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UB Is Solid, Can Absorb, Handle Problems – Titanji 

Interviewed by Ernest Sumelong

CameroonPostline.com — The University of Buea, UB, just hosted the 15th edition of Cameroon University Games. While it was generally considered a successful event, issues like feeding, accommodation and disruption of the opening ceremony by UBSU pressure group came close to marring it.

However, UB Vice Chancellor Professor Vincent Titanji in this interview with The Post says UB hosted the Games in a way that met all standards. He says the University proved itself as a solid institution that can absorb, accommodate, handle problems and achieve objectives. Read on:

The Post: Mr. Vice Chancellor, the 15th edition of the Cameroon University Games hosted by your institution just ended. What is your appreciation of the event?

Prof. Titanji: My general appreciation is positive. I think that all the actors; the local organising committee, FENASU, which is the French acronym for the National Federation of University Sports, the Ministry of Higher Education with the support of the Ministry of Sports and Physical Education, all put in their best and together we delivered an edition of the University Games that met all the standards. I regret, while condemning at the same time, the disruption that happened at the beginning of the Games. But, beyond this, everything was upbeat.

UB came at the 8th position. Were you disappointed? Did you expect a better performance?

Let me put it this way; every single delegation came here wanting to go back as the best, and UB also had that kind of ambition. But, if we compare what we did this year; 17 medals, three of which were gold, it is a considerable and significant improvement over that of last year where we had only one gold medal in a total of 11 medals.

Why has UB found it increasingly difficult to record outstanding performances in the Games over the years?

Well, during the first University Games hosted in Buea, we were very high up. I think we had five or six gold medals during that first edition, but subsequent delegations have been more competitive and there are many delegations that are better trained, we would say, where sports is taken very seriously right from primary and secondary school before coming to the university level. We think that we should work harder. We cannot accept the eighth position as being the best. But we recognise that we have moved one step ahead and we should keep up.

Despite what has been considered a rather well organised event, issues like feeding and lodging came close to marring the Games. Didn’t you anticipate such a turn out?

I will hotly contest the assertion that there were problems with feeding. Feeding did not have problems. In fact, one of the most successful aspects of the event was feeding. It is because feeding went so well that we were able to notice some of the other dysfunctionalities. No cases of diarrhoea were recorded, which is rare. So, I want to congratulate all the caterers for delivering.

During the first days, some people did not know their feeding points and so they went to feeding points that were not theirs and then they didn’t have food. But this was immediately corrected. Where we really had difficulties was in accommodation and it was due to structural difficulties on the ground. Usually, the University Games come during vacation of secondary schools, and usually in the past we went to these secondary schools to arrange to use their dormitories for lodging.

But schools were in session and so we had to look for alternatives. Buea, being a medium sized town, does not exactly have infrastructure of the same convenience and comfort. So that was the problem. But as the Director of Students’ Affairs explained, even certain delegations were lodged, they didn’t like the place and they protested and we had to make new arrangements.

But by the third day all the lodging problems had been solved. For a city like ours which is growing and which is becoming an important destination for tourists, entrepreneurs and the private sector should continue what they have started; to build more infrastructures because this is not the only big event to happen in Buea. Some other big events are coming to Buea.

You have just raised the issue of infrastructure. Could the University not build more halls of residence to provide accommodation to more students?

Yes, the University could but the resources that are available have to be managed to provide infrastructure for teaching and learning, and also for accommodation. And, so far, the strategy has been to reach out to our partners in the private sector so that they can build on University land, operate and then transfer.

Right now negotiations with one company have gone far, and we hope that even within this fiscal year the construction of more dormitories will start. We intend to construct about 10.000 and the first phase will have about 5.000 and the next phase will have about 5,000.

Another disturbing issue about the Games was the disruption of the opening ceremony by a group of students who called themselves the UBSU pressure group. Did you anticipate this and how was it handled?

We did not really think that with all the preaching and all the restructuring and all the consultations we have had with our students, that they would be so poorly behaved. But it did happen and we condemned it and we are looking in the whole matter to see in what way we can prevent such things from happening in the future.

They were hanging on the fact that certain bonuses due to our athletes were delayed because there was never a question of not paying those bonuses. It was just that, due to difficulties of cash flow, they could not be paid on time. But the athletes themselves did not protest. At least they were not among the group that we saw that day. So, it was a pretext and, of course, if it was not a question of delayed bonuses, they would have invented something because they just wanted to foment trouble.

But the history of UBSU, particularly UBSU led by the Yellow Party, which is the one in power now, is chequered. I think the University administration is giving particular attention to it. It is a complex problem which cannot have just a single solution.

FENASU condemned the action; has the body considered anything to pre-empt such action in future?

FENASU condemned the action and the University also condemned it. We are now looking at the genesis and how this happened. Appropriate action will be taken.

UB unveiled a logo of an elephant during the Games; was it for the Games or did it just coincide with the event?

It was meant for the Games and it was part of the logo. We must give very high credit to Miss Nadege, a young lecturer at the Faculty of Arts who teaches Sculpture and Fine Arts, who erected this monument under the distinguished advice of Professor Nalova Lyonga, Professor Theresa Akenji, Dr. Roselyn Jua and other people with literary taste.

Even we made a small contribution in choosing the site and orientation. But the credit goes to this very young, dynamic lecturer. We wanted to have a logo and something very specific to these Games and we chose the elephant, which is an animal of special cultural significance among the Bakweris and in this area.

Our reading and interpretation of this logo is that the elephant is a symbol of strength and unity; it is looking towards the mountain and since we are all striving to move forward, even the elephant is looking towards the mountain and raising its tusk so that UB will not just be the place to be now but also in the future.

Does the elephant now become part of the University and its logo?

It stays there in front of the Central Administration and a metal fence will be built around it so that tourists and other people can admire it from a convenient distance.

What lessons did you learn from the University Games?

The first lesson we learnt is that UB is a solid institution and it is able to absorb, accommodate and handle problems and achieve objectives. We have to work and keep it up there.

The second is that the University Games is a wonderful occasion for the entire higher education family to come together, get to know each other better and at the end of the Games, we all feel better about the role of Higher Education in Cameroon as an organisation that brings together the best of our youths to work for the development and unity of the country.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01344