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Scheme To Scrape Common Law From University Curriculum Uncovered 

By Isidore Abah

The University of Buea Chapter of the Union of Teachers of Higher Education, SYNES-UB Chapter, has uncovered what it perceives as a scheme by the Ministry of Higher Education, MINESUP, to have Common Law scrapped off from the undergraduate programme of the university and to harmonise some academic programmes like Political Science and Economic and Management Sciences.

Meeting in Buea on Wednesday, May 13, 2015, to deliberate on the ongoing attempts by MINESUP to harmonise the aforementioned academic programmes, in order to ease the mobility of students from one State University to another in the course of an academic, the executive members of SYNES-UB Chapter, through the Vice Chancellor, forwarded a strong worded memorandum to the Minister of Higher Education, Prof Jacques Fame Ndongo, exhorting him to put an end to the harmonisation process.

The May 13 conclave in Buea was prompted by a meeting that was convened at MINESUP on May 6, 2015, at the behest of the Minister of Higher Education to discuss the harmonisation process.

Even though the meeting was chaired by the Technical Adviser No.1 in MINESUP on behalf of the Minister, he stated that the meeting was necessary because it had come to the Minister’s notice that many students still encounter difficulties in transferring from one university to another during an academic year.

it was decided at the meeting that the harmonisation process will start with Law, Political Science and Economic and Management Sciences.

It was decided that Common Law should be scrapped from the university curriculum at the under graduate level, while the degree in Management should have Economics as the base.

However, after reviewing the decisions taken at the May 6 gathering in Yaoundé on the harmonisation of academic programmes, SYNES -UB Chapter raised some worrying questions regarding the good faith of those who convened the meeting on harmonisation.

According to them, “why were academic programmes of the University of Buea not included on the list of programmes to be discussed,if the programmes of the other universities were working documents to the exclusion of the University of Buea’s.It means that, from the outset, it was clear that our programmes were not an option to be considered even though they are regularly revised and updated to conform to international standards, market needs and the employability of our graduates.

University of Buea alumni work as Journalists in State, private and international media outfits, Accountants, Managers, Economists; Legal Consultants etc, around the world and through their work contribute to UB’s talismanic prestige.

Also, our law graduates attend Law Schools in Britain, USA, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, or pursue post graduate studies in different countries around the world. Many compete and win international scholarships upon graduation, because University of Buea programmes are viable and competitive.

One wonders why the MINESUP wants to dismantle our academic programmes in favour of in- breeding.”

The proposal to suppress Common Law from undergraduate Law Programme, they went on, is suspicious. “Common Law is unique to Anglophone Cameroon and it is the foundation of legal practice in English-speaking countries, while Civil Law is culturally Francophone.

Why would MINESUP envisage a Cameroon with Anglophones but without Common Law? Could it be part of a vast programme to delete everything in the legal system that identifies Anglophones in Cameroon as an existing cultural group? Besides, it eliminates the hope of making a livelihood through legal practice in the English-speaking part of Cameroon with the prospects of unemployment and poverty that this entails.

Even as we write, the entire University and communities whose children are trained there, anxiously await the creation of a Law School.

It will be a mark of good faith and acceptance of our bi-jural composition if our communal heartfelt wish is granted,” the SYNES executive writes.
According to them, the proposal to harmonise political science may even be more sinister.

“The scope of political science in English is different from what it means in French. The variation in definition means that Political Science viewed from these two perspectives will have differing emphases. From the English perspective, the Department of Political Science organises specialised interests, skills and orientations into the following Subfields of study, Comparative Politics and development studies, Public Administration, International Relations and Political Theory.

This perspective is broader; more professionalised and offers more career opportunities than the restrictive frame of Public Law (Droit Public) when harmonised.

The Political Science degree of the University of Buea, therefore, is more adapted to the graduates’ needs for employment than a harmonisation will allow.”

On economic science they argue that “all over the world, the trend in economic sciences is for universities to incline towards even greater specialisation according to the needs of economies and the scale of international economic challenges.

It is in this light that the University of Buea created programmes in Economics, Banking and Finance, Accountancy and Management, making it possible for different students to study for and obtain these different degrees.

University of Buea graduates are Bankers, Managers, Accountants, Economists and Teachers of economics etc, in Cameroon and around the world because these programmes were tailored with market needs in mind and with input from professional guilds.

Over the years, the University has continued to structure its programmes to meet international and professional standards thanks to the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat.

By harmonising our programmes to a system where students are required to obtain a general economics degree with an option in guise of specialisation, MINESUP is trying to demolish an edifice which has served the employment needs of our country and has given relevance to our university.”

On the mobility of students from one university to other, UB SYNES executive argues that mobility of students does not necessarily mean transferring from one university to another during an academic year as MINESUP claims, but rather, mobility of students in the BMP/LMD System means, “a student can attend part of his/her course in another University and take back his/her credits to his/her university where such credit will be acceptable.”

To the UB-SYNES executive, such a move will subvert the entry requirements of Universities like Buea, which does not accept applicants who have only four GCE O Level papers, do not have a certain cut off mark or whose proficiency in English is not certified.

“The entry requirements of UB are clear as stated by the Presidential Decree and cannot be subverted or circumvented by first obtaining admission in another university and then transferring there under the guise of mobility.

Even as a State University, the University of Buea is a symbol of the proud bi-cultural country (French and English) that Cameroon is. This bi-culturality informed the Head of State’s wisdom when he decreed in 1993 that the University of Buea be structured differently to cater for the second less dominant cultural group, Anglophones and those studying in the Anglophone Sub-system of education.

But over the years, a systematic effort has been deployed to undermine the specificity of this University; Academic officers continue to be appointed although the Presidential Decree says the contrary, making it possible for such appointees to endorse without questioning decisions and procedures that undermine the Anglo-Saxon character of the University of Buea.

These appointments have created deep seated in-fighting, which at times destabilises the university or even almost becomes fratricidal.

The concept of excellence has been jettisoned even in competitive entrance examinations where the MINESUP organises admissions into professional degree programmes in the Faculty of Health Sciences, for instance, and selects students without any working knowledge of English when the Presidential Decree specifies that every student must have proficiency in English.

Worse still, Anglophone students are required to write entrance examinations based on French questions poorly translated into English.”

The executive of SYNES has,however, exhorted Minister Fame Ndongo to relinquish what they termed “a nefarious project” that is solely designed to dismantle the Law, Political Science, Economics and Management degree programmes of the University of Buea.

The only thing this harmonisation will yield, the executive went on, is the disenfranchisement of English-speaking students in Cameroon and buttress the perennial problem of disregard for Anglophones.

It will limit their opportunities and swell the desperate numbers that are roaming the streets in search of employment. It has the potential to cause discord and will heat up our polity if MINESUP persists in that direction.

“We will hold the Minister of Higher Education responsible for any social unrest this will cause.

Time and money should be used for more judicious ends than provoke social and political tensions. Cameroon by its very composition is bilingual, bi-cultural and bi-jural; nothing should be done to undermine this trilogy, especially not by the intellectual hub of the nation,” the SYNES executive writes.