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UB: The Place To Be!

Barely months after the University of Buea, UB, received its bull of incorporation in 1993, the first leaders, faculty and students alike pompously proclaimed it, “The place to be!” This maxim, as understood at that time, was an expression of a determination to make the nascent tertiary education institution one which would be different from those that existed in the country before.

By and large, it has tried in the midst of numerous odds to keep this image; if simply explained by the high demand for places in undergraduate courses and the highly-selective procedure of admissions. The founding fathers, by introducing this maxim had envisioned a quiet campus, agreeable enough for studies and research of the highest quality. If graduates from UB can proudly display their degrees for their worth and recognition within and without the nation, they would hardly think of their stay in UB in the same manner.

The University has known moments of festering hubbubs, mostly with successive students’ union executives. Very few elected officials of the Union have ever had it easy with the University’s administration. The Union and the administration watch each other’s acts with a lot of suspicion with the former putting itself in a near bellicose posture as it suspects designs of domination and domestication by the Vice Chancellor’s Office. It is a fact that the difficult relations between the University’s administration and the students have greatly emasculated the school’s image in the eyes of many, notably Francophone compatriots who in admiring the Anglo-Saxon system, have massively sent their progeny to the institution.

All these good intentions are beginning to turn sour with repeated incidents which have literally turned the campus of the University of Buea into a battleground and virtually overshadowing the University’s primary duty of distributing knowledge. Admirers and bona-fide friends are understandably bewailed by this pale posture posited by their cherished institution.

The latest is the very noisome incident of Saturday May 5 in Buea during the official opening of the 2012 All-University Games. The first salvos of what will obviously be a marred event began right at the opening ceremony when nettled fans of the University of Buea football team invaded the pitch, contesting a penalty awarded to the University of Dschang team in the very first moments of the game. Stunned guests, including government ministers, university heads and other dignitaries were shocked by this clear disregard for sportsmanship.

But they were to face a more bitter and embarrassing incident when the Ministers of Higher Education and Sports and Physical Education were physically prevented from leaving the ceremony grounds by a group of vexed students styling themselves as the University of Buea Student’s Union Pressure Group. “Pay the athletes!” was the chorus sung by the students who said they were holding the ministers in exchange for the payment of their games participation dues, unpaid for two years now. It took security forces quite some effort to let the two government ministers leave the games grounds unhurt.

The students definitely have a point in claiming their dues as can be seen in the instructions given by Professor Fame Ndongo, the Higher Education Minister to the chairperson of the games to ensure that the dues were paid immediately. Evidence of the availability of funds is found in the Minister’s revelation that he had disbursed FCFA 80 million for that purpose. The blame on the non-payment can only be put on red tape or some fishy intentions. In this posture, the threats by the chairperson of the games organising committee against the students are not timely and may only exacerbate a potentially-explosive situation in which the participants are asking for dues that have been publicly acknowledged by the Minister.

But this situation does not absolve the UB students who, on the occasion of these games, were expected to paint a good image of their university and properly defend their maxim, “The Place To Be!”

Common sense and good manners command more hospitable treatment for hosts. The example of the opening game is manifestly a negation of this principle. So also is the fierce and bellicose posture taken by students to obtain what was rightfully theirs and which could have been obtained less vociferously.

Few people would have wished to be on the University of Buea during these episodes. Not really a place to be, then; yet it claims to be the place to be!

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