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Minister’s Decision Plunges GCE Board Into Unprecedented Confusion 

By Joe Dinga Pefok

Minister Ngalle Bibehe (2nd from L) and collaborators at launch of new school year

A controversial decision taken by the Minister of Secondary Education, Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe, has put the General Certificate of Education, GCE Board, in an exceedingly difficult spot.

On Saturday, May 13, the Minister instructed that any candidate not registered for the 2017 GCE Exams is at liberty to change his or her centre, and write at the nearest examination centre where he or she happens to be presently living.

According to the announcement, the candidate simply has to contact the officials of the centre where he or she wants to write the GCE exams and write the exams there.

In addition, Ngalle Bibehe said even those who have not yet registered for the GCE examination, whose practical part starts today, Monday, May 15, can still register at the nearest centre.

This means that a candidate who registered in Mundemba in the Southwest Region, for example, can write the GCE exams at a centre in Garoua and vice versa.

The Minister said the decision was taken due to the Anglophone crisis that has been rocking the Northwest and Southwest Regions since last November. What the Minister did not anticipate was the disorder the chaotic registration and writing of the GCE exams would plunge the whole exercise into.

Going by Ngalle Bibehe’s decision, even on the eve of the written part of the GCE Exams (O-Level A-Level and Technical), the GCE Board officials would not know exactly how many candidates are supposed to write.

The Board will not also know the total number of candidates who are supposed to sit for the 2017 GCE exams as well how many candidates are supposed to write in a particular centre. Even a Chief of Centre won’t know how many candidates would write in his/her centre; nor how many are in the different categories. To make matters even worse, how would the Board even estimate the number of question papers to print? And what about the halls or benches to accommodate the candidates?

Then again, the disorder that would result from chaotic registration and writing of the GCE exams would create a fertile ground for insecurity and examination fraud.

With the non-stop registration of candidates, it would be difficult for the security officers to identify all those entering the different examination centres. Also, candidates are easily identified with their slips issued by the GCE Board.

With the Government decision, there would be many cases of candidates without the necessary examination, and this could facilitate fraud in the form of impersonation.

Yang Endorsed Decision

Prime Minister Philemon Yang, himself an Anglophone, The Post learnt, endorsed Bibehe’s decision.

Observers say the decision shows the desperation of the Biya Government to organise, at all cost, the 2017 GCE Exams in the midst of the Anglophone crisis without bothering about the credibility of the GCE exams and subsequent certificates.

The Post learnt from credible sources close to the Prime Minister’s Office in Yaounde, that Ngalle Bibehe attended a crucial meeting on the 2017 end-of-course examinations at the Prime Ministry on Friday, May 1.

One of the active participants at the meeting was the Director of Cabinet a the Prime Minister’s Office, Prof. Paul Ghogomu Mingo, who is also the Chairman of the Inter-Ministerial Committee (Ad hoc Committee) responsible for examining and proposing solutions to the concerns that were raised by Anglophone teachers’ trade unions last year.

Decision To Satisfy ‘Big Men’

The Post also gathered that the controversial decision adopted by the “big men’ at the May 12 meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office was influenced by a number of reasons.

The first reason is that even though the state media (CRTV), the Governors of the two Anglophone Regions, some Anglophone elite, and even some members of Government have been trying to give the false impression that things have returned to normal in the two Anglophone Regions, the real situation on the ground is different, and they know that.

The Post has learnt that the ‘big elite’ from the Northwest and Southwest Regions based in Yaounde have children or grandchildren enrolled at confessional schools in the Anglophone Regions, and they do not want them to go back there to write the GCE exams for security reasons.

Hence, the decision that candidates can write the exams or register at any centre was taken o suit the interest of the big men.

Another reason that influenced the Government decision was that the Secondary Education Minister stated that as by May 12, he had not yet received concrete assurance from the church leaders that confessionals schools in the two Anglophone Regions that were earmarked as accommodation centres would be available.

Yet another reason emanates from a complaint of insecurity that has been repeatedly been raised by Francophone students in examination classes in the Northwest and Southwest although they have been going to school with little or no obstruction.

Many of the Francophone candidates in Bamenda in particular have reportedly been pleading with the BAC Board to allow them write the exams in the West Region where most of them hail from.

Plan B Ignored

The controversial Government decision was reportedly taken without the consent of the GCE Board.

It would be recalled that the Registrar of the GCE Board, Humphrey Ekema Monono, at a meeting of the central and external services of the Ministry of Secondary Education in Yaounde on April 25, 2017, presented a Plan B in case the confessional and lay private schools do not open their doors.

Monono had disclosed that 160 confessional and lay private schools had been earmarked to serve as centres for a total of 22,204 candidates for the 2017 exams.

He had said in case the centres were not available, the Board would move candidates to accommodation centres at Government schools (The Post No. 01816 of Friday 28, 2017).

The Plan B was to be executed in an orderly manner, to maintain the serenity and security that traditionally characterise the organisation of the GCE exams.

The plan would also enable the Board to know which candidate has been moved where, or who is writing where.

Interestingly, the Board was to take charge of the daily transportation and feeding for all candidates to be relocated, with the total cost estimated at FCFA 372 million.

Government, however, elected to ditch the Plan B opt for a chaotic, insecure and unprecedented measure where a registered GCE candidate is at liberty to unilaterally change his/her examination centre.

Endless Registration

Another major disorder that Government has introduced into the 2017 GCE exams is that any person who wants to write the exams, but has not registered, can still go ahead and register, even as the practical part of the exams begin.

This decision was partly influenced by some principals at a working session with Minister Bibehe in Bamenda on May 10.

The principals had complained that some candidates who were not able to register be given a chance to do so.

The Registrar of the GCE Board had accused the principals of trying to bring disorder, and explained that computers would not receive such candidates.

Unfortunately, Bibehe insisted and instructed Monono to create special centres for unregistered candidates.

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