University of Buea - Beginning of the Semester - Fall, 2001:
On Monday, October 15th, we began classes - two weeks AHEAD of schedule! (It is a mystery to us how students find out about when school starts!) Registration was supposed to take place last week but most returning students (we were told) will wait to register when they arrive this week. As a result, the number of students in our classes is fluctuating daily! Tom is supposed to have 80 students in his Chemical Kinetics class and Janice is supposed to have 80 in Linear Algebra. In addition, Tom has "volunteered" to cover the first two weeks of a General Chemistry class for a faculty member on maternity leave. That class has 700 students which are divided into 2 sections of 350 each (each of which meets in a room which holds only 250 students - we are not sure how that will work when all of the students show up!).
We began the semester with a "Congregation Meeting" on October 1st. This was a meeting of all faculty and most administrators to get things started. We were lucky (as it turned out) that this 11 o'clock began promptly (!) at 11:45. The meeting set the next day at 9 a.m., to plan for the semester, began at 10:30 - we were the only ones there at 9! (We are slowly getting used to the sense of time here! As a footnote, it took the better part of 3 mornings to obtain our ID cards from the Police Station!)
We have learned several interesting things about the academic process. For example, we are required to assign 70% of the grade in a course to the final examination and only 30% to "continuous assessment." Also, since the students do not have text books, we give notes and assignments to the elected class delegates who make them available to students for copying. More interesting, the class delegates are required to take notes about the topics we cover each class - they and we sign the sheet at the end of each class - and the results are turned in to the Department Chair at the end of the semester. If we do not cover at least 70% of the syllabus, we are not allowed to give a final in the course. (We are not sure what happens to students in such a class but we have been told that the faculty member's salary would be affected!)
Both of us have established very positive relationships with members of our departments. They have gone out of their way to make us welcome and help us figure out what is going on. In particular, they have been very excited and grateful about the calculators and CBL's which we were able to bring them (thanks to many of you!). Tom is to give a workshop to Chemistry faculty soon so that all of them will be able to use the equipment. He plans to structure many of the Chemistry Labs using them, since they have little else. Janice will give a similar workshop to the Mathematics faculty in a few weeks.
The infrastructure of the University, while not up to U.S. standards, is infinitely better than that of the local community. They are continuing to build new buildings and improve the campus. This year there is a new Health Center and - to be completed in a few weeks - a new Science Lab/Office Building. See Tom's pictures for some scenes on campus.
We will write more soon as we learn more! Keep in touch - we love those emails even if we are slow to answer - you would not believe how slow the internet is here!!