CAMEROON: Universities face student overcrowding

Universities face overcrowding, with more school-leavers entitled to a place in higher education and students from other countries in the region applying to study in Cameroon because of its good reputation, reported the Cameroon Tribune of Yaoundé.

In its introduction to a series of articles examining 'Universities put to the student numbers test', the paper warned the high level of advance registrations had opened the way to a "pretty hot" new academic year and that the expected increased numbers of students would again make universities' capacity to cater for them "the great headache".

The Tribune said that with a success rate of nearly 60% in the baccalauréat school-leaving examination, which gives entitlement to higher studies, this year's intake was especially prolific. And with improvements in university facilities, Cameroon's higher education was beginning to serve as an example.

It recounted that a minister from the Central African Republic had told Professor Fame Ndongo, the Cameroon Minister for Higher Education, of the credibility the country's universities were gaining in the region. In addition, there were waves of students arriving not only from the Central African Republic but also from Chad and Nigeria.

Ministry calculations were that 70,000 more students were "knocking on the doors of our universities", said the Tribune, an increase of more than 30% over last year's 200,000 students,

As well as the strain put on student housing, services and the 'social climate', said the paper, was the question of whether reform of study programmes - the introduction of LMD (the structure based on the Bologna process) and professionalisation of courses - could bear fruit if the prerequisite of coping with numbers was not met.

On a brighter note, the Tribune said a technology and professional support programme had gone well in state universities. Expanding the University of Douala to Logbessou and, soon, to Souza was proving successful. The University of Maroua would soon have a new campus 'worthy of its name'.

"But we recognise the projects under way are a reaction to urgent need while the gap itself will not be filled for several years," said the Tribune, which in eight articles carried out an 'inventory' university by university.