understand through the media that such stories are not true. There are about 5000 schools in the US and regardless of your financial status or profile there is probably a school that will match your needs so you don’t need to come with fake documents because you will be found out.

What fields do most of these students apply for?

They mostly apply to do sciences, engineering and others. People have this idea that they need to do nursing when they get to the US. We do have a lot of Cameroonians going into the nursing programme. Also, we have things like accounting that is pretty popular. Mostly, students turn to gravitate towards the STEM fields, IT and engineering.
Do you help to orientate these students on what to study in order to come back and develop Cameroon?
No. We don’t tell them what to study. The issue is finding out what your area of interest is. I could help Cameroon develop as a Doctor, but if I went to medical school I could fail woefully because that is not my area of interest. So, we do help them figure out what their area of interest is. It’s not all about saying lawyers are well paid, let me go and do law even though it’s not my area of interest. So, students have to figure out what they want to do with their lives. We help them by asking questions like what subjects are you best at in school? What do you want to do when you graduate? Based on that, we help them find a school that is appropriate to what they want to do. I cannot tell them what to do, but I can help them on how to do what they want to do. So, it’s really more of a decision between them and their parents.

During these orientations are there lapses you find in students and what do you do about them?

Yes. Students tend not to know what they want to do. That’s why students ought to know what they want to do. That is why we go through the process of questioning on what subjects they are good at? What subjects do you enjoy? Where do you see yourself 10 years from now? I tell them I’m not asking you what mum and dad want to hear, but I’m asking you what you think of yourself 10 years from now. Someone will say I’ll really want to have a public relations company; I’ll want to be an engineer. So, you see that’s their passion. From here, I help them figure out how to get there.

How many Cameroonian students are on Government scholarships in the USA?

For what concerns Cameroon Government scholarships, I have no idea or appropriate statistics because the Ministry of Higher Education is in the best position to answer that. For US Government scholarships, I don’t have an exact number, but I will say that most students on scholarships are not on US Government scholarships. Most of them have scholarships from schools. There are two types of scholarships; need-based scholarships and the merit-based scholarships. The merit-based are the ones based on grades. In Need-based, when you fill what they call the International Students Financial AID Application, ISFA, they ask for your family financial status, how much does your family make per year and all of that. On that base, schools will decide if they can give you scholarships or not. But there are other scholarships like the Master Card scholarships. Right now we have a student who is in that scholarship studying at Stanford University which is instituted by the Master Card Foundation. We have the Fulbright scholarship which is a US Government run programme which is usually for people who want to go into masters for specialisation. There are some few scholarships that are run by the US Government but most scholarships are run by the schools.

What evaluation can you make of Cameroon’s educational system?

I think the simple fact that we have so many students in the US doing well is a testament to the strength of the Cameroonian educational system. I’m not an expert when it comes to Cameroon’s education system and I do not claim to be one. I know about the Cameroon education system in as much as it relates to how people can go to the US and study. So, I do think that it will be ill advised for me to make any such comments. In as much as Cameroonian students can go to the US and excel, it’s a testament to the strength of the education system.

Don’t you think that there is a problem in the system as graduates are unable to get jobs because of lack of professionalism in the training?

That is true. In the US in most schools before you graduate you must do an internship. But again, there are many more jobs in the private sector than you will find in Cameroon. I’m trying to be very cautious about this because I don’t know what the Ministry of Higher Education is doing to remedy the situation. But I think they are working on it. But if we could have a situation where universities have partnerships with Government or private institutions, people who are studying law, the students can go for internships for some few months. If they can have such partnerships so that before the students graduate, they should have some experience. You need to have an experience to get a job. But you need a job to get an experience. This is where internship comes into play. You know that is professional experience.

What role can education play in the emergence of Cameroon in 2035?

It is all about education. The more educated a population is, the higher the rate of development. There is a direct proportion between the level of education and the development of a country. So, I do think that if we are going to have the next generation of leaders in Cameroon, the more they are exposed, the better they will be able to compete with others around the world.
Again, it’s not only about academics. This is one of the things that are so great about American education. They don’t limit themselves to academic profile; they are trying to build a well-rounded-citizen. While in school in America, we had to take classes in multi-cultural interaction, public speaking, etc. These are skills that are very important that we don’t think about here. These are skills that are very important and can be learnt even though some are born with them. That is why when you apply, schools give you an essay. This is to see your ability and most of the time students fail to understand and spend their time talking about their grades. They have your transcripts, they have your GCE results, they know what kind of student you are, now they want to know who you are and that’s what you have to bring out in your essay. Also, the letters of motivation that your teachers are going to write, the schools don’t want your teachers to tell them about your grades, they have seen your grades, instead they want your teachers to say; he participates in class, he helps other students, he is punctual, you know things that tell them who you are as a person. The better educated we are, the better we can compete and survive in this very competitive situation.

How would you classify Cameroonian certificates?

I don’t know why there are these misconceptions out there, but they are recognised worldwide. If you want to apply in a school in the US using the GCE or Baccalaureate, you are eligible to apply because it is recognised. All that Universities ask in the US is that you are qualified to get into a University in your country of origin. So, if the ‘A’ levels and Baccalaureate qualify into university in Cameroon, then you are qualified to enroll in the US. Same thing goes for your Bachelor’s degree. Our degrees are recognised in the US. Now, some schools, very few of them will ask you to come and do one year before integrating into the Masters because our Bachelor’s degree is three years as opposed to four years in the US.

The general impression we have is that Cameroonian certificates are worthless as students change their fields and go into other programmes while in the US…

I don’t think that’s the reason. I think the reason they go to other fields is that they think these are successful or lucrative fields. Again, this is because they go with the intention of not coming back which shouldn’t be the case. I think that you should find what you are good at and that’s how you contribute to your country’s development. You find what you are good at, you perfect it, and then you come back and use that to help your country. We need doctors, just as much as we need writers, pharmacists, engineers, etc. You’ll see a Cameroonian who studied History, Literature or Economics goes to the US and enroll in a medical school. Why are you going there? Why are you studying nursing? Are you going there because it’s what you want or because you are seeing everyone doing it and so you also go for it and say I can easily get a job. Do what you are good at and don’t follow the crowd. The embassy is open to the general public. It’s here to help Cameroonians get into good programmes in the US. That’s my job and that’s why I’m here. If you want to go to America, there is no better place to get information than the American Embassy. Do not trust those people out there who will tell you I can give you a bank account, give a million, etc. Just come to the American Embassy and you will get the most accurate information and the best help that you can get.

Interviewed By Nelen Tambe & Eulalia Nchang Amabo