The General Certificate of Education whether Ordinary Level or Advanced Level has been the hallmark of the Anglo-Saxon education in Cameroon. For years, Francophone students have been flocking in to Anglophone Cameroon (here after referred to as Southern Cameroon or West Cameroon) to be educated within the Anglo-Saxon system of education and thereafter sit in for the GCE. The GCE which constitutes part of the British colonial legacy in Southern Cameroon before the arrival of neo-colonialist. This system has help strengthened the education system in Cameroon and made it what it is today.
World Bank (2014) argues that the assessment strategies used by the education system is problematic and there is need for review. The report further stated that “in the future, the public authorities should be able to focus on the most important issues by improving data collection in order to better track the delivery of education services, assessing student outcomes in a more systematic manner, …ensuring transparency in budget appropriations, and reexamining the textbook policy to ensure the sustainability and affordability of these tools.” This speaks to the already existing challenges in assessment and why assessment patterns needs need to be strengthened. Fomunyam 2016 argues that assessment is the collection of data on a particular subject for further analysis and improvement. As such for the quality of education in Cameroon to improve, assessment practices need to improve. It is from this backdrop that the bastardization of the GCE in Cameroon signals the collapse of the Cameroonian society.
Hanushek, Woessmann, Jamison & Jamison (2008) argue that the future of any economy is heavily reliant on the education system to produce a strong workforce which would not only ensure continuity in the society but breathe new life into the economy. They continue that when the average number of years of schooling in a country was higher, the economy grew at a higher annual rate over subsequent decades. Specifically, we found that, across the 50 countries, each additional year of average schooling in a country increased the average 40-year growth rate in GDP by about 0.37 percentage points. This is to say that one happens in the education system within a year in a country has economic repercussions for close to fifty years. Schools have been shut down in Southern Cameroon since November 2016 as a result of the Anglophone problem which the government denied its existence. The government has done all in its power to ensure that schools result to no avail. Southern Cameroon let by the Consortium initiated the devastating Operation Ghost town which has succeeded in keeping schools closed for six months. As I have argue somewhere else Fomunyam 2017, Operation Ghost emerged as a drastic political move to with untold economic consequences. The consequences of ghost towns which culminate in the total or partial shutdown in some cases of the economy in these two regions have already strained the Cameroonian economy. The consequences of GCE 2017 would therefore be unimaginable for the Cameroons regardless of the end result of the struggle. These consequences can be summarized in five key points.
- The academic year in Cameroon is stretch over a nine months period with the remaining three months being for end of school year holidays. Schools have been shut in Southern Cameroon for six months meaning pupils or learners have neither the knowledge, skills, experience nor know-how which education at their level is supposed to provide regardless of how they perm in the exams. These means that at the end of the day, the government would be certifying ignorant individuals with no skills to make any meaningful contribution to the economy. These same individuals would be joining the public service this same year and some due to political connections would be appointed to positions of leadership without the commensurate skills to function in the same.
- By allowing all and sundry to sit in for the exams regardless of whether you registered for it or not, the government is opening the door for anybody willing to write to sit in. The prevailing conditions in Southern Cameroon has forced the government to focus on security in the examination centers rather than effectiveness and accountability in the administering of the exams. This is to say that students can act anyhow they like in examination halls especially since they are being invigilated in some cases by police men (as purported by the government), some of whom have never sat for the exams themselves and neither know what it means or what it takes to succeed. At the end of the day, it will be a certification for disaster and the collapse of the Cameroonian economy.
- By continue with the examination in this region, the government is completely destabilizing the education system and bring it to compromising position which will take decades to recover from. The government is pushing students to move from Form 5(the last of the five years which make up secondary school) to Lower sixth (the first of the two years in higher school) without acquiring the social capital, linguistic competence and academic expertise required to function at such level. This means that in Lower Sixth, teachers would be forced to compromise on what was supposed to be taught in Lower Sixth to bring students up to speed and the cycle will continue meaning students would never know what exactly they were supposed to know. This also applies to those in Upper Sixth (the last of the two years of high school) being certified to enter the university. Imagine the consequences of having a doctor operate on you, who lacks appropriate knowledge and skills on how to operate on a patient.
- The exams is a political manoeuver by the government to create othered citizens who would sing political praises and celebrate the megalomaniac manner in which the nation is governed. It goes against the pedagogy of the oppressed which is supposed to be the determining ideology and pedagogical donjon of the education system. It is geared at revering the change in the social order which the Anglophone problem has create or is continuously creating. However this reverse is not for the better but for worse. This is so because it would produce below mediocrity at its best, a disaster on the average and at the basic level a meltdown. In other words, the government is arguing that it is creating solutions to Anglophone problem and creating several positions for them to increase decentralization and balance. However in a year or two, the technocrats needed to fill these positions (if the nation were ever to remain the way it is structurally) would be these unqualified graduates certified by the government and when they fail to produce at the level required of them, they would be replaced returning the statusquo the way it was. On the other hand, they would remain in these positions and further destroy the Cameroonian society and economy already plagued by untold, misery, corruption, marginalization, embezzlement and tribalism.
- Niccolo Machiavelli in his book The Prince warns that ‘‘the way men live is so far removed from the way they ought to live that anyone who abandons what is for what should be pursues his downfall rather than his preservation’’. The idea that the GCE exams is ought to be written every year is understood by all. But the prevailing circumstances dictate that the examination has no basis for this year. The government and ministers of education as Michael Foucault puts it are simply on a mission to eviscerate the will of the people and show how ferociously powerful the authority they will is and this always leads to downfall rather than preservation. The politics of education and the education of politics by and large destroys the economic returns of education, making the millions of francs CFA if not billions spent to ensure that this exams take place a waste of public resources. This is outright state capture and as we have seen in South Africa and elsewhere, never ends well.
Therefore the people of the Cameroons should get set for the devastating consequences of these exams regardless of how the struggle ends. It will torment both Cameroons for decades to come. The ministers of education claiming to be experts in education must examine the consequences of their actions and declare the exams void before releasing an atomic bomb into the Cameroon society in the name of graduate class.
By Dr. George Fomunyam
Editor in Chief Knowledge for Transformation