MAKING SENSE OF CAMEROON’S INCOMPREHENSIBLE CERTIFICATES STORY

Administrative Block UB

Administrative Block UB

By Chief Dr Peter Ateh-Afac Fossungu 

Could there be a secret war between the universities and hospitals in The Hinge of Africa? You may be legitimately wondering why anyone would come up with this seemingly observaquestioning funny idea. But as soon as you read this certificate narrative further the authority of your line of thinking loses all substance. What links have the crazy fight between hospitals and universities got with Cameroon’s Certificates Story, you are then asking? Are we even talking links here or the real thing itself? First get it all uncensored from my intriguing 1999 newspaper article before I continue after with more updates. The said article (that was published in The Herald of February 3-4, 1999) runs in its entirety as follows:

On intelligent friend was amazed by the array of academic certificates and/or diplomas he found decorating my walls. Why was he surprised? That I could not possibly hold all of them? By the prominence of the awarding institutions?

None of the above. This friend was rather taken aback that I could have studied in very many renowned universities out here without having even done a first degree or Advanced Level, not even the Ordinary Level or First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC), in the country I was claiming to be mine. You see why this chap is the most inquisitive, as I said before? Isn’t that a very intelligent observation, considering the vast number of other similar visitors I have had to receive in this same ‘Certificateful But Cameroon-Empty’ house? I told my friend that all the certificates he found hanging on the wall multiplied by two could possibly not equal the number of those I have obtained in Cameroon.

   But why is none of the Cameroonian academic certificates on my wall?

This is where the University of Buea, in particular, has to pay especial attention. It is because of this unconscionable attitude of turning academic certificates in this country into another birth certificate. It is not like many of us want to hide our age. Far from it. It is only that out here, especially, one’s birth date provides a secret key to many doors. For example, just knowing your date of birth, I can be able to get to the banking machine and withdraw money from your account, if I lay hands on your bank card. Because most people’s secret code (Personal Identification Number: PIN) would often be a combination involving their birth date, it is easy to remember that.

Furthermore, with your birth date available to me, I can very easily have your Université de Montréal Code Permanent and, therefore, have unrestricted access to areas of yours that only you are normally to access. The illustrations can go on and on and on. And that is exactly the reason most of us would not be as foolhardy as to display our Birth certificates passing under the name of Cameroonian Academic Certificates on our walls here. Is that not shameful enough? Isn’t it time and enough for our academic institutions to reconsider their inexplicable love affair with turning their certificates into birth certificates?

I called Marie-Claire to find out what the UNIBU [University of Buea] certificate was like. Marie-Claire’s response only fortified my puzzlement as to why Buea was called Anglo-Saxon. She told me she did not as yet have that certificate, having graduated in 1996. Two whole years! “What is the convocation (or graduation) ceremony then for?” I asked. And what is in the scroll that I am inclined to think is often handed to the grandaunts on this occasion? Or is it because the authorities of UNIBU are not yet certain as to what format their diplomas should take?

I suggest the graduating students must be handed their certificates on that Convocation Day. Otherwise, stop this mockery of graduation/convocation. Ngoa-Ekelle [or University of Yaoundé] was honest enough not to involve itself with such nonsense (Peter Ateh-Afac Fossungu, “Why Cameroonian Certificates Are Not Displayed” The Herald Nº 717 (February 3-4, 1999), 10).

That was in early 1999, about 17 years ago, and one would naturally think that those concerned have learnt a thing or two. Not so with this ‘Green-Girl’ country called Cameroon, where the only love available is that of copying and continuing with bad habits. It is truly nonsensical for the ‘new’ universities but more so for the so-called ‘Anglo-Saxon’ ones of Bamenda and Buea. I say this because what I have so far seen is UNIBU’s “Attestation of Results” and not the certificate proper. One of such attestations, issued on August 1, 2006 (to a friend that I would call Camaira Pandemonium, for convenience) reads:

Having fulfilled the requirements of all the University and passed the prescribed examination and on the recommendation of the FACULTY OF ARTS, Camaira Pandemonium, Registration Number UBXXXXXX, has been admitted by Senate to the degree of BACHELOR OF ARTS (B.A.) in ENGLISH with Third Class Honours and a minor in JOURNALISM AND MASS COMMUNICATION at the University of Buea with a Cumulative Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.42 on a scale of 4.0. The effective date of award is 03 August 2005. This is not a certificate. Only one attestation of results is issued.  Signed Victor Julius Ngoh, Registrar [paragraphing altered].

Yes, of course, no date of birth has been flushed in here in the UNIYAO-fashion; meaning, perhaps, that they listened to the advice I dished out in February 1999. But there are still numerous questions and doubts. This writer graduated from the then one-and-only UNIYAO (Université de Yaoundé) in 1988 from the Maitrise en Droit programme. But, till this moment that we are having this Certicateful-Empty conversation, all what he has to show for it is an “Attestation de Reussite” dated October 16, 1989. What evidence is even there to show that the UNIBU has not just been living true to the UNIYAO-spirit by just translating the practice to ‘Attestation of Results’? Otherwise, what is the difference, if at all, between ‘Anglo-Saxon’ UNIBU and ‘non-Anglo-Saxon’ UNIYAO: except for the latter’s lauded sincerity in the useless convocation business? If the UNIBU imitators (or, better still, hypocratic copyocrats, as this writer’s 2015 Africans and Negative Competition in Canadian Factories would have it) have not been told, here therefore is what the contents of an Anglo-Saxon university certificate worth the copying looks like:

THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA CERTIFIES BY THIS DOCUMENT TO ALL WHOM IT MAY CONCERN THAT PETER ATEH-AFAC FOSSUNGU HAVING SATISFACTORILY COMPLETED ALL THE STATUTORY REQUIREMENTS HAS BEEN GRANTED THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF LAWS AND AWARDED ALL THE RIGHTS AND PRIVILEGES PERTAINING TO THIS DEGREE. IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF ARE APPENDED THE SIGNATURES OF THE CHANCELLOR, THE CHAIR OF THE BOARD OF GOVERNORS, THE PRESIDENT, AND THE REGISTRAR OF THIS UNIVERSITY, TOGETHER WITH THE COMMON SEAL OF THE SAME. GIVEN AT THIS UNIVERSITY ON THE NINETEENTH DAY OF NOVEMBER, ONE THOUSAND NINE HUNDRED AND NINETY-TWO IN THE EIGHTY-SIXTH YEAR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA.

(The seal and the four signatures mentioned) [Bold and capitals are original; paragraphing is altered]  

The question posed above in my 1999 piece regarding the utility of convocation is beautifully answered by McGill University whose certificate significantly admits the graduating student “TO THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF LAWS WITH ALL THE HONOURS, PRIVILEGES, AND PREROGATIVES PERTAINING TO THAT DEGREE. IN WITNESS WHEREOF WE HAVE AFFIXED OUR SIGNATURES AND HAVE CAUSED THE SEAL OF THE UNIVERSITY TO BE ATTACHED HERETO. GIVEN IN CONVOCATION THIS 6TH DAY OF JUNE IN THE YEAR 1997.” The last sentence is what I am highlighting here. Would a Convocation ceremony without the academic certificate being handed over be worth it? The universities of Buea and of Bamenda must be listening carefully to this lecture.

But the universities on the other side of the Mungo River must not think that this does not concern them also, because I have got news for them as well. Federal Canada’s Université de Montréal is French-speaking but its certificates (1) are not another name for birth certificates, (2) are signed also by four university officials (no ministers involved – federal or provincial): the faculty dean, faculty secretary, university recteur, and university secretary-general; and (3) are not different in contents from other Canadian universities. See for yourself:

Université de Montréal, Faculté  des etudes supérieurs, attendu que le Conseil de la Faculté atteste que Peter Ateh Afac Fossungu a terminer les etudes du programme de doctorat en droit, Nous Recteur par decision du Conseil de l’Université et en vertu de Notre autorité, lui conférons le Doctorat en droit (LL.D.) à compter du 5 décembre 2000 avec tous les droits, honneurs et privileges qui s’y rattachent. En fois de quoi Nous signons ce document muni du grand sceau de l’Université ainsi que de la signature du secrétaire général et de celles du doyen et du secrétaire de la Faculté. Fait à Montréal, le 16 janvier 2001 [paragraphing altered].   

What then is actually wrong with us in Cameroon? Biggytitlemania, isn’t it? Biggytitlemania means ‘high-sounding titles but low or sub-standard performance’.

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