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GCE Exams Were Hitch-free – Registrar 

Interviewed By Bouddih Adams

The GCE Board Registrar, Sir Humphrey Monono, has said without power outage, and God-willing, this year’s results will be realised in record time, in July, as has always been the tradition. In this interview, he advises students and their parents, appreciates teachers and other stakeholders and assesses the year just passed and projects into the future. Excerpts:

The Post: The Board has just completed marking this year’s exams; how did it go?

Humphrey Monono: The exercise was properly handled. The examiners scored the scripts in record time. So, I am particularly pleased and proud of being a teacher; I am proud of the teachers who mark. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get all the teachers who were interested on board, but as time goes on, I think we will do better.

Compared to last year, what would you say is the difference?

Financially the board is not healthy. So, marking centres were reduced and we tried to be strict on the numbers of teachers invited for marking. We kept strictly to the rule of the game that for ‘O’ Level each teacher should score at least 200 scripts; and it is on that score that we invited teachers for each subject at the ‘O" Level; and for ‘A’ Level 175, it is true that they marked variedly, some marked more than that because of their speed but we used that average for the invitation in order to stay within the volume of money we had for this year.

They were reports of some agitation by markers. What transpired?

No, there was no problem with the markers. The problem that was heard by the markers was the accusation levelled against the Registrar for being discriminatory against Northwesterners in the selection of Chiefs of Marking Centres; that there were nine centres and seven Chiefs of the Marking Centres – who are people within the house – were all from the Southwest Region and only two were from the Northwest.

Unfortunately, the friend who sent out this sensational literature put his telescope on the other side and does not know about the changes within the house and the modifications and other duties people were doing, who were chiefs in their own right and he forgot adding them to the least; to show, to tarnish or brandish his friend, the Registrar, as being discriminatory. How I wish, while he was in the house, he started balancing even the drivers of the Board, who were all from one region.

It is an unfortunate thing it ever happened, because while he was trying to examine how we run the house, he was instead opening a can of worms which they didn’t want any other person to look into. Regional balance does not mean balancing certain areas and forgetting others. I think it is time for us to sit and look at ourselves in the face that, even cleaners here, should come from a region and not the other regions. I think I will not share that opinion.

Within that controversy, one of your Deputy Registrars is said to have mooted that he will see to it that the performance of the Southwest improves in this year’s results. How would you take that?

That is talking without scientific measurement. The exercise at the Board is scientific. It is not because I am here that I should dictate the result of a particular school or individual. If I do that, I bet you, I will lose my integrity.

But it is said to have come from one of your deputies…? 

It is said to have come from him, but I am sure he is short-sighted; and he does not understand the principles of an assessment board, which are not only objectivity but scientifically measured. There are measurement parameters which are used; not an individual’s emotions.

When will results be out? 

As soon as they are ready. I don’t like keeping results in my pocket. With good respect to every good intention, I know my candidates and their parents need these results for admissions abroad and so on, so, we are working tooth and nail not to disappoint them.

A record was created where results come out in July; will that record be kept?

Ehmmm, whether kept or not, I should be able to explain to the public how and why. You see, the work now does not depend on you and I. The Examinations Council (that is the final award committee) has come and done their work; the Council of the Board has sat and also given the directives and orientation. Now, it is a matter of electric power, so, plead with AES-SONEL.

As an assessment and evaluation board, what reforms have you observed that need to be effected in Secondary Education, vis-a-vis the Growth and Employment Strategy Paper, GESP, and President Biya’s Vision 2035?

We had a syllabus review in April in Saker Baptist College, it is there where it was agreed by all the measurement experts, by all the academic dons who were there that our syllabuses needed reviewing, tilted towards professionalisation.

The documents are already out with members of the EEC and will soon be out to the public – the proposed syllabuses that were done; but then, I have to ascertain that the exercise we carried out in Limbe was partial, but the Minister and the Prime Minister’s vision is on the comprehensive exercise and the Council is thinking about us carrying on with the other subjects particularly those of Technical Education, so as to give focus and direction towards the Head of State’s vision.

Does the Board have a tracking system on candidates who perform exemplarily at the GCE like with 25 points at ‘A’ Level, for its credit and records?

Unfortunately, that assignment was not yet part of our research department. You know, we created the research department just last year. But I think it is very, very important that some of these candidates receive some tracking form the GCE Board, to know how they are performing within and without the country.

The only thing that the Board tried to do, which is now tradition in the country and the Ministry of Secondary Education, is to source for scholarship for some of them from Les Brasseries du Cameroun – to whom I doff my hat because they are always by our side looking for the results and compensating those meritorious candidates with 33 on 33 points at ‘O’ Level and 25 on 25 at ‘A’ Level.

Recently, I received a letter from the City Council in Maroua, asking us to send them results of meritorious candidates of that region, so that they too can support them in their academic endeavours. We have also received a number of correspondences and other tribal groups abroad that want to motivate candidates in their various localities and they want us to give them results in that manner.

Some want academic performances of colleges in Maths, English and French, so they would not be awarding individual scholarships but global scholarships to colleges that perform well. So, the Board is trying to see that a few of these benefits accrue to its candidates. Unfortunately, we don’t keep a track record.

We would take wonderful note of it and see how we would in future present it to Council; and you know that an individual now after the results is no longer the control of the Board; they go to Higher Education and it may become a bit worrisome to some parents who may not want their children’s identity disclosed or whereabouts. So, we will study it, scientifically also. It’s a good thing.

How would you rate the performance of the teachers, examiners, markers, your staff and Ministry in the last marking exercise?

Let me start with my staff. They have done quite a marvellous job. I have to congratulate them. The Council has already sent its congratulations to the staff, during its last meeting, for hard work, because this year also has been free and void of any major hitches. The academic year has been serene; the examination year has been serene, and when I came back from the East, I told some friends that the GCE is no longer the tradition of a sub-system.

It is a Cameroonian cultural heritage because the little boy who gave us prayers in Bertoua is a Baya boy and a Moslem and he gave the prayer in that Islamic religious tradition and I felt marvellously blessed. It shows how the year was. The workers of the Board have done a wonderful job.

The teachers look up to this exercise with a lot of enthusiasm and verve.  Unfortunately, some had to go and attend to some other important needs during this time. Most of them, like those of them who missed the review, who said ‘Humphrey, you have denied us academic food; if you had asked us to pay we would have come in our numbers.

It is like asking teachers to pay and come and mark, they would come. It is a training round for them and they go home satisfied that they have achieved something; they share knowledge with others; that camaraderie and espirit de corps; they share academic debates and enjoy new knowledge and new ideas; they enjoy meeting one another after such a long separation.

I have received some and come and see how we were bras dessus-bras dessous, you know, it is one of those moments in the lives teachers, if they meet, they would take the Registrar hostage for not allowing them come on to this academic intercourse and an interface of up-liftment. It enhances their production; their academic attitude and sharpens their focus on teaching and I think this collegial style of marking has its advantages to the teachers that I expect them to look forward to this exercise with a lot of anxiety.

You know that the payment of a teacher is nothing compared to the work the teachers do. I remember when CATTU held a seminar here in Buea, one of the eminent Professors who lectured us said the teacher’s salary is in heaven and a teacher’s wealth is knowledge; that is our fall-back position.

What message do you have for students and their parents?

Students, parents and the universities and employers, they are all my clientele and I am very happy to say that I look into the future with a lot of hope.

Let me seize this opportunity to congratulate those who will make it and tell them that that is not the end of academics; that if they want to say that they passed this exam and hold me in high position, they should continue breaking the grounds of knowledge and bring more glory to our dear fatherland. For those who may not make it, it is not the end of the road.

It is a position for stock-taking and re-sharpening our focus to do better. Failure has never been the end of man and I would not like to hear that someone – as I heard before – tried to take away his life. No. Not all. Come, let’s talk it over and the doors will be opening for a brighter future even for those of them who may not make it.

The challenge is ours as parents, to make sure that we hold our children like treasures, not because they have failed an examination. I remember some of the crimes that some of them commit; malpractices coming in with things; we should try to avoid coming into the examination room with cell phones.

We should just try to pay attention to the little questions given; they don’t come from above, they come from us the teachers; the little social meetings in the classroom chalking and talking – talking and chalking; that is where the questions come from. Life and the race, is not for the swiftest; it is for the steadfast. They should stand firm and steadfast. 

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