Examinations organized by the Cameroon General Certificate of Education (GCE) Board used to make waves in yesteryears in the country’s North West and South West Regions.
Indeed, it was so because the GCE Board was seen as a priced symbol of the Anglo-Saxon culture in a predominantly French dominated country.
The GCE Board was hard earned.
The education industry in the North West Region was buoyant, with so many government, confessional and lay private schools that have since gained international prominence.
A vast majority of candidates who sat the GCE exams came from the North West and South West Regions. That was before the events of October 2016 when lawyers would go on strike to protect the Anglo-Saxon heritage, attracting teachers to join them.
When the written phase of the 2019 GCE exams rolled off on May 27 amidst the escalation of the armed conflict rocking the two English Regions, a record 17% drop from last year’s registration numbers was reported. In total, 110,543 candidates are sitting the exams against 133,104 candidates in 2018, thus a drop by 17 percent.
That the Centre and Littoral Regions enroll more candidates than the North West and South West Regions, is a pointer that all of what the teachers sought to protect in 2016 when they went on strike has been dashed. The center can no longer hold.
The Cameroon General Certificate Examination, (GCE) Board, may have achieved about nothing in its 26 years of existence. Well, it must be stated clearly that the Board has been taking strides to keep itself in the limelight.
A recent presidential modification of the statutes of the board was met with mixed feelings, understandably so because the Yaoundé regime seeks to Francophonise everything West of the Mungo.
Given the number of candidates sitting the exams from the Centre and Littoral Regions, should the GCE Board Head Office not now be moved to Yaoundé? How has stopping schools helped protect the Anglophone culture? Are Anglophones not studying and living in Francophone neighborhoods with the certainty of picking up the French culture?
Many Cameroonians of about the age of 30 or less may not be aware of the story of how the GCE Board came into being. But the greater disappointment is with people in their forties and above who seem to have forgotten or ignored the story. If such people were astute enough to remember, then they would be in a position to understand what we mean by the end of an Anglophone era as far as the Board is concerned.
For us, it is the complacency and outright sycophancy which has eaten into most Cameroonians of English language expression that is responsible for this inertia, and which has botched both the progress of the Board and the Anglophones themselves as a people.
I am aware that any mention of “Anglophone” pricks those who benefit from the present regime of this country sorely, because they keep trying to sell this illusion of “unity”, “reunification” and all that “crap” which allows Mr. Biya and his regime to continue taking the rest of the country for granted.
So it must be stated clearly that this is about the failures of the Anglophone component of this polity called Cameroon, which is engineered by the Biya junta in Yaoundé.
The Cameroon GCE Board was set up when Anglophones of this country rose up like one man against the regime and forced it to do what it hated to do. The teachers formed what was called the Teachers’ Association of Cameroon, TAC, under the leadership of Mr. Andrew Azong-Wara.
The Association later on combined forces with another association called the Confederation of Anglophone Parents and Teachers’ Associations (CAPTAC), led by Mr. Peter Chateh.
These two associations brought all Anglophones together and it took meetings, formal written requests, mass rallies, school boycotts, clashes with oppressive forces of the Biya regime, etc, lasting from 1991 to 1993, for the Board to come into being.
It is worth noting that faced with the obstinacy of the Biya regime, the Anglophones actually went ahead to start the Board themselves. That is, they made a signboard bearing Cameroon GCE Board and placed it in front of the IPAR building in Buea, then sat inside the building and continued doing TAC and CAPTAC work, including holding meetings, writing memorandums, etc. This was partly what coerced the regime into accepting the GCE Board idea.
Even after the GCE Board was formally birthed, the struggle did not end there. The first text of application did not include Technical Education Exams and it took more pressure and boycotts for it to be included.
And even after including Technical Education Exams, Mr. Robert Mbella Mbappe, the then Minister of Education, declared that he would die before such Technical Education Exams take root at the Board. For this uncouth behavior, the regime has not yet apologised to the Anglophones.
The regime just carries on as if the Anglophones deserve no better.
This is one perspective of the way the GCE Board came into being, and it is in the light of this perspective that this article is written.
That is, it took a spirit of unity for a people to stand up and fight for what is right for them, (amidst oppression), as well as boldness, courage and risk-taking, to ensure that the victory won was not lost.
Unfortunately, Anglophones have lost all these victories and have instead sold themselves cheaply to the Francophone regime in Yaounde. As can be seen, this write-up takes its thrust from the 20th anniversary of AAC1 which took place from April 2 to 3, 1993, as well as the creation of the GCE Board in July of that same year.
For long, many writers have tried to demonstrate the inability of the regime headed by Mr. Biya to score victories in any issue. Rather, while the regime devotes itself to embezzlement and squander mania, it spends the rest of its time in condemning the noble initiatives put up by individuals or groups of individuals and when they eventually succeed, the regime goes ahead to arrogate their victory to itself.
And after stealing their victory this way, it proceeds to make complete rubbish of the prize of that victory, thanks to its disastrous governance policies. More significantly, the regime lost the fight for the GCE Board, but has turned around and hijacked it. This hijacking is the major cause of the inertia that has characterised the GCE Board over the years.
The process of hijacking started way back in 1996. After the GCE examinations suffered massive leakage in 1996, the government appointed Dr. Herbert Nganjo Endeley (late) to head the investigation.
At the end, he did not find the Board guilty, but went on Cameroon Calling (a radio program) and announced as recommendation that part of the running of the GCE should go back to the government.
This statement signified that either the leakage of the GCE of that year was remotely controlled from Yaounde, so as to make the Board fail, or that Dr. Endeley was being prepared to take over the GCE Board from the bold minded, no-nonsense people who had risked their jobs, their freedom and even their lives to get the Board setup.
And sure enough, by February 1997, Dr. Endeley was appointed to replace the valiant Mr. Sylvester N. Dioh (late), an erstwhile Educationist who was in the leadership train during the struggle for the Board.
If Dr. Endeley was not the regime’s lynchpin, to help hijack the GCE Board, then we ought at that time to have known what was his opinion or point of view (not to talk of his contribution) in the three year-long battle to get the Board created.
He was, unfortunately, one of those people who saw the struggle for the Board as a North West mafia, aimed at dominating power.
And these are the type of people the Yaounde regime likes and even sponsors.
There has been a popular notion in this country that it takes an Anglophone to kill Anglophones. The regime in Yaounde does not need to hire mercenaries to suppress Anglophones because it does not lack Anglophones who are willing to do its bidding and play the role of Judas Iscariot on the GCE Board as in many other Anglophone interests.
Dr. Endeley had hardly settled down in Mr. Dioh’s seat than he went round getting some members of the GCE Board Council replaced. An example was the replacement of the representative of the Catholic and the Moslem Education agencies. These new people who came in were given the main agenda: “Get Azong Wara voted out as Registrar”.
Even the old members of the Council, whom Dr. Endeley maintained, like Mr. Jackoi (late), who was also involved in the struggle for the Board, were also schooled to obey the agenda: Azong Wara must go!
That is how Endeley succeeded in executing the government’s plan and this is how the Board went into a coma.
The revolution that created the Board died. From then on, it was easy to bring in Dr. Omer Weyi Yembe, who had always been an apologist of the Ahidjo/Biya regime.
In taking over from Azong-Wara in March 1997, the regime wrote a new text of application of the Board, which included an examination called BAC in English and Yembe was to come and execute it. Since then, the Board, instead of developing its own Technical Examinations fashioned like the GCE in general education, which they were already handling with dexterity, instead started grappling with this BAC in English imposed by the regime.
It should be noted that one of the teething problems that have induced the flow of huge amounts of ink and saliva among the Anglophones was the introduction by Dr. Yembe of the Board running two similar exams in technical and commercial education, one imposed by the regime, and one which it tried to develop since 1997.
Monono Ekema Humphrey as Registrar tried to continue the development of the GCE Technical Examinations through a syllabus review process. But the results are still to be seen.
However, considering the spirit which achieved the GCE Board, it is still difficult to understand how the BAC in English came to be part of the Board and the Anglophone education system. In fact, the toil and pain which Azong-Wara and his team at the helm of the Board went through to get the GCE technical examinations off the ground was just wasted.
Faced with threats from Mr. Robert Mbella Mbappe, (an incarnation of this regime), the pioneer Registrar of the GCE Board got two pioneer Examination Officers, Mr. Victor Nyenty and Mr. Oliver Binda (late) to get the examinations in commercial, business and industrial subjects started. This was as early as 1995. By then the fervor which characterised the struggle for the GCE Board was still on.
These two people, with Azong-Wara coordinating as Registrar, trekked, spent their personal money, convened meetings of stakeholders in technical education, put in their intellectual resources, spent energy to get the GCE Board to organise this examination in 1995. On top of all these hardships Mr. Nyenty had to borrow money from tontine (njangi) houses in Tiko and other places to sustain the GCE Board and its work, although the teachers and Cameroonians vilified Mr. Azong-Wara for embezzling funds.
The determination then was to develop this examination from the few specialties which were being offered, to a full-fledged examination in technical education. But this was not to be because by 1997 the GCE Board was taken over by men who were essentially apologists of the status quo, ready only to do the will of Yaounde, instead of doing what is right and good for their Anglophone heritage.
If that spirit which started the GCE Board had continued, we would not have two parallel technical education examinations running, one with a phony name which exists nowhere else in the world: BAC in English. Anglophones would have ended up with complete technical examinations set up, from which even other countries would borrow ideas. That was part of the mission and vision of the GCE Board. Some observers have asked if the Francophones also have a GCE in French in their own part of the country thus; the BAC Board?
Today, the fight for the independence of a country called Ambazonia has drowned all the efforts ever made to have a truly Anglo-Saxon examination board in Cameroon. Everything is now sliding into the hands of Francophones as Anglophone children stay out of school for exactly three academic years.
With the fourth one in sight, it may not be too late to pick the pieces and do the right thing – allow schools to resume in the North West and South West Regions and spare Anglophones the pain and frustration.
Mimi Mefo Info Editorial