Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Cameroon:Kumba HTTTC for Anticipating the Future, Not Political Grandstanding!

By Asonganyi Tazoacha

The theatrics around suspected brigands and pilferers of the public purse should only amuse, not surprise us. If anything, one should be asking why now, not several years ago when the same names started floating around in all forms. In any case, the important thing is to keep our eyes on the ball. This is why the Kumba Higher Technical Teacher Training College(HTTTC) issue should not be lost in the melee.

There has been a lot of grandstanding around the creation of Kumba HTTTC, with many politicians auto-proclaiming themselves the legitimate parents, while others have been scrambling to have it situated as near their ancestral compounds as possible. And yet others have been fighting over who would sign “motions of support” or of “thanks and reverence,” since such archaic activities have become the pastime of self-appointed politicians, and an avenue for reminding their God-sent maker of rain and sunshine, of those who need appointment, promotion or other personal favours.  Interestingly, others are even promising their political supporters that they will “pack them into HTTTC Kumba”!

It is difficult to believe that these are the same people who have been complaining about the neglect of Anglophobe technical education since “reunification” in 1961; it is also difficult to believe that it is the same people or their parents who, since reunification were looking forward to Ombe Trade Centre to be developed by 1963 to a full-fledged Technical Institute with the status of a British Polytechnic, offering the Ordinary National Diploma (OND) in the first cycle and the Higher National Diploma (HND) in the second cycle. They are all behaving as if all the clamouring by Anglophones for the renaissance of their technical education was not a demand for rights but for gifts or favours from the all-powerful giver!

From all the signals received so far, it is clear that the CPDM regime does not intend to allow Kumba HTTTC to play the role that such institutions play in other places as centres for anticipating the future. Like several other such institutions in Cameroon, it may end up with the appointment of politicians, not experts as managers. Indeed, like all other “technical” colleges in Cameroon. Kumba HTTTC may end up as a technical college only in name, because of the absence of the sophisticated technology for hands-on training; only hands-on training can produce graduates capable of imparting high-tech skills that are necessary not only for designing new technologies, but also for the maintenance of already existing technologies that are with us today.

The purpose of an institution like Kumba HTTTC should be to train “teachers” who, in turn, will be able to provide the students they train with the discipline, confidence, pride and assertiveness, and the knowledge to create and transform new knowledge and ideas into goods (products), services and processes that are competitive because they meet market needs. The discipline imparted in such an institution should not just be about obeying orders, however good-intentioned; it should be the discipline to pay attention to details. This requires careful and rigorous training because designing of technology requires extraordinary self-discipline - the sort that only careful and rigorous training can induce.

Although Cameroon is still essentially an agricultural society, most of those it presently interacts with in the world have moved from agricultural, through industrial to information societies. In essence, all societies have become a mixture of all three, in differing proportions. For example, it is usually said that by the year 1800, 90% of American society was involved in agriculture, producing 100% of the food they needed; today, just 3% of the population produces 120% of the food they need – the surplus is stored or exported. The population has shifted first to industry, and then to information. This is true of most of the Western countries, and other countries that are genuinely struggling to catch-up at varying rates.

If 70-80% of the Cameroon population is still involved in agriculture, this means that the rest are either in industry or in information, or are doing nothing. In each of the sectors, people are itching to introduce technology, in order to increase output. In doing so, they should understand that technology is not meant to liberate us from personal discipline and responsibility; indeed, technology can only solve our problems or better our lives if we take personal responsibility for it.

This means that when institutions like Kumba HTTTC are created, their principal mission should be to produce graduates capable of generating knowledge and ideas; to produce a rich mix of graduates characterized by creativity, innovation, experimentation and change; indeed, to produce people with the brain power to support the capital investment that is supposed to be ploughed into the institution and into the economy they will move into, when they will eventually move into society. This also means that those appointed to manage the institution should not be cronies, sycophants or loud-sounding, empty politicians; they should be people with knowhow, expertise, and management skills. They should not be people who would use party cover to engage in corruption to admit third rate candidates, or in the embezzlement of the public money put at the disposal of the institution.

Kumba HTTTC should be a hen for business; a hen that lays eggs that hatch into viable businesses because it is a centre for imparting knowledge, entrepreneurship and innovation. It should be a business spinning-off centre because it produces highly skilled manpower that is internationally competitive. If we do not anticipate the future in this way, we will soon become a dumping ground for all types of “new” technologies, and a graveyard for failed technologies that cannot be maintained in a viable state, because we lack the expertise to do so.

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