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



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CHAPTER 4 –Analysis I: THE CHALLENGES OF HE IN CAMEROON

Category 1, for the government or the administration to operate a successful education system the economic, political and the labour of the area must be taken into due consideration. Yes this is an ideal case but with the context of Cameroon, the current education is a relic of colonial legacy though with system dynamics the government of Cameroon in the early 1990s went through an educational reform which saw some changes in the HE sector. The politics behind the existence of HE in Cameroon is not base on merit but sometime it is base on development, most universities in Cameroon are located in areas where development is slow a typical example is the newly created University of Maroua. The government believes that with the location of a university in area of such characteristic will foster development. Normally university of various characteristics such as Technical, Business Institution should be located closer to industrialise or market oriented regions where the students can easily integrate in to the job market or even get themselves into useful internship programs but to the case of Cameroon is different. The reason behind such a misunderstanding between the formal education system and external determinant is as a result government failed policy in the allocation of HE institutions. This resulted with the increase unemployment rate of university graduates. Some universities such as the University of Maroua is located because of influential elites in the government, the area is not actually taken into consideration to see if it actually meet the criteria to be offer a full flesh university. This can result in the politics of such region being vulnerable to political unrest which sometimes leads to a pause in semester hence living most students into confusion a good example was the strike at the University of Buea in 2005 which lead to a halt of university activities for five months. According to HESA’s performance indicators, the proportion of graduates who were unemployed six months after they left university rose by more than a third, from 5.7 % to 8.2 %, in 2007-08. Since then, the economic situation has worsened. The number of Cameroonians that are employed fell from 63 % to 61 % while 15 % went onto further study and 7 % to study and work.6



The second category seeks to explain how the geographic and demographic contexts interact with the education system. The theory tried to outline the flow between the environment and the system, educational policies are adopted based on the increase in population and how the population is distributed in the national territory. Areas with increase population sizes will always influence the location of HE institutions a clear example can be related to the newly created Bamenda University this May 2011 which was a presidential decree signed by the president of the Republic of Cameroon during his visit to Bamenda. According to the Cameroon Post, May 2011 the population of Bamenda had long ago met all criterions for a state university to be established in Bamenda but due to political reasons it was delayed but with increase in student population from high schools and colleges it leaves the administration with no choice other than to approve the university.

Also on the other hand, the educational policy can favour a minority group in order to avoid the loss of its legacy. The newly created University of Maroua was opened as a result of boosting the Muslims to take education seriously7. MINISEC 2004, the Muslim populations in the Northern region of Cameroon who are attending school are actually a small number of students. The government believes this region faces a challenge to change their mentality and approach on education of girls. With the globalisation of education one can vision the pressure on the administration of such an institution to maintain gender equality.

The geographical aspect of this theory is in relation to climate, size and distance. The location of an educational institution will work in favour of accessibility not living out the climatic condition of the area. But this case is not usually applicable in all cases in sub Sahara Africa especially with Cameroon. The University of Buea is located at the foot of the Fako Mountain which is an active volcanic zone. This region experiences a huge flow of lava in 1998 and 2001 respectively. This university was created due to increase student population in the University of Yaounde I and also to subdue the pressure mounted by the Anglo pressure group on the government to implement the Anglophone legacy in the face of HE in Cameroon. This move by the government was also seen as a campaign strategy to gain favour among the citizens. To take into consideration the view of this theory, the standard of education can actually be improved if the objectives of Watson are measured without bias. But in the case study much is still to be done by the government of Cameroon to meet the global education challenges.

The third face of this theory seeks to explain how social context seeks to impacts the experience of students in HE. This theory tries to give an understanding of the social aspects which deals with belief, culture, language, religion and historical development. These social aspects must interact within the HE system in the form of HE shaping and influencing educational policies in most countries in Sub-Sahara Africa.

In the case of Cameroon, most of the HE institutions were established under the traditional systems of the French and the first ever created English University with an Anglophone tradition was also created based on Anglophone belief and culture. The quality of education in Cameroon has grown over the recent years, the strive for gender equality has increased and the rate of girl child enrolment into HE has also grossly increased over the years. The location and system structure of most HE establishments in Cameroon are influenced by the culture, language and beliefs depending on the location, which has been previously designed by the colonial masters. The language of instruction in all the HE institutions in the French region is the French language and most of the courses are taught in French, the management of the system depends basically on the Francophone traditional system, this is the same with the case of their English counterpart. The education system is not in isolation it interact its environment so closely. Today with the increase in global HE most HE institutions are under pressure to meet world standardised criterion for a HE institution hence giving way for some terms of this theory to be compromise.

International relations seem to be a very important aspect in improving on the quality of education in most developing countries in the world. Here a host of international donors like the World Bank, IMF, UN, UNESCO, and non-governmental organisations can really act as good example in shaping educational policies and not withstanding improving on the quality of education. In the case of Cameroon, most governments in Developing countries had invested on educational infrastructure, governments including the government of Japan, United States, and France under the Francophonie and Britain under the Common Wealth with the supervision of French and British embassies respectively. With the amount of financial obligation they had made toward a positive educational progress in Cameroon they can easily change the way of enrolment, the payment of tuition and the quality of the leaning process. Over the past years, most universities in Cameroon had benefited from donor assistance to improve infrastructure, quality of teaching to assure staff development and encourage research. The University of Buea received a grant from French Cooperation Mission in assisting in the building of a central core of the east wing of the university library, as well as research funding from the European Economic Community, the Atomic Energy Agency, the Swedish International Programme in Chemical Sciences and others8. Recently funds had been awarded by the Francophonie to promote development in the University of Douala, University of Dschang and University of Yaounde I respectively. In addition, the Canadian government is also involved in the distance education leaning in the University of Dschang. This can highly be seen as a transition from the modern colonial system of education to a more fashionable and current system which is highly influenced by globalisation.
4.2 British colonial education
The British colonial administration did not vigorously pursue education in British Cameroon. Elementary education was left in the hands of the government, Native Administration, Missions and natives. In 1924 a government regulation made education uniform. This regulation had the following provisions9

  • Infants were provided with free education

  • Primary school pupils were charged with free education

  • The use of vernacular was prohibited in government schools because the pupils came from different tribes

  • Pidgin was allowed in the initial stages


The main objectives of British colonial education was in the platform of training civil servants for colonial exploitation such as a clerk who could work in the administration, business plantations and security service. The Mission regarded education as a means to spreading the word of God by training catechism, instructors, pastors and clerks while the Native Administration saw education s a means of saving ethnic clans and villages. Education in Cameroon was dictated by British Education Policy for Nigeria. In 1926, the Nigeria education department regulations were officially implemented in southern Cameroon. In the following year, 1927, the Memorandum on the Place of the Vernacular in Native Education allowed the use of vernacular as a medium of instruction in the first stage of elementary education while the English language was to be used in intermediate, secondary and technical schools. The British colonial systems classified schools in British Cameroon as elementary school and there was no distinction in HE institutions. When elementary education was officially uniformed in Southern Cameroon, the curriculum included the teaching of Hygiene, Agriculture, reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Singing and Religious Instruction. Preparation for the First School Living Certificate began in standard one. In 1932, the educational cycle in Cameroon was reduced from nine years to eight years. It was divided as follows: two years infant class (Infant I and infant II), four years elementary class (Standard I, II, III and IV) and two years middle (Middles I and II). Running fund for institution were derived from sale of produce from school farms, school fees, school manual labour, grants-in-aid from the native Administrations, Government expenditures and Mission Funds. Formal education was pursued in Nigeria and admission was based on entrance exams. In 1939, the first secondary school in British Cameroon was opened at Sasse and almost ten years later, the Cameroon Protestant College was open at Bali. These colleges were opened only to boys this is to tell how gender discriminating education had been in the colonial days.
4.4. French Colonial Education
Education in French Cameroon was left in the hands of missionary societies. In 1937, there were 85,000 pupils in mission elementary schools under the Catholic Mission, the French Protestant Mission, the American Protestant Mission and the American Adventist Mission. In addition to the above missions, the Norwegian and Sudanese also had some schools while some cultural associations had public lay schools. In 1939, the government had several rural and regional primary schools with an Advanced Primary School at Yaounde, a professional school in Douala and a professional health school in Ayos. Secondary and technical institutions were also established. The Ecole Normale at Foulassi was opened by the Protestant Mission. The French educational policies were based on language. This colonial system had three levels of education, the first elementary which took seven years (primaire elementaire), secondary took six to seven years leading to second baccalaureate10 (superieur et professional) and technical. The technical and instructor-training courses which had a separate curriculum from standard courses were available at secondary level. At all levels the language of instruction was basically French and admission into secondary schools were based on entrance exams. Subsequently two baccalaureate exams were offered, one after three years of secondary education, one terminating secondary school. With the French colonial system of education, no HE was possible. Qualified students went to France to pursue HE and exceptional student were awarded scholarship to relocate in France to further their education. HE was not seen as any problem in French Cameroon since qualified students were given the opportunity to further study in France and French culture was seen as unique to all French Cameroonians since there was a chance for other vernacular to be taught in French schools apart from the French language. The leading aim of French education was to spread the knowledge of the French language throughout Cameroon and to limit real education to the number needed by the administration. They were against the idea of producing a class of educated unemployed. Thus, the number of educated Cameroonians who benefited from upper-level education was not as impressive as the general record of French education in the territory. Evidence of such was realised when out of the 680 enrolled in 1927 to 1937 where only 118 were beyond the third year of education11. Considering the primary position Cameroon enjoyed in education in French Equatorial Africa, these numbers of graduates were virtually disappointing. Yet all in all, Cameroonians had better opportunity to pursue education than any other French colony in Black Africa.
4.5. Post-Colonial Education
After the British and French colonial masters left Cameroon, an attempt to reform the education system and the basic step was to merge both education systems but this never worked out. The two present education system is Cameroon remain very much separated from each other today. These systems had undergone some slight changes in some areas but their structure and philosophy remain unchanged. Amin (1994, pp248 – 257)) agues that there has been more continuity than change in the English education system until 1993, the national exams for English speaking Cameroonians were coordinated, designed in Britain and sent to Cameroon and later returned to Britain for grading with the educational reforms in 1993 the management of these exams were transferred to Cameroon General Certificate of education Board and this new management implemented some curriculum revision. From this point, education was left in the hands of the Ministry for National Education who later implemented the nation wide policy of bilingualism. But after independence bilingualism was made official with French and English as the countries official languages. Students were encouraged to learn and to speak both languages, with such attempt the government opened some bilingual schools to help students in familiarising themselves with such languages but they were not successful in bringing student from both systems together. French and English language lessons are taken by students from both systems.
4.6. Classifying the British and French systems of Higher Education (HE)
In order to provide greater clarity on the topic, it was deemed necessary to undertake a cross examination of the original British and French systems of HE.\From the historical perspectives, some differences can be discussed from the two systems in their system structures,.

The French system of HE has been characterised by strong and centralized state control (Clark 1983; Ben – David 1977, Amaral et al., 2002). Ben David (1977, p17) asserts that the centralized nature of French HE is historically founded in the original intention of the French reformers which viewed the privileged groups and institutions as the enemy and not the state. Since HE was initially reserved for civil service career and patterned accordingly, it seems obvious that the strong involvement of state could not be averted. On the contrary, the Anglophones model was based on the fact that HE was too important to be left in the political whims of the nation state (Anaral et al 2002, 281). Whereas historically, the British system was much more liberal HE oriented, the French system traditionally favoured expert or specialized education (Ben-David; Fox & Weize 1980; Clark 1983; Rothblatt 1993).

Initially, more institutional autonomy was retained in the Britain system and to an extent, inter institutional coordination with the case of university grant committee which performed system functions (Clark 1983, 119). But recent phenomena amongst which growing cost of HE, changing government perspectives which seem to have turned the locus of power from institution to state with abolishment of the UCG whose pattern of funding assured institutional autonomy to a government-controlled (University Funding Council) and various quality assurance agencies. In the UK there seem to be a deliberated strengthening of market state steering approach to HE through the introduction of fees and determination of thresholds by the central government as per the White Paper of 2003 ( ENQA, 2005). This mix seems to be a stroke oriented enterprise (OECD 2006, 22) French HE remains largely public and centralised. Amaral et al (2002) speculates that this tendency in France is likely to remain the same in future. In the UK there are structural debates as per white paper, the HE may eventually be split into teaching and research institutions with the government concentrating research funding in smaller number of universities leading to a two tier or differentiated HE system. (ENQA 2005). In France discussions continue about straggling mainstream university Faculties and the well endowed Grandes Ecoles (OECD 2006, 22).

One of the major historical trends in French HE has been its adaptation to the Bolonga Process notably in the degree structure and credit system with both Britain and France as signatories. Some studies revealed differences in the two countries’ approaches in the implementation of the BP. The French degree structure was previously composed of several cycles and intermediate certificates. Following the Bologna Process, university level degree structures in France have been changing from 2 years to 3 years leading to the Licence corresponding to 180 ECTS for the first stage. And the second cycle leading to another 3 years and finally the third cycle corresponds to doctoral studies obtained degree after a minimum of three years of intensive research under the supervision of a research professor and a successful defence (IAU, 2004). Before the adoption of the BP the French had very fragmented system where complete HE cycles were furnished with very long years of study especially in the case of Cameroon. In the late 80s it was difficult to find a young student with a Doctorate degree and an average PhD graduate was 38 years reference could be made from the University of Yaounde I, where doctorate degree graduates in the department of History and Modern Letter respectively had an average age of 38 out of the seven candidates (Nkwi 2006, pp, 235). Even with the signing of the BP, this traditional system was still practiced in French universities, it was in 2006 where a harmonization policy to transform education in Cameroon found favour to adopt the Anglophones system of Bachelor, Masters and Doctorate. It was in 2008 where Professor Dorothy Njeuma finally adopted the LMD which has been a typical Anglophone system in HE. This system favours students at a very early age and encourages them to specialize on different areas not the French systems which make some university study programmes useless unless you write a competitive entrance exam and get into a specialised course after graduation (Nkwi (2006) p235-236).

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