Thursday, August 18, 2011
SCALING UP COMMONWEALTH OF LEARNING IN CAMEROON
By Helen Ayamba Egbe
Discussions on scaling up the Commonwealth of Learning in Cameroon have opened with the National Focal Point, Professor Ivo Leke Tambo, according to Canal 2 Tv International. In an interview, Professor Tambo highlighted how far COL activities have evolved in Cameroon since 2003 and action that has taken place since he was appointed by the Prime Minister. In the interview, Prof. Tambo also explained what Commonwealth means to Cameroonians.
Professor Leke Tambo was appointed by the Prime Minister in 2006 and since then the Commonwealth of Learning has worked with many ministries and organised groups. He added, that it was judged important to have a national focal point that could help to coordinate the various activities of the Commonwealth of Learning in Cameroon. With the setting up of the Commonwealth of Learning, the agency was considered as an instrument put in place by the 54 governments of the Commonwealth family to promote especially Open Distance Learning, Information and communication Technology as far as it is applied to education for sustaining development and livelihood growth of members of the groups and individuals in the member countries.
Before 2006, the Commonwealth of Learning was a consultant for organizing a national workshop on Open Distance Learning in Cameroon with the technical support of the Ministry of Higher Education in 2003. It was during the workshop that the recommendations were made at the end for Open Distance Learning to be introduced in Cameroon. Before the 2003 workshop, the Commonwealth of Learning had been working with the University of Dschang in the programs of Agriculture and the lead person was Professor Ajanganji. University of Dschang initiated programs in agriculture and various areas.
When Professor Ivo Leke Tambo was appointed in 2006 as the focal point, a major problem arose when the different ministries started writing to the Commonwealth requesting for the creation of Open Distance Learning possibilities in their sectors in Cameroon. When the mails requesting the establishing of Open University were received at the Commonwealth of Learning, the reply was that the government had first to implement the workshop recommendations made in 2003, which stated that to insure that Open Distance Learning goes on smoothly in the country, a legal framework to facilitates the introduction must be put in place. The legal frame needed to answer questions on what modules that Cameroon wants to implement and whether the Open University will take a module of the formal university by running face to face programs and at the same time having groups as students who are outside learning setting, by using the distance model? The document needed to say what people want to do? What the role of other partners would be and who wants to intervene? Another major problem was on how quality of the learning process and certification was to be assured?
All of these issues had to be addressed for the harmonization of diplomas and their recognition, because we know in Open Distance Learning, there are some degree mills, where some institutions issue junk degrees. What these institutions do is that they receive money in exchange of degrees created from their Lap tops. They even produce Masters or P.HD degrees without the persons going through any educational institution. These are degree mills and it is the role of the government to check against these malpractices and insuring that these types of things do not happen in Cameroon. That is why it is necessary to develop a legal framework and this has been realized through the support of the Commonwealth of Learning. A local consultant, Professor Ajanganji was recruited to work with the Commonwealth of Learning and the university concern to produce a framework document and a draft decree for introducing Open Distance Learning in Cameroon. The document was forwarded to hierarchy and everybody is waiting for it to be signed before it becomes effective.
The next other program done in Cameroon with the assistance of the Commonwealth of Learning, concerns the introduction of Open School in Cameroon. The operational document and developed programs for introducing Open School in the Ministries concerned with Education have been prepared. This document is also with hierarchy and everybody is waiting and expecting the reaction of the government, because this document takes care of non-formal education. Thus with the Open School modules, Professor Leke Tambo emphasizes that, people who have abandoned school for one reason or the other at different levels, can come back and learn at their pace and at their own time. When the document would have been signed, it is going to help a lot to regulate non formal education.
The University of Dschang has been running a program in agriculture and other areas. This is in many ways considered as a non formal program. At the University of Buea, they introduced through the support of the Commonwealth of Learning, a program in teacher education by distance, which is functioning in the 10 regions of Cameroon.
To do this, Professor Leke Tambo and others received training from Quebec and later from the Open University in Lagos, Nigeria. Although he spent about two weeks with the Open University in Lagos, and even with the other institution in Quebec before moving to China with Beijing University, these travels helped for designing the Cameroon program, which is non formal in several ways because it has taken into consideration the teacher who is in the field and preparing for a Bachelors degree and other programs.
Cameroon is looking forward to the first batch of the program graduating and the national focal point of the Commonwealth of Learning sees this as part of the major programs involving universities. Talking about the visit of Ian Pringle to Cameroon, he said the media specialist has not been very long in the Commonwealth of Learning, and the first thing will be that he is able to access the situation as far as the introduction and the use of media in education and in the different sectors of education is concerned in Cameroon. Cameroon expects that he would be able to evaluate the situation about where the country is and he would be able to inform the Commonwealth of Learning on the level at which activities are in Cameroon. Ian Pringle should be able to say after Cameroon’s evaluation whether the people are sleeping or not in relation to the rest of the other countries of the Commonwealth.
If we are making progress, Prof. Leke Tambo said, the COL Media Specialist might be able to tell Cameroon where and how to move forward following his visit. He mentioned in the interview that he was very proud to receive a very good report from Mr. James Achanyi Fontem, who he considers as the engine of the pilot program in Lebialem of the south west region of Cameroon. He noted from the report, how many people were able to be mobilized within the communities in a very short time and the high quality of the participants. Professor Leke Tambo already responded after reading through the report and wrote a letter of appreciation of the efforts to introduce the radio story design programming on Lebialem Community Radio in Menji.
The national focal point observed that it is a very good program, especially as it is using community radio for educating populations on Mother and Child Health Care. This is a COL Healthy Community Initiative and his wish is that sustainability should be built into the program, because very often we have seen in some cases, the Commonwealth of Learning comes in, or any other organization comes in and gives support for a period of time and when they withdraw, the activities collapse. Sustainability might be the concern of COL programs as well as impact and its potentials, since the quality of people who are involved on the ground count for a very good future like in the Lebialem media pilot program.
COL Gender Mainstreaming
Speaking generally about gender mainstreaming, according to Professor Tambo, it is not just the Commonwealth of Learning concerned about these issues. All international programs like those supported by the World Bank and other kinds of donors emphasize the role of gender main streaming in all programs, because we cannot continue to act, behave and work as if there is only one sex in Cameroon. There must be sex balance in programming. When there is sex balance, he believes, in many ways the country will advance, because as it is often said, one part of the body cannot move leaving another part behind. All parts of the body must walk together, as far as this matter is concerned in Cameroon.
At the level of the State, His Excellency, President Paul Biya, the President of the Republic of Cameroon, has been able to encourage Gender mainstreaming and scaling by appointments of women to ministerial positions. Many more women than ever before are holding cabinet positions in Cameroon. Others are holding positions of Senior Executive in government, Corporations and the private sectors.
With this, Professor Tambo thinks scaling up the pilot problem in Cameroon should emphasize on gender main streaming. The gender mainstreaming project in Cameroon is moving very well. We have seen women commanding in the army, giving instructions and men move. More and more of such progress are coming. Professor Tambo believes that Cameroon is in the right track as far as gender is concerned. We may not be moving as fast as some people think, but a lot is going on, he concluded.