Sunday, May 10, 2015

Higher Education Conference: Private Education Promoters’ Tough Proposals to Government

*They Want Curriculum Urgently Reviewed 
*Wish greater autonomy be given PHEIs
Participants pose for a family picture after the opening of the conference

By Christopher Ambe 
The first ever conference between the Ministry of Higher Education (MINESUP) and Private Higher Education Institutions (PHEIs) in the Southwest and Northwest Regions of Cameroon ended  on April 28,at the  Buea Mountain Hotel, with strict recommendations intended to  make  teaching and training  meet, at all-time , international standards and the needs of the job markets.
      The theme of the conference was “Strengthening the capacities of PHEIs in Quality Approach”
     The conference, which took place at the initiative of Higher Education Minister, Prof. Jacques Fame Ndongo and was chaired by Prof. Marcel Fouda, Inspector-General in MINESUP on the former’s behalf, resolved ,among others, that the Cameroon Government should give greater autonomy to PHEIs, because the present pathway towards it is very complicated.
   “There should be a new pathway based on other international accrediting organizations and countries that we think will take us to the emerging level.
 If we leave accreditation that is not linked to the emerging level, then we have failed”, Fr. George Nkeze Jingwa, Pro-Chancellor of the Catholic University Institute of Buea(CUIB) and coordinator of the conference, explained. “We are appealing to Government to allow us join them in making a proposal that will help the government achieve Vision 2035”
    The participants strongly resolved that the present curriculum in Higher Education is outdated and recommended that, it be urgently reviewed. “If we have to reach Vision 2035, then the present curriculum must be linked to industries, and not the other way round. We cannot have just course content which has no relevance to industries and society and we continue teaching people who graduate with certificates and cannot have jobs”, Fr. George Nkeze Jingwa, noted.
    According to Dr. Nick Ngwanyam, CEO of St. Louis University Institute of Health Sciences, Bamenda, the conference recommendations “are geared towards ensuring that we have proper quality of products; that the products that PHEIs deliver are able to solve the problems of Cameroon… instead of asking Chinese and Vietnamese to come and be doing things for us.
   “Your university certificate is only worth what you know and can do. And as long as you can do nothing, then your certificate is worth nothing.”
    There are nineteen (19) officially recognized PHEIs in the Southwest and twelve (12) in the Northwest giving a total of 31 in both regions, but just 19 of them participated in the conference.
    At the opening ceremony, Fr. George Nkeze Jingwa., coordinator of the conference, lauded the Minister of Higher Education for initiating such an important meeting, noting that it “will undoubtedly go a long way to foster the dream of Vision 2035 for an emerging Cameroon that was announced years back by President Paul Biya”
    He reiterated a recommendation by peers in a preparatory meeting that, the concept of “the higher” in Higher Education and any meaningful discussion must spring from the perspective of the nature of university.
   The Pro-Chancellor of CUIB noted: “A university or Higher Education Institution stands out as the apex of the educational system of any country, as a place for the pursuit and dissemination of sound knowledge through research, study, discussion, documentation, production, motivation and teaching.
  “In this light, therefore and from a philosophical and educational perspective, what distinguishes us from other institutions-be they elementary or secondary, is that in the first place “the higher” in Higher Education is characterized by its particularity (uniqueness) and universality”
     He wondered why in Cameroon “some universities are not allowed to issue attestations to their students while in same country elementary and secondary schools offer valid attestations and transcripts that are recognized all over the world.
     The Pro-Chancellor of CUIB pointed out that, having 31 private universities in the Southwest and Northwest regions “is a great asset   because it gives MINESUP or the mentoring institutions the opportunity to identify the criteria that determine the quality of a particular institution based on its mission”
    Fr. Nkeze Jingwa suggested that mentor universities should only review certificates of PHEIs “instead of being the ones to provide the certificates”
    Speaking at the conference, Prof. Marcel Fouda Ndjodo, who represented the Minister of Higher Education, admitted that private higher education institutions have become a very significant part of Higher Education in Cameroon. He cited efforts made by the State to support PHEIs grow within regulations in force.
     In answer to the worry that PHEIs are not allowed to issue certificates, Prof. Fouda reminded promoters of PHEIs that, in the country’s constitution education is in the domain reserved for the state, suggesting that certificates belong to the state. He warned that no institution can issue certificates without the delegation of power by the state and that no form of education can also be carried out without its approval.
     Papers presented, which were followed by question-and-answer sessions moderated by Dr. Nick Ngwanyam of  St. Louis University Institute of Health Sciences,Bamenda, were: ‘Restitution of Academic Inspection Missions’, ‘Capacity-Building of PHEIs in Quality Approach’ by Prof. Sarah Anyang, of MINESUP Yaounde; ‘Relevance and Significance of PHEIs in Higher Professional Education in Cameroon’ by Engineer Arrey Paul Abunaw, of University College of Technology (UCT)Buea; ‘The Relevance and Quality of Training in PHEIs’ by  Prof.  Vincent PK. Titanji of Cameroon Christian University, Bali; ‘Assessment and Character of PHEIs’ by Rev. Fr.  Michael Neba Suh of CUIB’da; ‘Mentorship of PHEIs by State & Accredited Foreign Universities’ by Mrs. Francisca Biaka of St. Francis Higher Institute of Nursing and Midwifery,Buea ; ‘Certification & Autonomy, Homologation and Independence of PHEIs’ by Prof. J.J. Asongu, of St.Monica University Institute.
    Conference co-coordinator, Engineer Arrey Paul Abunaw, of University College of Technology (UCT) Buea, said PHEIs would continue to remain very useful to the economy by training rightly and correctly. “If we identify what the economy needs, we shall train for the kinds of needed.”
     Problems faced by some PHEIs include: offering programmes that have not been approved by the Ministry; having problems with their mentor universities because they offer courses not offered by the mentors; many PHEIs don’t have the laws regulating Higher Education in Cameroon; some are understaffed, using mostly part-time lecturers from state universities
   Closing the two-day conference, the minister’s representative, expressed satisfaction at the quality of deliberations .He promised to transmit the recommendations of PHEIs to hierarchy for consideration.
   The President of the Guild of Anglo-Saxon Private Higher Institutions in Cameroon (GAPHIC), Mrs. Francisca Hongla Biaka, was particularly lauded for her input towards the successful organization of the conference
 (First published in The RECORDER,Cameroon,of May 6.2015)

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