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Redefining Meritocracy

The seed of public/private education partnership planted in 2006 is beginning to yield fruits. The ambiance that threaded through the 5th National Commission on Private Education that sat in Yaounde from August 09 to 10, was a veritable translation of the zeal of both parties to revamp the country’s basic education which constitutes the real foundation of the Cameroon’s education system.

Chaired by Youssouf Hadidja Alim, Minister for Basic Education, the Yaounde confab, besides the resolutions arrived at, seemed to have laid to rest the reminiscence of hatred, disgust and suspicion that have so far characterized the relationship between the two arms of education. This strained relationship is suspected to be partly responsible for the falling standards of education in the country. The education of the child is a collective responsibility for parents, teachers and government which draws up and ensures the implementation of policies. Whether a child is in government or private school, ought not to be the real issue, but the fact that he receives good quality training. Unfortunately, an unexplained stigma seemed to have been tagged on those who get admission into private schools, notably, lay private institutions.

The decision to work together based on certain preconditions, of which performance is in the centre, is a laudable step. In effect, the commission together with the Ministry of Basic Education set out to define in very clear terms, the conditions to be fulfilled by private institutions to merit government support. The assistance which is much more financial than technical is henceforth expected to hinge on the results produced by each school and the quality of teachers trained by the private Teacher training Colleges.

Assistance to the private sector, in effect, is not a novelty. The newness is in the criteria to determine such aid. Two observations can be made following the gimmicks that characterized the Yaounde discussions between commission members. Whereas representatives of the private sector hammered on the late payment of government assistance and the meager amount paid out to private schools, government on her part, insisted on performance as the determining factor for such help. The same question a seasoned professor used to ask his students doing research is in many lips; “when you see performance, how do you know”? Will good performance continue to mean scoring 100 percent at the First School Leaving Certificate? Or, will it entail, graduating a bigger number of pupils. Education, it is said, does not remain at passing an examination.

It covers a medley of things including moral upbringing and development of good ethics. Which is better, a school that scores 100 percent graduating ten pupils or one that scores 50 percent giving ample training to 200 pupils? Of course, the one that graduates few pupils with 100 percent will receive the lion’s share of assistance. The controversy that has so far surrounded the attribution of financial assistance to private schools calls for profound redefinition of criteria in order to march reward with meritocracy.

LUKONG Pius NYUYLIME, Cameroon Tribune

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