It has been revealed that authorities in Public Schools in Yaoundé are commercializing admission into all classes for a fee ranging between FCFA 50,000 to FCFA 150,000.
In this investigative report, The National Times News spoke with many parents who revealed that admission into form one for Anglo-Saxon Sub-System of Education and sixième for the Francophone Sub-System of Education is the most difficult and expensive venture, especially when the child fails the regular entrance examination.
“When my child failed the entrance into Lycée Leclerc, I knew that I had to sacrifice FCFA 100,000. Moreover, I had two other children who were looking for admission into other classes, so we gave the Principal a total of FCA 200,000,” a lady who wants to remain anonymous said.
The lady also told us that it has become a regular practice just like any other commodity sold in the market to the extent that even when you are familiar with the school authorities they still collect the money. She said despite the important position her husband occupies in one of the State corporations in Yaoundé, when he sought for admission in Government High School Odza for one of the children, the school authorities still collected FCFA 50,000.
“When my husband went there, he had to pay FCFA 50,000 for the child to be admitted into form one, and it was just because of his contact with the Vice Principal, if not, it would have been FCFA100,000,” She said.
Other parents we met also confirmed the phenomenon as an aged old practice in Yaoundé with a fixed price which is known to every person. A lady who presented herself as Mrs. Ndama said she went to the school herself and discovered that the rumours in town about corruption were actually real. “I gathered courage and went there myself and to my greatest surprise, I paid FCFA 50,000 for my child to be admitted into Government Bilingual High School (GBHS) Etoug’ Ebe,” she said while adding that “even though my child was coming from the Anglophone Regions, the school authorities could not have pity on me.”
When asked whether a receipt was issued to her, she laughed and responded thus– “that one is for the Principal and not the Government, everybody in Yaoundé knows that.”
As we went round town speaking with parents, most of them threw back the question at us rhetorically whether we don’t understand the language of the times in Yaoundé; “everybody knows that for your child to be admitted into form one, you must pay FCFA 100,000 and the other classes you pay FCFA 50,000,” they said.
Another one told us that it is a regular practice which has become almost a tradition over time.
When evoked the subject, most school authorities shy away from our microphones, especially being a private media outlet. In one school, an authority fell disappointed when she realised that we were not coming from the State media. “Are you from the CRTV,” she asked and didn’t bother to receive us when she got another name.
As we moved from school to school, we realised that most of the Principals were too busy and unfriendly to the private press. Moreover, with the rumour of an eminent shakeup, most didn’t want to make comments that would jeopardise their chances or career. And as we were preparing this report, the shakeup actually took place.
Whenever the subject is raised Principals and school heads either shy away because of the sensitivity of the topic or give an impression that such a thing cannot happen in their area of command. In one of the biggest Bilingual High Schools in Yaoundé, a Principal pushed back the question at us in a comic manner. “What do you want to hear……do you think I would tell you that there is corruption in my school?” she asked.
At Government Bilingual Practicing High School (GBPHS) otherwise known as Lycée Bilingue d’Application, Yaoundé, in the absence of the Principal the Senior Discipline Master of the school, Fondo Peter, said admission is done by a commission and the Principal only signs.
According to him, since the publication last year of a document which depicted the school as one of the most corrupt, the Principal, Ayuketah Mary, has taken some stringent measures to tackle corruption in the school which has ensured that the practice has greatly reduced.
However, the Permanent Secretary of the Cameroon Association for the Defence of Citizens’ Rights popularly known by its French acronym as ACDIC, Tegia Viviane, debunked these claims.
She argued that this year school administrators have not abandoned corrupt practices, but have merely changed strategy to outplay the vigilance of any intruder.
“Now, when you go to these schools sometimes it is even the gateman or a non-essential worker who collects the envelops (money) and the documents and he would take your contacts and ask you to come back on a later date to confirm the admission of your child,” she narrated adding that “the network is not organised by these persons, but they are merely serving as a channel to the real persons.”
Speaking exclusively to The National Times News, Tegia Viviane said last year her organisation carried out a survey which indicated that admission into most, if not all public schools in Yaoundé, are largely influenced by money.
“Generally, it ranges from FCFA 50,000 to FCFA100,000, but there are cases which goes up to FCFA 150,000, especially for form one in some schools,” Tegia Viviane said.
She regretted the fact that the practice is almost becoming official as almost everybody is aware. According to her, the desperation for money has pushed some teachers to the extent that they are even willing to compromise a child’s educational development.
“In some cases, a teacher would tell an illiterate parent that admission into form one is closed, but if you bring money, we can admit the child into form two since the two classes are almost the same,” she said.
As the practice of corruption keeps growing in these public establishments, both Teachers and school authorities are accusing each other of being the brain behind it.
A school authority in one of the biggest and oldest bilingual schools in Yaoundé, who pleaded for anonymity because of the sensitive nature of his remarks argued that Teachers are the ones spearheading the practice of corruption in his school. “Every year each teacher in the school is given a place to bring anybody of his choice for admission, but it is rather unfortunate that some teachers sell these places to parents and only bring the documents to us, there we cannot know who has taken money or not because at our level we have made the process so transparent,” he argued.
Meanwhile, some teachers on their part push the blame to school authorities, especially Principals whom they argued are backed by some persons in the Ministry.
“We are merely teachers and don’t have any powers, everything is decided by the Principals who have their god-fathers in the Ministry protecting them,” they said.
While lamenting on how engraved the practice is in the hearts of school authorities in Yaoundé, a teacher cited the name of a prominent Principal in Yaoundé (name withheld) whose modus operandi according to him was bribery, but rather than suspension, he was instead transferred to another school in the same capacity. “He has somebody up there protecting him,” the teacher lamented.
In the opinion of the Permanent Secretary of ACDIC, both sides are involved in corrupt practices. “Sometimes it is the teacher who would propose to sell you his place, while sometimes you meet the Principal and he reminds you of ‘what you have to do’, while in some cases it is meaner workers in these establishments who facilitate the process. Just everybody is involved,” Tegia Viviane said.
At the headquarters of Cameroon’s anti-corruption watchdog, the National Anti-Corruption Commission popularly known by its French acronym as CONAC, the Head of Communication, Irene Tche Morikang, presented some recent document by the body indicating some school authorities who were recently caught red-handed in the act of corruption when the CONAC made a surprise trip to these institutions on September 3 and 4, 2018. According to the Chairman of CONAC, Rev. Dieudonné Massi Gams, these persons have been handed over to the police for further investigations.
At the level of private schools, most individuals in Yaoundé argued that such practices are not permitted there because each school tries to protect its image.
“Private school is like a business and no proprietor would want to tarnish his business with bribery and corruption,” they say. According to the Vice Principal of Quality International School, Etoug’Ebe, Yaoundé, Awasum Nicodemus, admission is done in strict conformity with the law since they have to protect their image. “We are very strict with admissions and not even a single franc can change hands. When you take money you destroy your image and people would not come to your school or you will admit people whom you cannot contain,” he said.
With the massive influx of thousands of Anglophones into Yaoundé from the violence rigged Regions, some school authorities confirmed to us that there is immense pressure on them to admit students.
However, school authorities are exploiting the opportunity to extort money from the parents.
Even though some sectors are constantly entrenched in corruption, especially the judiciary and police, each sector in public life has its peak point in corruption.
Most civil servants in Yaoundé said that June is the period where all those who work in the Regions fill their offices with brown envelops because it opens the season of appointments and transfer. The peak period of corruption in schools is August and September when admissions are done, while in services like the customs, it is usually during the end of year when most diaspora Cameroonians ship in goods.
In 1999 and 2000, Transparency International ranked Cameroon as the most corrupt country in the world, which forced the Government of Paul Biya to set up the National Anti-Corruption Commission(CONAC).
However, with CONAC not having a mandate to charge people to court unlike the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) in Nigeria, it is difficult to actually fight corruption in Cameroon. CONAC can only denounce and send reports to the President who has the latitude to act or not to. That explains why Cameroon has remained entrenched in the web of corruption and almost all sectors of public life are involved.