By Innocent Chia
The Vice-Chancellor of the Information and Communication Technology – University, ICT-U Cameroon, Professor Beban Sammy Chumbow has announced the launching of two programs effective the beginning of new academic year that is slated for October, 2013. Both postgraduate offerings – MSc/Ph.D in Digital Media as well as MSc/Ph.D in the Science of Education – are more than pragmatic additions to a rich portfolio brought on at the end of the ICT University Senate meeting earlier this August month. The growing portfolio continues breathing life into the Vision and Mission of the school as the “premier destination of research, innovation and training of scholars relevant for the context of developing countries”.
It is a vision and mission that addresses two corps huge and interrelated problems in developing countries: antiquated curriculum that pays little attention to industry, creativity, self-employers and job creators; and the root cause of skyrocketing unemployment, particularly among youth. In Cameroon, as in most other developing countries, youth unemployment is at a staggering 65% and growing. The disillusion is even greater for University graduates when magnified under the lens of expectations, of both the parents/sponsors and the students themselves. Little wonder, Cameroonians under the age of 45 are more likely to list you the number of friends and classmates that have died than of employed classmates who are earning a living wage.
Even with much talk about the light that is at the end of the tunnel and currently brightening Africa, there is cause for concern clearly illustrated in the Chinese policy of relocating and dumping largely uneducated and unskilled Chinese labor, and bad products. The concern is that an overwhelming majority of those who are unemployed, available and willing to work do not have the skills set to fill the positions. Because they are unemployed one can hardly talk of getting retrained because they were never ever trained for anything, safe the life of school.
By introducing these targeted classes, ICT-U is betting, for the case of their Digital Media program for instance, on training visionaries who will recognize the myriad of opportunities inherent in the over 1 billion monthly active users on Facebook alone. And there are tons more of other social media outlets, and those to be created, that need content to be created in a smart, efficient manner that speaks convincingly and effectively to the target audiences. The age and paradigm of the media broadcasting to the masses (mass media) has been challenged by the present times, and morphed into media by the masses.
Information gleaned from the brochure of the the Digital Media program states that the online and onsite offerings at the Yaounde-Cameroon Campus will allow students to be physically on campus only for two or three full weekends per semester. There is sufficiently enticing information as to specific courses that will give the students a leg up in Online Newspapers / Magazines , Online Radio, Online TV, Web Development, Web Blogging, and Podcasting.
Students on the Digital Media program will also be prepared to develop digital media platforms such as online radio and TV targeting communities that speak certain languages. With the advent of cybercafés even in rural communities, the citizens of these communities will have the opportunity to access information in their languages via the Internet. Download BROCHURE_MSc_PhD_Digital Media_Final 2013_April_24
The MSc/Ph.D in the Science of Education programs are potentially the economic locomotive without which the economy splutters, stagnates and eventually dies. Focus here is on training the trainers of the new age, entrepreneurs and leaders. Candidates into the MSc/PhD programs in Sciences Education are forewarned as to the “rigorous… programs that require year-round study”. Concentrations include: ICT Education; Educational leadership and Administration; Educational policy; Entrepreneurship education; Early childhood Education; and Special Education. Again, according to the program brochure:
These concentrations will give students the expert knowledge to understand and to contribute to solving complex educational problems globally, but with a specific focus on the realities of developing nations. Download BROCHURE_MSc_PhD_Science-of-Education_2013_April_24 (1)At three years of age, the ICT-U global experience has seen significant and steadfast growth in India. But Cameroon is not far away, with about 1000 of the 5500 total global students count. According to the President of the Board of Trustees, Prof. Victor W. A. Mbarika, quite a few key factors account for this on-target growth. Including the quality of staff and first class coursework, the President highlights the fact that while undergraduate programs are much cheaper than the master and doctoral programs…over 90% of students have a partial scholarship. As part of an invitation to the Cameroonian family in the Diaspora to visit the school website (www.ictuniversity.org) for applications, (Download ICT-U Cameroon Application Form_2013_March-17) Prof Mbarika stated as much in September 2012:
We will be running a great placement program to position students and recent graduates for jobs, as well as entrepreneurial training to enable them create their own jobs. Members of the diaspora interested in pursuing their Masters or Ph.D. can also apply to certain programs offered online. Although most of the programs are onsite, there are a few full graduate degree programs offered online. You get the advantage of paying much less than you would have to, to study in the developed world. Furthermore, you and all our students receive superior quality education from faculty members trained at the best Universities worldwide. This is the same for our onsite programs where faculty members teach from the US and Europe via Video Conferencing with the Yaoundé campus. The technology we employ allows students to interact with the Professors with questions and comments in real time. Our courses are progressive, flexible and benchmarked against the world’s best.
... Better education will be the source of manpower that will move Cameroon into the ranks of emerging nations. The ICT University – Cameroon is here to help fill that void.
Of course there are skeptics of the success of this program given the limited penetration of the internet in Cameroon. There is also the question of reliability of power lines, with the notorious distribution of power by neighborhoods and towns at given points of the day or week. There are challenges that may be outside of the scope of ICT-U Camerooon, but certainly factors that it has considered in its dual online and onsite approach. It certainly cannnot and has not been a deterrent from giving the students and their communities another meaniningful shot at hope.
It should now be a race against the clock for those who see this opportunity. Before you blink the new academic year will be here in another month - October 2013.
***In full disclosure, Innocent Chia, publisher of The Chia Report and author of this piece, is a member of the Advisory Board of the Digital Media Program.