HIJACKING THE GCE BOARD HAS ALWAYS BEEN GOVERNMENT’S AGENDA
I have flirted with the idea of writing about the falling standards of the GCE board for about three years. I was primarily concerned about the sloppiness with which results were handled. For the past two years we have been alarmed by students passing in 21 subjects in the Ordinary Levels, and 7 in the Advance level. In the last session, some students had sulked for weeks for not making it in the examination, only to realize, upon collecting their result slips that they had passed, in some cases, exceptionally. Others whose names had been published in newspapers as having passed somehow failed in the slips. A type of unfettered chaos that completely waters down value for a hard-fought institution which is supposed to embody and safeguard the anglophone educational system.
But that’s not my beef today.
The history of the GCE board, like every stride in the Anglophone existence under the successive Francophone governments, is like a civil rights film pithing a marginalized people against a brutal and repressive system bent on wiping them out or making them smaller. The GCE board is a vestige of that struggle from which Anglophones emerged bloodied as usual.
For a long time, Anglophones complaint about disproportionate integration into professional schools and institutions of higher learning since they were skewed almost exclusively towards the French educational system. It was diagnosed that the key reason for this imbalance, was the lack of corresponding Anglophone sections in schools such as ENAM and ENS.
The government in the typical fashion of prescribing wrong medication decided that it would be better, for the sake of national integration, for the Anglophone educational system to be subsumed and for Anglophones to be preferably trained in French in order to better integrate. This was interpreted, and rightly so, as an attempt to finally wipe out the leftovers of the Anglophone identity. What followed was an epic strike action championed by Anglophone students in the University of Yaounde II and the Teacher’s Association of Cameroon, TAC, which together rallied the English-speaking population into a three-year strike action. The government finally succumbed to the pressure after Anglophone teachers took the bull by the horns, and began operating a GCE board at IPAR in Buea without government authorization. It was one of the few victories that anglophones could savour and take pride in. The government, in a seemingly retaliatory move, created a BACC board for the francophones.
Bottom line is the government did not and has never liked the idea of a GCE board and has sought ways of bringing it down or hamstringing its operational ability or hijacking it and placing under its control. Because anything Anglophone somehow invokes in them an obstinate longing for annihilation. In fact, when the Technical Education Exams was finally included into the text of application of the board, the then Minister of Education, Mbella Mbappe, swore that he would die before the technical exams take roots under the board.
Still dissatisfied the government continued to find ways of hijacking the board. In 1996 the GCE examination was flawed by massive leaks. The government reacted by appointing the late Prof Herbert Endeley to oversee investigations to the cause and perpetrators. It is widely believed that the leaks were government sponsored, seeing as how Prof Endeley recommended that part of the running of the board should be handed to the government, even though he did not find the board culpable in the leakage. Paradox has never been something which this government understands or even avoids. It basks in it.
The GCE board office building was originally designed as an imposing edifice, with ample capacity for the complex operations of the board. In a fascinating twist, complaints emerged from persons within the system, who saw the size and architectural design, yes that too, as an attempt by anglophones to create their own ministry of education. Consequently, the structure was trimmed to a less threatening size, while greatly affecting the boards’ ability to operate properly.
So, the recent presidential decree repealing the statutes of the board and turning it into a parastatal comes as no surprise. It has always been the plan. Of course, it comes with many fears, at the top of which is the appointment of out-of-touch francophones, with the sole responsibility of overseeing the destruction of the last vestige of the Anglophone identity in Cameroon.