BMT --- some reflections

We have reported to you a great deal of information about Cameroon during the last academic year. We hope that you have been impressed with the wonderful natural and human resources it has. Looking back, we are happy that we made the trip and learned more about the world we live in. Life is definitely more than just living! Last week, we talked a bit more about the people in Cameroon. This week we want to tell you about something which we believe needs to be changed for Cameroon. 

If you asked us what is the thing that bothered us the most in Cameroon, we could easily tell you! It is not that the toilets do not have seats on them. It is not that we sometimes had no water and /or electricity. It is not that you can see garbage or people urinating on the side of a street. It is not that you can not get a roasted duck for dinner once in a while. It is not that you have to bargain to buy almost anything without paying a color tax. Oh, yes, these things bothered us, they were very different from what we are used to. But we believe that all these could be changed easily as the life style changes in Cameroon. We saw the big change of road conditions in Buea. When we first got there, the pot holes were every where, we bumped every day in the dust to and from the University. Last month, before we left, the road was more or less done. We could go to the University in one third or a quarter of the previous time. The internet connection was painfully slow 8 months ago, and now the satellite connections have speed comparable to anywhere in the world. So what bothered us the most??? It was BMT - Black Man's Time.

The tradition of BMT may have started a long time ago. Unfortunately highly educated people in academic institutions are not trying to correct this bad habit. For example, the announcement for the official faculty meeting to open the university may say in writing that it would start promptly at 9am. It might start two and half hours later. A concert program would tell you that the chorus will start to march in at 6:30pm, but it actually started after 8:30pm. It is bad enough to waste so much of everyone's time and energy. It is the starting point to teach young people that what they say and what they write down do not mean anything. Things could be changed however one likes, if one has the power. It also teaches young people that there is no right or wrong - things are always decided by the one with power. The implication of not keeping time on purpose is enormous. If you can not do this simple act of keeping time, how are you going to keep corruption out of society, how are you going to uphold other rules and laws of the government. This sounds too serious, but if you think about this we believe that you will see the connections. If Cameroon is to catch up with the rest of the industrial world, it must follow some rules which go against its grain. We do hope that people in leadership roles in Cameroon will understand our concern about this point and start some initiatives to make changes.