Following Presidential Decree No2018/514 of 22 October 2018 repealing and reorganising the Cameroon GCE Board, a decree which was accompanied by widespread condemnation and criticism, as well as praise, we set out to get the opinion of the pioneer registrar of the Board, who alongside others, fought for the creation of the Board, and under their leadership, the text of application was written and used until recently, when a Presidential decree repealed the Board’s statute ushering in some drastic changes that will greatly affect the way the Board functions.
In the Interview, the Pioneer Registrar, Azong Wara, opines that that a revolution is needed to save what is left of the Board, and that the recent decree of President Biya, has made things much worse. Azong Wara argues that if Anglophones let it go, they will in effect be letting go the only good thing that make them look like people, in the competitive world of education. He frowns at the exclusion of the University of Buea, the side-lining of teachers, side-lining lay private and denominational school authorities and many others. He also makes a case against the flooding of the Board with representatives of Ministries from Yaoundé, at the detriment of educationists.
What do you make of the recent Presidential decree reorganizing the GCE Board?
Azong Wara: I will begin by looking at preamble to the decree itself. You know these citations that usually come before presidential decrees are very important citations. This thing where they usually say mindful of this, mindful of mindful that; those are very important citations in respect of the decree that follows. The most important law on education in this country is law No 0 4-9 8 of 14 April 1998. That is the most important law on education in this country. You cannot talk of education without mentioning that one because it came out of an education forum organised in this country in 1995 where everything about our educational system was studied by experts from across the whole nation. And this law was debated in Parliament and passed in Parliament and eventually signed into law by Presidential decree. So it is the most important law.
So what does that law say?
Azong Wara: That law says that there are two education subsystems in Cameroon. The French education subsystem and an English education subsystem and these two systems will co-exist, and will carry out their educational activities as defined by their own education system. In other words the subsystem of education in the English subsystem will carry out its teaching, its examination and others, according to the English Education system with no interference. This is clearly stated in that law and the law goes ahead to say that a Board of Education may be created to take these education subsystems which has not been done up today. Now the important thing I want to say is that since that law is not mentioned in this preamble/citations. It means that somebody does not like that law, and therefore tries to ignore it and brings in laws here which are not even relevant to our system. So if this decree was honestly constructed, that citation would have been there. So I disapprove of this present decree from that perspective.
Are you saying that the structure which the Board now has is of no relevance?
Azong Wara: The decree itself has violated the educational subsystem of the Anglophones so it doesn’t hold. That’s what I’m saying. So it is effectively not there. That is the first criticism I have of that decree
What other criticism do you have?
Azong Wara: The next criticism I have is that you convert an examination Board Into a State corporation and you remove the academic authority of that examination Board from it.
The Academic authority over the GCE Board is the University of Buea. The person who guarantees the authenticity of the certificates issued by the GCE Board is the University of Buea. It is not the GCE Board registrar. The registrar is just an Administrator who administers the exam. He signs the certificates along with the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buea and the Minister of Secondary Education. The Vice Chancellor signs that certificate in order to give it Academy integrity. The University is left out of this new structure. So the Vice Chancellor cannot sign these certificates if he is honest with himself. He cannot come and sign certificates organised by a system that he has no control over. The former GCE Board had the Vice Chancellor or his representative on the Council of the GCE Board. He also had the examinations executive committee. That is that part which looks at the exam itself, the content of the exam. The other one is like the Council’s administration of the board. But the actual one that looks into the examinations and whether they meet the international quality, whether the certificate should be given, is the examinations executive committee. It sets the standards. It defines the mark limit. That one has been removed from this whole new arrangement. So I don’t see how the Vice-Chancellor can come in, to sign such a certificate. It was constructed without even consulting the University of Buea. I know that if this text had gone through the University of Buea, and if they are honest to themselves they will know that this would not have been the text.
What can be done or what should have been done to give the GCE Board the relevance that you are talking about?
Azong Wara: In every single country, examinations of this nature must be attached to a University. It would be very strange to find a country somewhere such a Board is not attached to a university.
Take example; that of London is attached to the University of London. You do not have an examinations Board just hanging in the air without an academic backing. Wherever you go you will find that. The Universities are meant to consume the products of these examination Boards. And they have no way of guaranteeing the credibility of those exams with this text.
So how are the new changes going to affect the way the Board usually functioned?
Azong Wara: What I think will happen is that the workers of the GCE Board will receive this text with all jubilation because it is going to raise their financial status. So if you look at that from that aspect to them it’s a great text. If you want to look at it from the aspect of the public and of these children who are going to obtain these certificates it is a sham. You remove teachers who are the prime movers of education. You have taken them out. They no longer appear in this structure. You have taken our parents from this structure, you have taken out lay private education, Catholic education, Protestant education authorities. You have taken them out of the Council of the GCE Board and they are those that feed the Board. You have taken them out and left the Board with Ministers and civil servants.
Sooner or later you will just sit here and have Yaounde appoint somebody from the Ministry to come to the GCE Board and it may not even be somebody who is versed with the Anglo-Saxon system of education because it required that before you make a registrar in those days it is required that the Council of the GCE Board which was made up of all these people, it required that they examine the credentials of such a person who must be very highly knowledgeable in the Anglo-Saxon system of education, before the Prime Minister appoints him. The Prime Minister appointed such a person only to give him the authority of the seal of state, but it was the Council that decided after studying the credentials of such a person that this person qualified to handle exams of that nature.
And that Council as I said had teachers, people who were the prime movers.
The number has reduced and if it was for instance, that they had said one teacher, one person from these education bodies, one person from the University and they build a number up to seven, those are the relevant people, but if you say one person for Ministry of Finance, one person from the Prime Minister’s office one person from head of State. You can go to these ministries and pick anybody who is not even an educationist. You will find out now at the Presidency, people beginning to position themselves to come to the GCE board Council because it is now a corporation and they will be money. The government will pump money just to come and manipulate the money. They are not coming with any idea on how to carry the GCE Board forward.
This new decree, doesn’t it give the GCE Board more autonomy?
Azong Wara: No! What autonomy? It instead cages the GCE Board into the Ministries. It doesn’t give it any independence. You know when you want to talk about independence, there must be a system in that independent structure where they can be debate, where decisions can be taken by a clear majority opinion.
And where people can argue to agree and disagree but when there are other people appointed by Ministers who sit in Yaounde. When they come here are you expecting the Minister’s representatives to come and disagree with the Minister of finance’s position? No!
Is that going to affect the quality of certificates that are issued by the Board?
Azong Wara: Certainly it will. You’ve seen the type certificates that were issued this year and they are being withdrawn and being reissued because the people who have come to manage the Board do not follow the text. They are only bent on producing this type of things. And I have myself written to the chairman of the GCE Board proposing that a commission of inquiry should be set up to see what went wrong with this year’s GCE.
This is not a GCE and I can tell you straight away. People have come into the place and taken off the nucleus of the institution. How can you imagine that OMR forms, Optimal Map Readers forms, which were supposed to be designed with machines in the Board for production, are now done in the Quarters? The machines have deliberately been broken down so that now people go to the Quarters to print OMR forms to send out for students to write. So eventually the MCQs this year which are answered using those forms were in fact this year, answered on ordinary paper and they had to take people to mark them whereas before, those papers were usually sent into the machine and it read out the marks and assigned them correctly to the students.
So now you have them running left and right, looking for where to fit a mark, and hurriedly producing results which have landed us into this problem of today.
So what could be responsible for such irresponsible behaviour that is affecting the credibility of the Board?
Azong Wara: It is there, inside the Board. It started when these guys were appointed. I made a point before. The first thing is that the Council of the GCE Board did not sit down to study the application of the Registrar of the GCE Board. When the present Registrar was appointed I raised an objection. This registrar has not fulfilled the requirements of the text. He did not apply to be Registrar through the Council of GCE Board. They did not study his credentials. He just came from the Ministry and was appointed without passing through the Board. I make no apologies for what I’m saying. If he was appointed regularly here, his dossier would have been rejected here, because he would not have met the requirements.
I know what rolled the plate during the struggle for the GCE Board I know the rules but they came from behind and jumped into the place. As soon as they jumped into the Board, they now developed problems with the staff. They started moving the experienced ones into different positions and moving the people who could conform with their agenda to certain positions. That brought about this problem in the GCE Board. Nobody is bold enough to accept that it should be investigated. If they investigate they will discover that that is the reason.
What can be done to bring the Board to what you fought for? What was your ideal programme for the Board?
Azong Wara: The first thing is that we must go back. It is the salvation of Anglophones in this country. It is the only institution that Anglophones actually sacrificed to get. There were fights for the University and so on. But the actual fight in this Country which was the hope of all Anglophones was the GCE Board and no one should mess with it. If you mess it up, you have messed with the future of Anglophones in this Country. All these troubles that we are having in this country are related to our education because for over the time people are not happy that there is a GCE Board. People come to mess it up. If the Anglophones let it go. If they let it go through this shoddy arrangement then we are off.
The entire GCE is destroyed. That is the only thing that makes us look like people when we get out of this country.
Is there any positive thing in the decree?
Azong Wara: There is a positive aspect to this text, the fact that the technical exams have been given proper nomenclature. I can’t think of any other.
I don’t know whether there’s any other thing in this thing that is positive. If that thing is extracted and put back on the original text of the GCE Board, we will have no problem. All these arrangement is for money. All these things that they are manipulating the GCE Board is to generate more money and put it in their pockets.
That’s all that is causing them to be looking for laws to twist about. The original text was well studied and written and it was brought to light for all of us Anglophones to see. They criticised it and they took it back and came out with a good text. 25 years is not enough time to come and whitewash it.
The text could stay for a hundred thousand years as it.
It was good. The only thing was that it doesn’t give enough money to some people who are coming to manipulate the place and because of that they want someone to put in their pockets. So they mess around with the text.
If you were asked to describe what has happened to the Board, what will you say?
Azong Wara: In the respect of exams itself, the conduct of the exams has been completely destroyed and we need a revolution in that GCE Board. In my letter to the Chairman, I have said that this registrar should be sent back to the Ministry. I don’t hide my words.
Interviewed By Andrew Nsoseka