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Cameroon: University of Buea Students Challenge the Vice Chancellor over age discrimination for Presidential Awards

by Theophile
University of Buea

University of Buea (UB) students are challenging the Vice-Chancellor (VC) regarding allegations of age discrimination in the selection process for Presidential Awards.

Hundreds of students of the University of Buea in Cameroon’s South West Region have said they are gearing up for a peaceful protest on November 15, 2023, to voice their discontent over recent changes to the criteria for the prestigious Presidential Awards.

The controversial decision by the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Ngomo Horace Manga, to link these awards to age has sparked outrage among the student body, with concerns raised about discrimination and its impact on the academic community.

The Presidential Award, traditionally seen as a symbol of academic excellence, has been a source of pride for students at the University of Buea, Bamenda, Douala, Yaounde I and II, Maroua, Ngaoundere, and Dschang.

However, a recent communiqué from the Vice Chancellor has ignited a firestorm of protest. According to Lambert (real names withheld for security reasons), a student at the university and spokesperson for the cause, the decision to tie these awards to age is a blatant act of discrimination that unfairly disadvantages older students.

“We believe that GPA and a successful academic record at our university should be the sole criteria for selection,” Lambert said in a statement co-signed by various Heads of Students’ Associations at both the departmental and faculty levels.

The timing of this decision has added fuel to the fire, considering the challenges faced by students in the English-speaking regions due to the ongoing Anglophone crisis. Not only has this crisis disrupted academic activities, but it has also put the lives of students at risk. Lambert argues that the sacrifices made by students, some of whom have tragically lost their lives, should be considered. Many people view the Presidential Award as a lifeline to help pay for education, but some people are no longer eligible for it because of their age rather than their merit.

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“The persistent challenges posed by the Anglophone crisis have not only disrupted academic activities but have also endangered the lives of students who brave the odds to pursue education. The sacrifices made by these students, some of whom have tragically lost their lives, should not be overlooked,” Lambert said, adding “It is disheartening to note that the recent decision to allocate the presidential grant based on age rather than merit exacerbates the difficulties faced by Anglophone students. Many view the grant as a lifeline, a means to subsidize their education costs and alleviate the financial burdens they bear due to the ongoing crisis.”

Injustice

Prof. Horace Manga’s decision has been labelled as “unjust and demoralising.” Older students feel their achievements are being undermined, sending a message that their academic accomplishments are somehow less valuable than those of their younger peers. The move is seen as a step backward in the university’s commitment to equity and inclusion.

“The decision to deny them this opportunity based on age is not only unjust but also perpetuates inequality in access to education. This decision by the Vice Chancellor is unjust and demoralising. It sends a message to older students that their achievements are somehow less valuable than those of their younger counterparts. We refuse to accept this message of inferiority. We believe that all students should have an equal opportunity to be recognised for their achievements. The decision to tie the presidential awards to age is a step backward in our university’s commitment to equity and inclusion,” Lambert’s statement reads.

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The irate students say the ‘peaceful protest’ scheduled for November 15, 2023, will commence at Amphi 750 at 10 AM, where students plan to march to the Vice Chancellor’s office.

“We will not tolerate this injustice. We will not allow our achievements to be diminished. We will stand together and demand that the Vice Chancellor reconsider this decision. Let’s fight for fairness and equality! Together, we can make our voices heard and ensure that all students have an equal opportunity to succeed.”

In a recent statement, Professor Ngomo Horace clarified the criteria for selection as follows:

  • Students must have a minimum GPA of 2.40 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Eligibility is restricted to students of Cameroonian nationality.
  • Students with a clean disciplinary record are considered.
  • Undergraduate students must be 22 years of age or younger.
  • Master’s students should be 25 years of age or younger.
  • PhD students should be 30 years of age or younger.
  • Only students who paid the registration fee for the 2021–2022 academic year are eligible.
  • Candidates who sat for resit examinations are not eligible.
  • Civil servants are excluded from consideration.

This reaction has triggered anger and frustration in students who do not fall within the mentioned age range. They are now seeking justice and representation.

Mimi Mefo Info

TU POURRAIS AUSSI AIMER

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