The Decentralisation of the Universities
Since the establishment of St. Joseph’s College Sasse in 1937 and the Cameroon Protestant College in Bali in 1949, young people have had to travel long distances from their homes to acquire secondary education. In the 1950s young people had to travel on foot from Wum and Nkambe, divisions in order to go to Sasse College if they were products of Catholic primary schools.
But even before that the uneven distribution of primary schools in the 1950s and coups 1960s placed tremendous strain on families which were forced to send their children to neighbouring villages where they had too be as boarding pupils in order to acquire primary education.
However, the population grew and primary schools became saturated, primary schools have now become ubiquitous. This has also been followed by secondary schools which are available to most communities making it unnecessary for young people to travel far from their villages in order to find a suitable secondary school. The availability of qualified teachers and the quality of second at education is still highly variable throughout the country but the infrastructure in terms of approved schools is there.
Notwithstanding the progress that has been made in primary and secondary education, there are significant problems persisting in tertiary education because the tertiary institutions are still based in a few large urban areas. The state universities as well as the private and religious universities are all based in a few urban centres.
For this reason, most students who have completed their secondary cycle have to move to an urban centre in order to attend a tertiary institution. The drift towards urban centers far from home villages places strain on families.
The urban migration for education is particularly risky for young girls who have great difficulty finding suitable and safe accommodation while studying in university. Many such vulnerable young female students easily drift into prostitution in order to support themselves and finance their education because their parents are in no position to cover the costs of their children studying far away from home.
In the future the educational formula shall be changed so that instead of young people leaving home to go to university, the university shall come to our children. The universities shall be brought much closer to the secondary schools in the various counties. This shall be achieved by decentralising the two state universities: The University of Bamenda and the University of Buea. Campuses and faculties shall be established in different counties, but they shall all be linked to the central campus by optical fiber.
The transformational impact of this decentralisation plan on the economy of the Southern Cameroons shall be profound by 2030 because experience has shown that whenever educational establishments are brought closer to people, more people become educated.
Dr. Nfor N Susungi
Group Head Economy