By Chief Foanyi Nkemayang Paul, August 30,2016
(THE STAR) Hundreds of Cameroonians and denizens from other African nations have lashed out at Cameroon’s Minister of Higher Education Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo for sailing in troubled waters he knows very little about. On August 23, 2016, Fame Ndongo signed what many described as a scandalous Press Release urging the public not to recognize degrees issued by the Pan-African Institute for Development (PAID/WA), an institution created in Geneva, Switzerland on February 28, 1964 to assist African Nations.
He warned that candidates registering in the institute for Bachelors, Masters and Ph.D programmes are doing so at their risk because their certificates will not be recognized by the Ministry of Higher Education in Cameroon. Many who read Fame Ndongo’s tirade have described it as a joke in bad taste, given that he was nothing in governance when the institution was created with President Paul Biya, then Secretary General in the Cameroon Ministry of Education as a Member of the Scientific Committee of PAID. As Head of State, Paul Biya has done a lot to keep the institution afloat as it is growing from strength to strength.
Today, the Pan-African Institute has five Regional headquarters in Africa that cater for the Continent. These countries include Campus PAID-WA, Buea, Cameroon, Campus IPD-AOS, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, Campus PAID-ESA, Kabwe, Zambia and Campus IPO-AN, Sale, Morocco.
Nobody had expected this unbecoming piece of news: “The Minister of Higher Education, Chancellor of Academic Orders, informs the public in general and the higher education community in particular, that the Pan-African Institute for Development in West Africa (PAID-WA) is not affiliated with the Higher Education System of Cameroon. Consequently, candidates registering in this institute for Bachelors, Masters, and Ph.D. programs are doing so at their own risks, because their certificates are not going to be recognized by the Higher Education of Cameroon”.
This was the bomb-blast which occurred last week, and many tongues are wagging over the matter. Certainly this outrageous document which was widely circulated with instructions that it should be read many times has provoked the people’s wrath. Fame Ndongo’s Press Release is aimed at disengaging the institution, from its planned platform of professional and academic activities, and this can be quite frustrating for all and sundry. But, above all, it is an overwhelming shock to the Anglophones of this nation who are not unaware of the vision and mission of PAID-WA ever since its officialdom in 1964.
Nobody can understand why the Ministry of Higher Education should disdain an international institution which has been the core of higher education and training in the Anglophone sub-region of West Africa since 1964, when it was created. By then, no other institution of its level existed in Cameroon except the University of Cameroon, Yaounde, created a year earlier. This was when there was only one Ministry of Youth and Education.
In this light, one readily questions why the officials intend to wash down the worth of the only diploma-awarding institution in the Anglophone sector which had existed before the creation of the Ministry of Higher Education.
However, one equally agrees that the Ministry should oversee all the institutions of higher learning in the country including IRIC, IPD-Douala and PAID-WA in Buea which maintain the same international recognition. But must these institutions dance to any tune of the government of Cameroon, whereas their funding comes from elsewhere? The truth should be said that the Pan-African Institute for Development in West Africa, Buea, is an international institution, and must not necessarily bend to the whims and caprices of the Ministry of Higher Education in Cameroon. Its international network and association is not limited to Cameroon. Its program is jointly operated in five regional institutes of equal status and statute: Institute Panafricain pour le Developpement de l’Afrique Centrale (IPA-AC) which covers the Central African Francophone Region; PAID-ESA for the Eastern and Southern African Region; IPD-AOS for the Western and Sahel Francophone Region; and IPD-AN for the Northern Region of Africa, so it is that by the international status of PAID-WA, Buea, it is not directly answerable to the government of Cameroon, even if majority of its staff and students are Cameroonians, and even Anglophone specifically.
Like the other four institutions of the same status across the continent of Africa, PAID-WA works according to a specific organizational chart, and its governing council of 16 members is made up of other African nationals with only three from Cameroon. It is true that the government of Cameroon plays a very important role as a partner, especially with its multifaceted support to the General Secretariat and the R-PAID based in Douala and Buea. But it should equally be noted that its partnership comprises over 20 national and private bodies. While the institution should express gratitude for this assistance and its security, it is not incumbent on the Ministry of Higher Education to issue this highly malicious statement which seems politically motivated. Does Fame Ndongo know the disaster he has caused to bear on those who have obtained degrees from PAID/WA and are either pursuing further education or working with those certificates? This could cause a serious diplomatic snarl.
For over 52 years now, PAID-WA has carried out its mission and professional vision for the region in terms of training, field research, capacity-building, support-consultancy services and publications. In fact, field work remains its principal focus in all its operations; for it ensures that what is learnt in class reflects that needs on the ground and can easily be transmitted, using the most appropriate methodology. This is hardly what obtains in most institutions of higher learning under the Ministry, since they are only academically focused.
What is even quite upsetting is the fact that the Ministry has opted to include PAID-WA, Buea, among private higher institutions around the fast growing Buea metropolis. Surely, if Buea is what is today, one gives grace to the omnipotence and omniscience of the University of Buea. Many institutions of professional orientation may be taking advantage of its ubiquity; but this cannot be said of PAID-WA which had seen sunlight long before the University of Buea was created. It is therefore wishful thinking for Minister Fame Ndongo to forbid the University of Buea from collaborating with PAID-WA. It goes without saying that if candidates who should be admitted in the University are diverting to professional institutions, the onus is on the officials of the University and the Ministry of Higher Education to create truly professional courses in their program. It should not be a case of political manipulation similar to this, after all, Buea has more than 10 University Institutes. One of them is the St. Monica University which Fame Ndongo also cited in his belated and offending Press Release.