Sunday, October 4, 2009

“…teachers and school heads should help the government adopt good educational policies”

Cambridge University Press was created by the King of England some 475 years ago, with a precise and near-evangelical mission: “Dissemination of knowledge world wide”. This printing press has stood the test of time and has ramified throughout the world, just as the King wished. It is represented in Cameroon by Mr Nforgwei Rogers.

The Cameroon Branch has engaged in charitable activities towards school children, especially the poor and underprivileged. They have given scholarships to over 47 families in five different Regions of Cameroon and intend to cover all the 10 regions of Cameroon. Their focus is to assist the Cameroon Government achieve free education for all primary school children by 2015. The Vanguard talked to Mr Nforgwei Roger. Here are excerpts of the interview.

What was the motive behind the Scholarship you granted to some form one students of North West Region recently?

The reasons are manifold. First is that we operate in Cameroon thus creating jobs for Cameroonians. More so, I was particularly excited to extend a hand of fellowship to the North-westerners. Besides, most of the Staff that we have had from the beginning of ENIMA Education came from all the regions of the Northwest. Throughout the life of ENIMA Education we have employed at least one person from each division of the Northwest Region. We have thus been affecting the lives of our brothers all around the region, but the Scholarship was basically a Social Service to community which feeds him with the Social responsibilities of the company.

Another reason in that we operate in Cameroon and need to be supportive of the government of Cameroon in Education policy. We know that according to Education in action plan, the government intends to have free primary Education for all by 2015 and at this period of school resumption, many drop out because of lack of means. We thus thought the little money and text books we provide for form ones can enable most parents to send the children to Secondary School. One of the reasons is that we want to encourage performance, hard work in Education corroborating Cameroon Government Education Policy.

We are in an era where people seem to be less interested in having textbooks in schools. We cannot achieve quality Education without encouraging parents to buy text books for their children. So I thought that by encouraging excellence, those who did not win that prize would be spurred to work hard so they can deserve it next time. So while we encourage those who had excelled, those who could not make it will work hard to measure up. In that way, we will be setting some standards and at same time encouraging quality Education.

How many pupils benefited from that scholarship?

The Scholarship intends to cover all the ten regions of Cameroon but because of the timing, the planning and feasibility or practicality of it, we only had a quick response from five regional delegations. So we decided to start with the first five to continue next year with the other five. By the time we go through the programme we would have assisted about forty seven or more families of Cameroon to send children back to school.

It sounds small but we have been operating in Cameroon for only five years in very difficult circumstances. Yes Cambridge is a wealthy old and a renowned International publishing house but each market has generated its own process. So I had to work hard as a Cameroonian to source this project into my budget even though the balance sheet of Cameroon is in red. You can imagine that if we can do this when we are just about five years old, it means, if we were like other publishers who have been around for decades we would have done a lot more thus what we are doing now. I am very excited to say that no matter how this programme many look like, it is a very compassionate programme.

It comes from our hearts. I was very touched, when we did it in Buea, Southwest Region and two of the winners had just been orphaned before the exams. One lost her father two weeks into the exam and another, a mother a couple of weeks to the exams. You can know what the future of these children was going to be. But with this kind of support, you can be sure that their uncles and other relatives or well wishers can chip in something to enable the children go to school. The programme will grow with time as we get support from the regional delegations of Education or government as well.

How many people benefited from the scholarship in Bamenda?

Eleven in total: eight Anglophones , two were from Islamic Schools in Kumbo three best Francophones for CEP still from Kumbo. I selected Islamic Education System for having two winners out of eight.

How much was the cash prize?

I rather look at the package per child which sums up to forty-five to fifty thousands francs per child. It varied because some of the books we offered the Francophones were not our products. We had to buy them from the various publishers. Apart from that we had to pay transport for the parents and their children to and fro. To me, that is not what is very important, what is important is the heart that gives not the weight of what you give.

What were the criteria?

The criteria were just best performance. And I dare say I am confident in the regional delegation for Basic Education of Northwest region because they followed our advice on how we tried to gather statistics. All the marks of the divisions were forwarded to the regional delegations. The regional delegations then give us the names of the winners with their marks.

Is it going to be an annual exercise or is it only for this year?

We intend to make it annual but we also need the support of the Regional Delegations of Basic Education for the Northwest and other regions reaping from the programme. In what form you may want to ask. They are the decisions makers they are the ones to select the best textbooks. I was not asking them for an unfair favour because I know that Cambridge produces the best text books but I am just saying that they should honestly, transparently look at the quality of Cambridge material, the content and the physical quality and the availability of our material and encourage schools to go for those ones.
Truly, our books as demonstrated are durable. A family can use it for more that two years. In that way, there is a hand back effect and it helps the financial planning of the family. So if the regional delegations of Basic Education, in collaboration with their divisional delegates, are supportive of this initiative, then we can do a little more to assist both government and parents in the strife for quality education.

We have a lot to offer Cameroon in the sphere of Education amongst other Social issues, we are and ambitions business establishment ready to support communities in which we operate. This we can do because we are not looking for big profit. Actually Cambridge University Press belongs to the University of Cambridge which is not owned by share holders or partners who are expecting dividends at the end of the year.

So we keep our profit margin low just enough to pay the staff and the over heads and to plough back to little proceeds to publish more. The press was created by the King of England 475 years ago, with a precise mission “Dissemination of knowledge world wide” So we have to find ways of disseminating the knowledge to the whole world by producing the material that are required. In this regard, when we are publishing for third world countries for assistance, we know it is a price sensitive market. Our books are sold in Cameroon at five times less the price in UK.

How is the Scholarship programme going to boost your business?

I think that parents and even the government will see us as true publishers to deal with. The teacher will realise that our materials are good and durable and when they use it in their various classes, the children will develop interest in our products. While we are playing our social responsibility in Communities in which we operate, we are at the same time boosting our image. I think that through such programmes, people will know us better and understand us because we are being misunderstood by others.

You are operating in a system in which text books are constantly being changed. How are you coping with the system?

The first thing is that the constant changing of books in caused by publishers themselves. For pure commercial publishers, they change the covers of books so that there can be no hand down effect so what he does is change the cover and a few things to give the impression that the book is a new edition. More so, the approval of text books is not systematic. It is not well managed; the policy is not clean and sustained by both ministries.

In other countries, what obtains in that, government resolves that books will not be changed for three years, but then the Commission meets every year to evaluate and access the impact on the entire educational system and its applicability to the Social – cultural Economic and Political realities. But the whole system here is so confused and the teachers also end up being confused. Here I will advise that teachers and school heads should help the government adopt good Education policies. The whole system is so controversial.

Books that were prescribed for use in three years end up being used for only one year. This confuses parents, students, teachers and Heads of Schools. Beside this makes Education very expensive for some parents. To an extent, it misleads others from furthering the Education of their children. The system is not holistic. The only way to resolve this can be via some form of platform, forum to discuss Education to look at the relationship between the Education family and those that interact in Education, i.e. owners of private schools for instance and those who produce learning materials for schools. We need to do this because we are anxious for better standards private schools owners have been telling us that they are anxious for better standards and from the Scholarship exercise I realise that most of the winners came from private schools. They know how to run the schools and government schools do not give the same results. This means there is some thing wrong some where.

Some time the Ministry publishes the list of books in June when the private schools had sent their children out on holidays and had already decided on the material to be used in the following year. When the book list comes out in June, this forces the change the books they already adopted. This affects both schools and parents who had earlier on bought the books.

What appraisal would you make about the occasion?

It was excellent, I am very thankful to the regional delegation for their co-operation, the governor. I saw that Cambridge University press brought Services into the forces of the parents and children of the region. I felt good when I discovered that people were alerted. Is nice when you touch minds, is blessed to give and I felt good that we affected lives.

From our news desk

No comments: