The glamour that followed the introduction of computer studies in secondary and high schools in the country, a few years ago, has lost its initial head of steam. Today, computer studies exert little or no influence on the curricular activities of most educational institutions, let alone in the countryside.

This week, CT visited some schools with computer access centres in Yaounde, and concluded that there was need for policy-makers and pedagogues to reconsider the importance of new communication technology in the formal education sector.

Visitors must not be deceived by time-tables pasted in the glass board on the wall. The time-tables often allocate hours for computer lessons, with specific lecturers assigned. But the hours are mostly meant for students to either retire home or read and reply e-mails, if authorised by computer centre masters.

Most of such centres simply add to the beauty of the institutions. The computers are attractively displayed in decent isolated buildings with attractive captions: "prudence! computer hall."

But the footstools therein tell a complete story of abandonment. Some of the seats are almost submerged by dust and visibly entangled with strands of cobwebs.

The problems with computer-access institutions is unique: lack of trained computer technology teachers. "We call our computer hall mortuary," a student of one of the referral schools revealed. "Access to computer is very difficult. Students need to impress the computer master in order to read or send mails. Few teachers use the centre for personal purposes," the student said.

When CT talked to one of the computer masters who opted for anonymity, he said the school had just two trained teachers. "There are two computer teachers for over six thousand students," he said. "We have made very little or no use of the equipment since its installation, some four years ago. The government has trained few teachers for too many students, but school authorities say there is no budget to reinforce the training, complaining that the cost of training is excessively high,"

"Getting ink for the computers is a major problem. The few teachers who come around hardly do their job due to lack of material. It even gets worse when the equipment breaks down. Most of the computers are already out of use," he revealed.

When CT asked why computer business centres do not develop and offer didactic programmes to teachers, they said the population has not yet developed interest in the learning of computers. They noted that most people are interested in reading and replying e-mails, adding that taxes involved in creating a computer teaching centre are quite inhibitive, and urged the government to liberalise the national telecommunications market.

Cameroon Tribune