The Minister of Secondary Education, Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe, has reported the Archbishop of Bamenda, to Prime Minister, Philemon Yang, for refusing to meet him while on a visit to Bamenda.
The Archbishop of Bamenda, Mgr. Cornelius Fontem Esua, allegedly avoided meeting him during his visit to Bamenda last week. The Post learnt that the Minister, in briefing PM Yang, after his mission to the two Northwest and Southwest Regions last week, backbit Archbishop.
The Post learnt that, while in Bamenda on May 10, together with Northwest Governor, Adolphe Lele L’Afrique, the Minister was surprised by a communiqué, signed by the Secretary General of the Bamenda Provincial Ecclesiastical Conference, Zephrinus Yem Mbuh, addressed to the Registrar of the Cameroon GCE Board, relating to the organisation of the 2017 GCE Exams.
The Secretary General stated, “unequivocally”, that Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference, comprising the Bamenda, Buea, Kumbo, Mamfe and Kumba Dioceses, had finally given their consent that all Catholic colleges that were earmarked to serve as accommodation centres for the 2017 GCE sessions, will be available for both the practical and written parts of the examinations in the Dioceses.
The Registrar of the GCE Board, Dr. Humphrey Ekema Monono, was also in Bamenda on that day accompanying Minister Ngalle Bibehe in the assessment of preparations for the exams.
The GCE Board Registrar was reportedly handed the communiqué after a working session that the Minister held with Principals of colleges, including those of confessional schools, related to the organisation of the 2017 GCE Exams.
Closed Door Meeting
The Post leant from a reliable source close to the entourage of the Minister that a closed door meeting was held at the Northwest Governor’s Office to discuss the communiqué.
The Minister, Governor and the GCE Board Registrar found the communiqué not only surprising, but also confusing, due to a number of reasons.
One of the reasons was that the communiqué was received by the GCE Board Registrar, shortly after the Minister of Secondary Education ended the working session with principals, including those of Catholic Colleges.
Some Reverend Sisters and Priests who are principals of these Catholic colleges that attended the meeting, were opposed to the idea that the GCE Exams should take place when students have not been adequately prepared.
Due to the strike by Anglophone teachers’ trade unions as well as the ongoing Anglophone Crisis, Anglophone pupils and students in the two Anglophone Regions have, generally, been away from school since November 21, 2016. If the principals and students who have not been going to school sit for exams, there will certainly arise a question of credibility about the certificate.
Our source said the Minister could not reconcile the communiqué and the pronouncements that were made by Catholic Education principals at the working session earlier on that day.
The Minister wondered how the Bishops could have taken the decision that Catholic colleges earmarked as accommodation centres for the 2017 GCE Examination sessions would be available, without the knowledge of the principals.
Archbishop Allegedly Avoids Meeting Minister
Amid the confusion, the authorities at the closed door meeting resolved that Minister Ngalle Bibehe meets with the Archbishop of Bamenda, His Grace Cornelius Fontem Esua, to get clarification on the communiqué.
The GCE Board Registrar was asked to call the Archbishop and fix a rendezvous for the meeting. Monono succeeded to get to Archbishop Esua by phone, but the Archbishop was quoted as having told Monono that he was out of town, precisely in Widikum, and would only return to Bamenda the next day.
Monono’s attempt to convince Mgr. Esua to cut short his pastoral mission to Widikum and return to Bamenda on that May 10 and meet with the Minister, failed.
However, our source said, the Minister who was supposed to return to Yaounde early on May 11, decided to delay his trip till later in the day, in a bid to meet with the Archbishop. But all attempts on that May 11 to get to the Archbishop by phone allegedly failed.
With the Minister having failed to meet with Archbishop Esua, to get confirmation that Catholic colleges earmarked as accommodation centres for the 2017 GCE Examination will be available, the authorities resolved that it would be wise for the Government and the state media to be silent about the communiqué.
The Post leant that the Minister assigned some persons in Bamenda to monitor the situation in the two Catholic colleges in town; Sacred Heart and Our Lady of Lourdes, which are both earmarked accommodation centres, to see if there were any preparations going on.
At the end of Friday, May 12, the message that Minister received back in Yaounde, was that there were no signs of any preparations in those schools.
Meanwhile Reverend Fathers and Sisters who are principals of Colleges in the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference, and whose schools were earmarked as accommodation centres for 2017 GCE Examinations, have been strongly opposed to their schools being part of the controversial examinations.
The May 10 communiqué reportedly took the Catholic Education principals aback as they were allegedly never consulted or hinted.
The Post learnt that the Bishops were reportedly under strong pressure and repeated intimation by Government, with the latest one being a threat that any school earmarked to serve as accommodation centre for the 2017 GCE Exams that fails to open its doors, will be banned by Government.
Another threat is that if the Catholic schools refuse to serve as accommodation centres for the GCE, all Catholic Missions will not get a franc as State subvention for the 2017/2018 school year.
Indignation Of Principals
The Post also learnt that there was a stormy meeting between some Bishops and some irate principals of Catholic colleges in the evening of March 11 in Bamenda, following the May 10 communiqué.
At the end of the day, the principals said all what they will do to respect the order of the Government will be to open the doors of dormitories as well as the doors of their laboratories and classrooms, but vowed that they will not be party to the 2017 GCE Examination for which they did not properly prepare their students.
Catholic Education principals are arguing that their students were registered for the GCE as a precautionary measure, hoping that Government react to the demand of the Anglophone population and end ghost towns and restore peace and security for effective resumption of schools.
They had hoped that if a conducive environment returns, Government will extend the academic year in Anglophone Schools.