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UB Must Come Back On The Map 

Interviewed by Walter Wilson Nana — The new Vice Chancellor, VC, of the University of Buea, UB, Dr. Nalova Lyonga, has pledged that her administration will do all to reposition the image and stature of UB. Talking to The Post at her Limbe residence, Sunday, July 1, on her new appointment, Dr. Nalova, amongst other issues, exhorted UB students to be focussed on their studies and took a commitment to work with UB SYNES Chapter on the basis of dialogue and the strategies to fight corrupt practices on the campus. Excerpts:

The Post: On Friday, June 29, you were appointed VC of UB; where were you when it happened?

Dr. Nalova Lyonga: I was actually in my office in UB doing the regular work, with a few students. Suddenly, I saw a crowd of men and women, entering with a radio on hand. They fell on me and I almost fell off my chair, I did not know what was happening and I asked them to wait a minute and tell me what was going on. And they all said congratulations; you are now the VC of UB. That is how it was, I did not know. And some members of staff came in to say congratulations and crying for real, this time with happiness.

Had you been looking forward to this day and appointment?

Not at all, I mean not at all. I’m telling you, not a hint. I have never, really, gone out of my way to ask for an appointment. I don’t know how people look for appointments. I did not expect it. It is a nice surprise. When the Government makes an appointment, that makes everyone happy, then, you know there is something right about it. People are happy for me, I am happy for the Government. I think the Government has done something good and I am going to live up to the expectations.

A lot of people know you to be of the Dr. Dorothy Limunga Njeuma school and spirit of administration. Is it in the same spirit that you are going to tackle your new responsibilities?

I don’t know about the same spirit but I’m very happy if people identify me with Madam Njeuma. She is a wonderful legend and I think that anybody who talks about UB, should begin with that name. I think I have worked under the best manager possible in Higher Education. There is no reason why I should not do better, if I remember that legacy.

You are moving from one room to another in a house you know so well, what are some of the pressing issues you will be tackling?

I will be looking at the nature of teaching in the BMP (Bachelors, Masters & PhD) era. We endeavour to do the real BMP, in the sense that the university should be actually involved with the community and make teaching so practical and people should understand what they are doing. We will look at some of the issues plaguing the learners, the students, especially their transcripts, what is happening and find out how we can do it better.

I want a situation whereby when you finish your studies in UB, you should get your transcript as fast as possible and continue with your studies elsewhere in the world. There are certain things we will continue as they are and others that definitely call for change. I do not have all the answers, but we will sit together and work together. Let’s talk about the problems in UB in a collegiate manner. I know the problems as much as the members of staff know the problems.

Some observers of UB say that your predecessor failed in some aspects of his administration because he gave in to unnecessary demands from the students, do you share that view?

I don’t know that he failed. I hate to say somebody failed. He did the best he could.

Corruption allegations are rife in UB among students and the teaching staff, the recruitment of workers, trading of marks for money and sex and the award of contracts in the faculties and the central administration. How are you going to face these daunting challenges?

An institution runs on rules and regulations. We will look at the issues and ask people – what is the right way? Everybody should know what the right way is. Based on that, we’re going to go by rules and regulations. It is important that everybody plays by the rules.

One of the stakeholders of UB is the Syndicate of Higher Teachers, SYNES. How are you going to operate with them?

SYNES members are teachers like all of us. They have same problems like everybody and, once more, we will sit together and solve the problems as they occur. When you have sticky issues, I think that it is when people want to have solutions to their problems instantly. It cannot always be like this. People can look into others’ issues and through that people express their problems and subsequently take time for the solutions to be got. You cannot ask now and get the answer(s) now.

And to the members of the UB Students’ Union, UBSU, what are you telling them?

They should not be used by other people to front their concerns and parochial interest. They are adult enough. I don’t know that somebody got a position outside UB because they were members of the student Government. It is not important, what people will be asking you is the quality of your GPAs – Grade Point Average, your performance.

Let us focus on the performance and see what happens. The students need to express what they want to and we are going to dialogue, find solutions to the problems. I do not think there is any problem without a solution. If there is no solution now, it will come some other time. For the moment, we will find what the majority wants and we move on. But we will move on according to rules and regulations, it is very important.

You’ve been in the house for long, what kind of UB are you inheriting?

I think I’m inheriting a UB that has problems. We cannot minimise that. I’m also inheriting a UB that has been at a very high level as far as Higher Education is concerned. All that we need to do is show our potentials and those potentials need to be expanded.

Which are the areas that will need expansion?

Technology is one of the things. We’ve to expand technology. With technology, it will help you to reduce some of the problems of human resources. We have a real problem of human resources and if we do not have the money to get the available resources, then, we need to see how technology can help us do that. That is a portfolio which was created but I think it has not been followed up to its full potentials. So, in the technological age, what kind of UB do we want? That is the question.

UB has a lot of international contacts and cooperation agreements, do you have some new strategies of reinforcing them?

UB has a lot of very good research, good researchers, very good projects and very good partners. We’re going to cash in on that.

There is also talk of laxity, very common with the UB support staff. Do you have a solution for that?

Again, we have to do something about that. When people are motivated, they will work the way they want to work; when there is real work, and there has to be real work. Perhaps, there are areas where there is no real work and people come there, there is nothing to do and they go away. Those are areas that we must look at. UB must come back on the map. The way we want it to be – be the place everybody wants to be in. That is what is going to happen.

Tell us more about yourself.

I don’t know what you want to get about that. I have been schooled at home in Cameroon, schooled in England and the USA. I have those backgrounds with me. Fortunately, before I came back home, I saw how people were dealing with the universities – a university that goes out to look for business and not a university that is sponsored wholly by the Government. There are approaches that we need to adopt and bring about a change. I have those backgrounds, I am happy that I have them and they are very good experiences.

Monday, July 2, you begin your day as VC of UB, what do you expect from your closest collaborators and the UB community?

I expect the best from all of them. I typically do not have enemies. I don’t think that people should have enemies, if they can help it. I prize my friendships; people should not try to stop my friendship. Everybody is a friend except those who do not want to be, but most of the people are my friends. I expect the best collaboration possible. I have often had it, even when I was Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of Teaching. I don’t see why not now.

First published in The Post print edition no. 01355

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