The impact of french and british colonial rule on the he system in cameroon from the perspective of students



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CHAPTER 1 - INTRODUCTION

Considerable progress has been made since the world’s leaders committed to achieving Education for All by 2015. Within the space of a decade, the number of out-of-school children has dropped by more than 38 million and the gender gap in formal education has narrowed. Literacy rates have also increased albeit slowly.

The current global economic downturn is threatening to halt or even reverse this progress. More than ever, it is critical that we invest in the development of quality systems for learning throughout life. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that every child and adult is entitled to education. UNESCO is committed to supporting countries to make this right become a reality for all. With respect to the case of Cameroon the government has been making tremendous effort to support the vision of UNESCO but much is still to be done in order to improve on the quality of the standard of education and moreover to overcome the pioneer system of bicultural education system in Cameroon which leaves the students with very complex outcomes.

Cameroon being old as any other region in the African continent, with the coming of early missionaries in Africa to extend their religion and teachings, it was necessary for Cameroon to also feel the impact of these innovations. With the coming of these missionaries in Cameroon, strong contacts have been made by some of these folks with their home governments who saw this as an opportunity to extend their powers to Africa. At this point, Cameroon became very familiar with colonisation. Cameroon was first colonised by the Germans and later on with the fall of Germany in the First World War (WWI), Cameroon was handed over to the allied powers; the British and the French who fought along side during the First World War. These colonial powers had two different cultures and way of life. With this divergence in structure and systems Cameroon was divided to these countries for easy administration. These countries actually stayed in Cameroon and guided the country to independence. With the existence of British and the French, this leaves Cameroon with no choice than to operate fully with their traditional model of system and structure which was a reflection of French and British systems. Today Cameroon operates under two separate educational systems with a French Francophone Cameroon Educations, a model inherited from the French traditional system and an English Anglophone Cameroon Education system a model derived from British system. Currently, HE in Cameroon operates under the picture of bilingualism, but this is not the reality in the field because these systems still operate as independent subsystems though they may be found on the same campus.1 In the real sense Cameroon has never been bilingual because the real meaning of bilingualism is not respected as individuals only master their separate colonial system with little cross interaction with the other system. Many institutions in Cameroon claim to be bilingual but the reality is that they merely operate under an independent none interactive Anglophone and Francophone education system which has been as result of colonial heritage with little or no adjustment from the colonial structure and version.



The educational system in Cameroon is a legacy of the British and French colonial administration whose inherited practices gives to bicultural and bilingual paths on which various aspects of its national life were developed when it became independent. Based on the colonial legacies, various systems’ practice in Cameroon conveys its dual cultural and linguistic colonial background. Cameroon is a bilingual country with French and English as the two official languages. The educational sector has operated in two subsystems, the French and the English systems with diverse curricular, structural and organisational patterns until 2007 when a bi-jural French and English Law system operated in Cameroon. The country belongs to the respective linguistic and cultural entities, the British Commonwealth and France Francophonie. Following independence in 1960, one of the main challenges faced by the new nation was to train cadres especially for senior positions in the civil service. Before independence many Cameroonians pursued education abroad but this education they recovered abroad were poorly adapted to suit the needs of the African society at that time and of Cameroon in particular. In an attempt to provide HE to meet the immediate needs of the population, the government of Cameroon created a university complex known as National Institute for University Studies (Institut National d’Etudes Universitaires). The commencement of activities started in October 1961 under the supervision of the French government. The aim of this institution was to prepare graduates for degrees in Law, Education, Economics and the Arts. At the same time other professional training programmes were developed through the school of administration; School of Agriculture and Military Academy. Later on in 1962 the National Institution for University Studies evolved into the Federal University of Cameroon created to train cadres of Science, Education and Technology. This institution comprises of organisational units such as faculties schools, centres and institutes each assigned for specific missions. By 1967 several institutions had been created but each still evolve around the management of the University of Yaounde newly name after 1967. The same spirits of educational evolution continue until when the University of Yaounde saw a student boom and there was the need to decongest the population. The solution to this was the university reform in 1993, which witnessed the creation of the first ever English University with an Anglophone style. This university was created to meet the needs of students from the English educational background2

This thesis will therefore look at the case study to be a platform wherein two inherited educational traditions have coexisted for close to half a century with each of them having a separate independent education curriculum from the other. From an evolution on educational development stand point the first university was created in 1967 which was the University of Yaoundé I. The creation of this university was to satisfy the need for the growing literate student population and later on several other French universities were created. With the educational reforms in 1993 as earlier mentioned, the decision to create the first ever English university in Cameroon was reached and this university existed with a separate curriculum inherited from the British colonial system. The intention was nursed to meet the challenges of bilingualism; since the two Cameroons had operated under separate governments headed by separate prime ministers while the president was just an overseer. For political reasons with the coming of Paul Biya as president, the constitution was amended and Cameroon was converted from the unitary state to a single state, today known as ‘La Republique du Cameroun’. For political reasons the government had to introduce the central system of government where most state affairs were handled in the capital city where all the ministries are located. This makes things more difficult for the English Cameroon who had little to do with the French system and management of affairs. To further encourage national unity some French instructors were transferred to English schools to teach the French language likewise the same practices were applied to the English region. With the introduction of these languages to the respective schools, these lessons were not effective because they were treated as borrowed languages which were to be used only for communication and not for any official purposes. The existence of the two sub-systems has often resulted to the need to reduce some of their inherited diversities and to ensure comparability between certain aspect sin view of facilitating the functioning and coordination of the system within a national framework. But this has not solved the issue of the outcomes on the student. With diverse subsystems the students are the most affected component in the education system as their fate has been badly affected. In the study on the bicultural HE system in Cameroon (Watson 1994), it is argued that it is as a result of its colonial background and also of the entire bicultural educational tradition of the system. This work is based on the concept of belief and its relationship to the culture and structure applied by the HE systems by Watson (1994), who observed that as an organisational producer of sub-cultures, various participant and entities have often constructed their own meaning of HE which produces the culture and structure that pertains to various systems and through which the systems have been traditionally identified. The belief and cultural differences suggest the diversities that exist between HE systems considering that they originated from different socio-historical contexts.

Rightly, one cannot contest the fact that since the colonial era the number of schools and enrolment has increased but the learning conditions, and quality of education based on the dual education subsystem is a call for concern. From practical experience students from post high school and college levels of the French and English system of education converge at the HE level according to Cameroon’s classification. The government of Cameroon in trying to promote national unity between the two Cameroons, they have discouraged the federal system and encouraged a centralised system of government. This makes it difficult for students in both systems to integrate fully in the labour market after studies. This is as a result of the traditional heritage of a diverse system of education which came as a result of colonisation.

This is where the problem of colonisation comes into play since bicultural and bilingual entities can be seen as a key legacy of the later colonial masters the French and the British. At the HE level or university level, student from the French and English systems of education are bound to take lectures under the same roof. What the research seeks to investigate is the predicament that an English or French student finds his or herself in as the result of attending a completely French or English University. This thesis examines how the students go about life after taking a complete formal education, how they integrate into the society and the job market across the Cameroon territory. This research seeks to discover, from the student perspective, the impact of the colonisation on the education system in Cameroon. This thesis focuses on students because they are the group that are most affect by such education curriculum since they act as main point of concern of the two education systems. It is well noted that this difference in education systems has brought us to a series of key problems earlier mentioned which are necessary for the investigation.
1.1 An historical understanding of education in Cameroon

Cameroon’s educational system like many other aspects of national life in Cameroon stem from its colonial origins. The colonial history of Cameroon began with German annexation in 1884. Though British missions had been in the Cameroon since 1845, the United Kingdom recognized the area as a German protectorate called ‘Kamerun’ which was later handed over to the British and the French as a mandatory territory after the defeat of the Germans’ in the First World War (WWI). During the German colonial era, primary schools were opened in some towns. Based on an educational Law of 1910, the language of instruction in these schools was German and their subventions were contingent on promotion of German language, culture and promotion of administrative policies. By 1953 there were 531 primary schools with enrolment figure of 34.117 pupils with a few middle schools attributed to secondary school status. (Amin 1997; Ngoh 1988; Aloangamo 1978; Tchombe, 2001). At this point in time there was little or no existence of HE. Excelling and loyal graduates were sent to Germany for further studies. Cameroon remained a German colony until after the WWI. Post WWI saw one fifth of this territory which was contiguous with Eastern Nigeria was allocated to the British and the remaining four fifths was assigned to the French. The two Cameroons then became mandated to the French and British under the supervision of the League of Nations after 1919 and later after 1945 to both countries (British and France) under the United Nations.

The presence of French and British in Cameroon signifies the presence of two new colonial cultures. These two cultures were going to determine the bicultural nature of the country in its various aspect, sectors and policies when it became independent. The educational sector was target as an important medium for the transmission of the colonial cultures. The French introduce the policy of assimilation whose aim was to replace the local Cameroon African culture into typical French culture; language and civilization was pursued. Schools in Cameroon were set up and the management was controlled from France. In 1924 French officially replaced the German language as the language of instruction and the local language (Duala and Muganka) which some of which had been admitted to secondary school during the German colonial era this languages were prohibited. In the British sector vernacular was prohibited only in government schools. Ngoh (1988) shares the opinion that the British colonial policy was more decentralized, with education serving the tradition and culture of the people. However he added that educational policy in the French territory was more vigorously pursued than in the British sector. This can be seen from the point that it was just in 1939 that the first secondary school was opened in British Cameroon and this was been done with the help of the missionaries and the native authority. The structure and content of the programmes, pedagogic practices, examination and certification in French Cameroun were tailored along the French system. The baccalaureat in Cameroon was marked in France. Similarly the curriculum structure in the British Cameroon reflected the British system. Secondary schools in British Cameroon followed the Cambridge and West Africa school syllabi (Tchombe 2001, 8).

With Cameroon independent in 1960, there had been series consultations on an eventual unification between the French and British Cameroon. During a plebiscite that held on the 11th February 1961 in the British Southern and Northern Cameroon under the supervision of the UN, British Cameroonian voted to join ‘Cameroun Republic’ while those in the Northern Cameroon opted to join Nigeria to be administered from there. A draft constitution for a federation for the both Cameroon was approved by Cameroun National assembly on September 1961 and the Federation was realized in 1961. The Cameroun Republic became the East Cameroon’ the former British (Southern) Cameroons became the state of West Cameroon in a new “Federal Republique”. Consistent with the Federal structure of the country, each state maintained its previous structures, culture and constitutions. The education systems maintained their respective colonial systems and structure. When the two states became united into a federation in 1972, there was the need to reconcile the divergence in the two systems of education.

Normally the unification of Southern and Eastern Cameroon brought to the new government enormous challenges on national cohesion and in formulation national policies that were to reflect the new dispensation. This coalition brought two set of people who had inherited different colonial culture, structure, system, language and practice for ages. There was the need to restructure the constitution in order to meet the needs and aspirations of the both states. Bilingualism became one of the top issues on the agenda. According to 1972 constitution, French and English were adopted as the two official languages. The bi-jural system of the French and British law where adopted in the French and British Cameroon respectively.

The unification of these two states posed the new government with challenges to overcome the inherited traditional system which came about as a result of colonization. The unique Ministry of National Education which was created in 1957 by the French Cameroun was assigned to take care of the two education system which was characterized with system and structure divergence. Today, two systems of education exist with separate structure, Programme and examination schemes, sequencing of subjects for instruction and inherited attitudes towards education as a process of human development. (Tchombe 2001,15), the English pre-university system is structure on a total of 7-5-2 amounting to 14 years while the French on the other hand is from 6-4-3 making a total of 13 years. Similar structure, pedagogic and organizational difficulties were to spring up when the HE system began in the 1960s, most of the difficulties were in connection to those of the pre-university system or background. With an inside of the Cameroon’s educational background, this research seeks to investigate the structure, organizational pedagogic differences in these two systems of education and their impact on the students. By getting the out come of this research, I think the government of Cameroon can use this as a support fact to see which from the two systems could be better preferred to promote a better and quality education in Cameroon.


1.2 Problem formulation
Colonial influence in Cameroon has been concentrated around the coastal region of the territory and this has shaped the manner in which schools have been located in the territory. Cameroon with her different colonial masters during the colonial era paves a way for her to be subjected to three different educational systems. This country after the post-colonial era has been forced to deal with the situation by maintaining the French and British legacy that has plunged the country into a bilingual state where French and English are the official languages. The question of cultural identity has put the country into a long history of separation and a quest for equality between the French speaking Cameroonians and the English speaking Cameroonians. In addition, the French system of administration in French Cameroon was very much different from the British system of administration. These countries had their various institutions which were established to run affairs in their various mandatory territories. During the post-colonial era, Cameroon existed as two different states: French Cameroon and British Cameroon whose activities where being run by separate parliaments. Hence the referendum in 1972 saw both states coming together to form a unitary state, as mentioned each of these states has been managed by a prime minister and an overall president to oversee the affairs of the unitary state. Developments of these states were independent in terms of management and likewise an autonomous educational system. Then came Paul Biya 1982 who was appointed as president, he merged the unitary state into a single state and called it “The Republic of Cameroon”. This lead to an up rise in the struggle for regional identity since the English speaking Cameroonians felt their legacy was being suppressed especially when most of the state affairs were being run in French. With the transition of Cameroon from one colonial master to the next with the various institutions and policies it became very difficult for the current Cameroon to have a united front in terms of development.

This as well affected the system of education since both states operated under different educational curriculum; it was difficult to bring the various systems of education to a common direction. It could be seen that, during the German colonial era German was the main language of instruction and the system of education was the German model and two Cameroonian languages were also considered as part of the educational curriculum. The Duala language was taught in the schools in coastal region of Cameroon while the Mungaka was being taught in schools in the grass fields alongside the German language which was the official language. With the case of the later colonial masters this was different especially with the French who introduced the policy of assimilation where the Cameroonian residence was to be completely converted to the French life style. This changed everything and even the basic communication skills which the local Duala language was part of the school curriculum was wiped out completely, a similar case goes with their counterparts the British part of Cameroon.

This simply brings us to the research question where the thesis is in the position to find out: how Cameroon’s colonial legacy, has impacted students experiences in the contemporary system of HE? This work will make use of a series of documents, articles, reports, survey data, and theory in order to answer the research question.


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