‘Cold’ fire that didn’t burn the GCE Board

A few facts are sacrosanct here. A fire broke out in one of the of fices of the Cameroon General Certificate of Education  Examination, GCE Board, headquarters, Buea, last Sunday morning. It was
quickly put out. Damage done was absolutely minimal. Fire extinguishers belonging to the Board were largely used in dousing what could have graduated to an inferno. Some support came from a fuel pump station  situated directly opposite the Board building. Even so, the Board’s own extinguishers still hang on practically every strategic wall of the building. Some of them, with the tabs broken, as at Monday afternoon, were half empty, having been employed in the fire dousing exercise.

An upholstered chair was burnt to its skeletal frame by the fire. Window curtains were burnt to ashes. Only one or two window shutters were  cracked by the ensuing heat from the fire. When this Reporter visited the place, charred remains of the only air conditioner in the room had been taken away by the gendarmes, ostensibly to help in the forensic  investigation of what could have ignited the fire. Its remote control hung on the wall, behind the main occupant of the office, one and a half metres from the floor. Books on a shelf and two wooden tables were not affected by the mysterious fire. Neither was the ceiling, constructed with laminated  plywood boards and barely centimeters above the air conditioner which reportedly caught fire was hanging.

Every scrap of paper that was lying on the two tables in the room was safe. So too was a spiral of khaki paper that was strewn on the floor. A brand new printer installed barely a week earlier, was conspicuous on one of the tables. Only sooth from elsewhere had settled on it. From all indications, it would eventually be dusted up, reconnected and its printing attributes put to back to use. Fluorescent tubes on the ceiling had exploded, their cages were all burnt beyond recognition, but again, the ceiling, built with very combustible material was spared. The door, The Rambler was informed,
was only forced open for the exigency of putting out the mystical fire. It now carries a “No Entry” sign, preventing even its regular occupant, the man in charge of communication at the institution from entering. He has
been given refuge in a different room hard by. Gendarmes would have to complete their investigations; the room would need quite some rehabilitation before this regular tenant is cleared to reenter it, dust up files, books and other pieces of paper and return to regular duty.

The task of the investigating gendarmes, no doubt shall be facilitated by surveillance cameras that were strategically installed here some time ago. They reportedly work round the clock and should provide useful forensic clues to what must have sparked the Sunday morning fire. While this is being established, the rest of the building stands, safe; but for the lone  occupant of the affected room currently having “refugee” status hard by, every worker else in the building was busy at their posts. Plus, this Reporter also learnt that disaster would have been ‘spelled here in capital letters’ had the fire spread beyond the ill-fated room to engulf other parts of the  structure. This is because, beyond the fact of absolutely valuable  documentation and other equipment being preseved in the building, tons of material relating to the about to be written GCE examination are stacked  here.

Parents fear for kids’ security as examination is written

Another hitch to the smooth functioning of the school calendar for 2017 reared its ugly head on Tuesday, May 16, as pupils all over the country engaged in writing the Common Entrance examination that permits those in class six to gain admission into secondary schools.

“I will not dare leave this vicinity until the examinations come to an end” affirmed Mrs Cecilia Mbong, parent to one of the candidates.”

Government Primary School Likoko Membea, Bokwaongo, one of the Common Entrance examination centres was full of nervous parents on standby waiting for the exercise to come to an end, even though the school was heavily guarded by security goons. It was a rowdy atmosphere for an examination centre as these parents nervously waited for hours on end, outside the classrooms for their children to complete writing the exam. According to Mama Cecilia Mbong, her child has been away from school for over six months and she had just one week to prepare her daughter for the Common Entrance examination. With a corny smile on
her face she said, “I really doubt what my child would be writing now because she was not even mentally prepared for it.”

Mrs. Mbong stressed that she, like many other parents would not dare leave the centre until the exams were over. She said this on grounds that, due to recent burning of schools and kidnapping of students by unknown people, to unknown destinations, she is very scared to leave her child alone on campus even with top security guards, who are, themselves, not reliable as they have even molested students in the past.

The Rambler noticed from observation of manyCentres that, the turnout of these young leaders of tomorrow for the examination was below expectations. This became more explainable when many class six pupils were seen on the streets hawking and hovering from one place to the other on the day of the examinations. This Reporter met with one of these hawkers on the examination day who is a class six student, who said “I have not been to
school for a very long time and I don’t even know if the Common Entrance would hold because nobody, not even my parents have told me anything about it. I have not learnt anything as well.”

The examination bodies in the Anglophone Regions have been scared and tormented by the ghost of intransigence, burning down schools, persistent “ghost towns.” This year’s Common Entrance Examination like the General Certificate of Education, GCE has been marred by persistent wrangling between Government and Anglophone parents who, in solidarity with teachers and lawyers who had called for a strike have kept their children away from school in the last seven months.

The irony is that children who have stayed away from school for seven out of the nine months of annual school calendar are being pushed by Government pressure to write the Common Entrance into secondary schools. These half-baked pupils will certainly be of nuisance quality to the various secondary schools they move into and will be no match to those who studied in Anglophone schools located in Francophone Regions.

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