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Who Gives The Orders, ‘Leaks’ Exams The Board? 

His may not be a familiar name like Humphrey Ekema Monono, current Registrar of the GCE Board. Yet, Valentine Tameh, arguably, makes bigger news, relatively speaking, than most of his peers that are almost always in the limelight. The reason is that when he talks, he tells it as it is; he hardly pauses to consider that he may be reprimanded, or even demoted or sacked for ‘spilling the secret official beans’. Tameh is the National Pedagogic Adviser for English Language and Assistant Chief Examiner for Advanced Level Literature in English.
The stubborn side of this gentleman is seen in his other office as National President of the Teachers Association of Cameroon, TAC. Going by its antecedents, TAC is not known to be friendly with the regime. It was TAC that got parents and other stakeholders of Anglophone Education into the streets in the 1990’s and bullied the Government into reluctantly creating the GCE Board.
We got him to reminisce on many issues, including the hidden politics of examinations, especially as are conducted by the GCE Board. And true to type, he spoke from the heart… It is a compelling read,

Mr Tameh, what happened to the GCE? There is this bouncing about the GCE having leaked or not leaked, like a yo-yo. Could you vouchsafe an opinion as the head of the Teachers Association of Cameroon, TAC?

One thing is very clear about the GCE that was written in the 2015 session. There was so much stampede that we can conclude that the psychological ripples and ramifications that came as a result of that stampede would have caused a lot of damage and many innocent hardworking students who just heard that there were leakages might have been derailed.
As to whether the examination leaked or did not leak? The GCE Board officials say they have done quite a lot of investigations around them and they are convinced that the exams did not leak.

Do you believe them?

TAC says that there were some problems which might not necessarily have emanated from the Board. That is why TAC is very, very happy because the investigations are continuing and we said whosoever did whatever to occasion the stampede and whatever leakage came…because I am talking like this I have in my phone questions for English Language 530 which were circulated.

Do the questions in your phone marry with those that were eventually put out by the Board?

Yes, they marry. Those questions were found on the paper. To be very, very fair to the students, we are probing and we are not getting anywhere and we think that if there is anybody with evidence, concrete evidence, palpable proof that there was a leakage, we are waiting for it. We have told the GCE Board and the Council that we want the investigations to stay open so that whoever has done this should be smoked and brought to book.

Who could have been the author of this “stampede” and for what reason or effect?

There are many desperados out there looking for hard cash. There are many unsuspecting learners out there, many of who may be, did not take their studies seriously. Take note in the final analysis, when the results will be published, the regular schools will perform very well.
There is the proliferation of external centres, mushroom schools and Government-created schools that do not have teachers and those are the persons who will contribute to bring down these results. I am not saying that the teachers should be exonerated, should be absolved in this blame. What I am saying is that there are definitely very many teachers who did their job and many students who tried to do their best but because of the liberalisation we have and of course because of the lacuna that we have as far getting teachers or personnel to teach the students, these contributing factors would all lead to the fact that results will one way or the other not reflect what should have been have we had everything at hand.

As part of the conspiracy theory, the finger is pointed in the direction of political manipulation; as it were giving the dog, the GCE Board as it were, a bad name in order for it to be hanged. Where do you stand here?

Well, I have heard so much of that. I think that there definitely will always be detractors. I don’t believe that the Registrar will organise exams and then shoot himself on the leg, and leak them. He might have had his good intentions, and somewhere along the line, may be due to the lack of vigilance, or whatever, something happened. I believe very strongly that the Registrar had every good intention. Detractors might be there who have the tradition of giving a bad name to somebody somewhere in order to hang that somebody. But I also believe that if we are talking here about the issue of the Francophones ready to take over the GCE Board or trying to destroy it by bringing a Francophone to take over the Board, we are all alert and we are going to cry foul immediately we get that signal.
The statutes of the Board are very clear; he who has to sit there, in charge, must know what it takes to run an Anglo-Saxon institution like the GCE Board.

But this fall guy has been “nailed on the cross of that leakage”. We are talking about a certain Kingsley Akebegho who, apparently, was thrown in, to lend a strong element of truth to this leakage theory?

The GCE Board has consistently said that there was no leakage.

Who handed him over to the police?

What I’m saying is that, if at a certain moment somebody is picked up and he casts on the earlier statement or the earlier utterance that there was no leakage, but as far as we are concerned, as far as the meeting we had today went, there was no statement about the person that was arrested. I don’t know and we have not yet been able to find out; we hope to find out why one person was arrested and locked up. It is certain that he was locked up not because of the leakage because if it was because of leakage, we would have been told at the meeting today; but nothing was said about that.
Nobody victimised the said Kingsley or whoever. So we are waiting to hear Kingsley tell us that he is being convicted for having leaked exams, then we will come back to find out what happened that we were not told during the meeting of today.

But the issue here is who handed Kingsley over to the police? You are in one breath saying for instance, that nothing was stolen from your house yet handing over your houseboy to the police for not accounting for a missing gas bottle…

I wouldn’t answer for the Registrar or for whoever is in charge of that house. I will like to say that we were kind of overwhelmed with issues that came up for discussions today and we were waiting for such an issue to come up, but it didn’t. If there is one person on whom the onus lies to say why somebody who belongs to his house was arrested, it is the householder and that householder is yet talk about it. I have not met Kingsley…

Who is the householder in this case?

I don’t want to name the person. Maybe the Registrar or the Chairperson of the Board. I think that Kingsley or whoever he is, has the right to seek redress in a law court and get his name cleared. I don’t want to speak about what I don’t know. I heard about it on phone while I was in Bamenda and Yaounde. I tried to investigate one or two things and later on what I read was that even Kingsley himself was afraid to make utterances that would have exonerated him. I am the President of TAC and TAC has not received any complaint from Kingsley…

But you were categorical on the phone across to us when you said the Registrar called to indicate that there was going to be a bomb shell and that bomb shell was linked with GCE leakage and faithfully there was one. Are you like running away from your shadow?

Not running away, but what happened was, when I talked to Mr Charly Ndi Chia, I didn’t know it was a statement that was going to… whatever happened somebody told me there was go to be a time bomb, he didn’t name a name. We were like trying to find out where will this time bomb land? Who is the person who will be invited as far as this time bomb is concerned? I have not talked to Kingsley. I got statements on how some friends here and there and I personally reacting to them. If I should give positive information when I have not even met Kingsley and find out. I don’t even know who pointed fingers at Kingsley before he was picked up. So, if I have to give positive information about it I should be aware. I mean Kingsley knowing that the TAC President is there, whoever else is there and this are persons who can prove a situation to be clear but he has not gotten to us and we are waiting. If he gets to us we will give him the right information as far as Kingsley’s case is concerned now whether he was arrested and locked up before being released I can only attest to that as far as I read the papers. But I don’t know anything whether he was indicted because of that because I have not talked with him.

How safe is the cultural and political health of the GCE board? We imagine that the way things are going, it should give way to an examination council so that it could oversee everything about examinations for English-speaking Cameroonians. The Board seems to be like standing on one leg.

Thank you very much. Since you pulled my leg, I will say something about it. I think a board is in charge of evaluation and when you look at evaluation it is the last aspect of the whole teaching spectrum. When you look at the teaching spectrum, you realise there is what we call policy; after policy we have syllabuses, schemes of work, teaching, learning, then evaluation. Evaluation is just one aspect and in many occasions people have talked about it as the tail that wags the dog and vice versa. So if you understand the fact that at a certain moment the Anglophones asked for a board instead of asking for a council that could have put to rest…

They could be ‘Oliver Twisting’….

No not ‘Oliver Twisting’; it is normal, really normal. If they ask for a board it was an era because our issue here was…

I mean that now, they have a right to ‘Oliver Twist’…

It is not ‘Oliver Twisting’. It will rather be a right they are asking for. I don’t see it in terms of ‘Oliver Twisting’. I see it in terms of what is right. The moment is always right to do what is right. And so I say that may be…

And not ‘wrongly right’?

No, not ‘wrongly right’. What I am saying here is that at a certain moment the idea of a board came and we went about it and the Government gave us a board.


Yes, reluctantly, because the BAC Board was even announced before ours. We were marching in Bamenda every day, asking for a board and when it came it was the BAC Board that came. We smiled at it because even the Francophones themselves did not know what to do with the board and finally…

But apparently they did not just give you a Board they also gave you a euphemistic duster for that Board that you seized from the hands of oppressors.

I don’t understand what you mean by euphemistic duster. Can you be clearer?

Yeah because Board was very reluctantly given after street fights that were like getting out of hand...

Yes, I think we would look at it from that perspective I will like to say that from outside we would get the impression that it is doing what it is supposed to do. This is the way I see it now. I see the fact that fortunately or unfortunately, we decided to have a board that was going to handle examinations in Cameroon. May be from an outsider’s perspective we will say that the board is not working but when you look at what the board is doing as far as struggling to professionalise, getting the Government to understand that they have a right as an examination board to get vocational training and professional trainings abroad and test on does not as compulsory as…

But they are still struggling and this brings me back to my concept or my suggestion of an examination council which I think as TAC, you should be telling the Government: “let this be our own, hands off this thing, let us have real autonomy”. Government is like meddling, fidgeting too much with this Board. That is why I told you it is like giving you a board and a duster with which to deface, to wipe off the positive cultural values that were written on that board in the first place.

Yes, now, I get the image. This is the issue here. I remember because I was one of those angry militants those days, when we started asking for the Board and when we marched for it. And when at a certain moment we were granted the Board, we refused it because it was not that Board we asked for because the technical facet of the exams was left out. I think it was Pa Arrey Mbi, (I always doff my heart to that old man) who told the Prime Minister’s representative: ‘we need the real Board; If we don’t have the real Board now, you will see the strike that you have never seen in this country’. Of course, a few days afterwards, the Prime Minister’s emissary came with the documents for the real Board.
The pioneer Registrar, Andrew Azong-Wara, did his best to put in place a good blue print for the technical examination and, when he was kicked out a few years afterward, the next Registrar who came in, handed over the Technical exams back to the Government, and the Government has continued running the Technical Exams for us, despite the fact that, we wanted… the first Registrar had been struggling to get a good blue print for Anglo Saxon Technical Examination.
Let me even pre-empt some other question that you may want to ask and tell you that, the Francophone technical examination which is very predominant in Cameroon today, before it was put in place, the Government called in Canadians and the French to come here. They even ignored ENSET Douala and went ahead, built their schools and brought together specialists from the Ministries and teachers, put them in place and gave them what was a Francophone paradigm of technical education. And we are saying that if the Anglophone and the Francophone population in this country are a reality, forming that bicultural heritage that we have, then the Government too should have thought about bringing Anglo Saxons too from Britain and America to put in place that kind of paradigm for Anglo Saxon education. TAC has always said if we have very good Francophone students and very good Anglophone students, those students will perform wonderfully well on the International…

May be the Government thought she already had competent Anglophones in-situ and saw no need “importing experts” from Britain and America.

You are talking about the Canadians and the French, I am saying that it would have been wonderful if they had brought the Canadian or the French for the francophone paradigm, and the English and US for the Anglo Saxon paradigm so that we put the two and form a rich merge here that will keep the two realms… There was injustice somewhere, and if the Government does not realise that developing francophone education at the expense of Anglophone technical education is a discredit to Cameroon, then we would want to tell them that it is. We have friends, who go to next door Ghana, and when they talk about the Anglophone population in Cameroon, they say no! We know that Cameroon is a Francophone country and not Anglophone.
I think that when the injustice is at some point when the injustice is enhanced…

I think Mr. Tameh, I can help you here because I, (Ndi Chia) am a product or a casualty of that lopsided system. I think I would have continued with technical education if we had anything to cling on to, beyond or after what we did in Ombe at the time; even a high school, because if you wanted, as an Anglophone to go further, you had to get a visa to go to Nigeria, America, Britain to do that. So there was a very strong element of maginalisation and it continues.

Beautiful! You are just kind of reiterating what I am saying. The Government sought to promote Francophone Technical education and stifled Anglophone Technical education. What we are saying is, if the Government wanted to say ‘well, the two persons were considered as having come together in a marriage, where they were considered as equals, they would have done the same, but they didn’t do the same. Unfortunately, many of our Anglophones brothers who studied in the Anglophone technical system of education in those days ended up not knowing where to go to, and so they checked out and went to other fields.
I have had calls to challenge some other persons, who told me that there was nothing like Anglophone education. They say the British came here and only opened up Trade Centres and wanted to train petit functionaries, and I told somebody someday and said look, those petit functionaries you are talking about ended up being more proficient and more productive than the polytechnicians who came from France. When we look at the blossoming of little commercial technical enterprises, like PAMOL, Lobe, Mondoni and others, they were manned by products from…

Sorry, I’m putting it to you and quote me… that I attended the Government Technical College, Ombe, where we had first rate training, which is unavailable in some of today’s universities. Industries in Douala and Nigeria were queuing to recruit us even before we had graduated. Ex-Ombe students were manning most of the technical departments of Guinness Cameroun, POWERCAM, CHOCOCAM, PAMOL and others. Today’s Ombe has been reduced to wood ash, to cinders…

Many persons in Government called them trade centres that didn’t produce anything. I have calls on many occasions to say that, they were not just trade centres; they produced persons who were skilled and productive.

Our products were manning these enterprises in Douala and elsewhere. Every third term, they would line up at Ombe to recruit us, because we were the best; they relied on us.

I am so happy that you have made this utterance and I wish that this is amplified as loudly as possible. When you look at the world of technology, ICT’s, whatever, you realise that English and the Anglo Saxon standards are what the world wants to see. It is very pragmatic and productive. Target learners that come out of it are very productive. I am happy that you made these statements today, and we have always vowed for the Anglo Saxon technical system. May be some persons think that we should not so much lay emphases on the Anglo Saxon heritage, we should see how we can fuse it with our own local realities and come out with something which will get our children productive in this context.

Let’s refocus. How healthy or unhealthy is TAC? How have you been performing? How has been the road travelled so far? How much water has passed under the bridge? What good or bad have these waters swept away?

If you talk about TAC, I think about the two lives that TAC has lived. I will say well, the first TAC…
Not the first TAC. The first TAC was something of a given. We mean the second TAC, which you head.

The second TAC well, came up amidst a lot of controversy. It came up and provoked some persons into hyper activity. These persons thought that they would lock up one official or the other in order to stifle TAC. But some person, I was one of them, my former President, Paul Ninjoh; we stood up and we said well, we will continue with the process of TAC. We will not go out to look for appointments and get teachers into offices of responsibility. If parents sent their children to school and with the population explosion we have today, those children go to school and don’t see teachers to teach them, then, there is a problem. So TAC came up with a philosophy; we are there for the classrooms. Classrooms must have teachers. If you are in TAC because you want a post, then you are in the wrong place. If you are in TAC and you get a post because of your hard work, TAC could come and sing your praises to the loudest decibels. So I think we say that much water has gone under the bridge. We have had our problems…

Has TAC, like Hercules, been diverting such waters as could clean the Augean Stables?

We didn’t have any Augean Stables when we came…

Ok, tell us about your stables. Augean Stables would also be what you set out to challenge or fight against in the first place…

Yes, I get the point. I think the Augean Stables are still there. We are struggling. We need a lot of work, but are on to make our points very clear. The Augean Stables are there and we are struggling to wash or clean them. The idiosyncrasies we met are still being promoted by the system, by the few individuals who think that it is all about lucre and about how much ‘I put in my pocket’.

Talking about lucre, filthy lucre for that matter, there is an indication true or false, that TAC is inadvertently creeping into the cosy bed of the powers that be, for pecuniary effect. That like CATTUC, you have a well made up bed at the GCE Board and other Government living quarters.

We have heard time and again that the GCE Board has given us this or that sum of money to stand behind it. I have had my own fair share of the misunderstanding with the Board. I am not a person who will keep what I ought to say in my stomach, (my belly no be store) as they say. I hit and I say it and then tomorrow, we meet and we try to resolve it in one way or the other because we have to go ahead.
I don’t think we have had a cosy bed somewhere where we are lying. I think we have a responsibility, not just to make sure that the Board sits up, but to make sure that the Anglophone children who go for the GCE have their results.
The insinuation is that we are vouching for good results today when there was so much about it out there. I will say that we have one very important issue. You don’t go out to talk about the examination in the public media without being very sure about it. There are many statements that are made out there, and you would even have text messages in your phone, showing that this or that happened. When you start tracing, and trying to get to the root population, to get them talk about it, and see their reactions, you will realise that, you are the one going ahead to say this happened when you don’t have incontrovertible evidence. I will like to have cool, palpable proof, concrete evidence. When we have the cast iron evidence, we would not hesitate to kick whose ass is concerned, be it the chairperson or whoever; we will make sure we say it and say it with the loudest voice. But I think at the moment, we also pull back because restraint is the soul of business too.

You often insist that your prime business is to make sure that teaching stands the test of verification. But it is bandied around that you and another person, are soliciting, in fact, seeking to be appointed into high office. That you were offered soft bribes by way of sleek cars in which you were riding, instead of marking the GCE that brought you to Buea in the first place.

If I knew who the person in question was, I would have known what to say. As far as that person is concerned, he is a figment of the imagination, or he is a pipe dream to me. I know whoever works with TAC, and I know that those persons who work with TAC have remained not just tactful, but true to the ideals of TAC.
Those who came in with us, we have done so much in trying not to get the Government understand that TAC is back, and we have succeeded at that level because, there are many occasions when the Minister has gotten very angry and told us we should not be ‘writing all these letters’. He said we should come to him; that when we write our reports to the Presidency it doesn’t solve the problem, and so on and so forth.
I think we have tried our best to make it known that if TAC died some day, or if TAC went moribund someday… TAC is here, it is a force that is struggling to make sure things are kept clean.

By Nester Asonganyi, Isidore Abah, Charlie Ndi Chia, *Celia Tambe, Flavine Ndip-Agbor & Jude Ntam Ngong (UB students on internship)

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