The Department of Journalism and Mass Communication (JMC) in the University of Buea was one of the smallest in student admissions in the entire university, with just 35 pioneer students when it kicked off in 1993. However, across the years, it has experienced a tremendous increase in its admission rates.
This academic year, the JMC department admitted just over 450 freshmen, the equivalent of the total number of its first ten batches of students and that is outrageous to some, including alumni, former and current lecturers of the department.
However, the Head of Department, Dr Kingsley Ngange (picture), says the admissions were decided by the university’s Admissions Board, chaired by the highest authorities of the institution, who chose to give special considerations under exceptional circumstances under which students studied and sat examinations this past couple of years.
Even before the present “exceptional” circumstances, university statistics show not a sudden jump this year, but a gradual geometric rise in JMC student intake across the years.
The second batch in 1994 was about double the first batch, and the JMC department admission numbers have naturally been on the rise.
In the mid-1990s, within two years, the admission numbers rose to about a hundred first-year students per batch. By the turn of the last decade, freshmen intake began to hit 200, 300.
The present “alarming” exceptional consideration of 450 admitted freshmen is just a minimal increase from the previous years.
Expressing nostalgia for the good old days, the pioneer Head of Department (1993-2005), Professor Enoh Tanjong, told Equinoxe TV that he strove during his 12-year tenure at the helm of the department, to the keep JMC student numbers low in order to limit entry to only those with the best academic performance in the GCE A’ Level and to maintain a convenient teacher-student ratio, conducive for professional training.
Enoh’s successor, Dr Henry Muluh (2005-2013), now Vice Dean in the University of Bamenda, expressed similar worries in an interview to be published in a special silver jubilee edition of Chariot Magazine, one of JMC students’ training manuals.
“I’m surprised 600 (sic) students were admitted into JMC this academic year. You cannot run a professional programme with 600 students,” said Muluh.
Similarly, some current lecturers of the department, though not criticising the large intake – but are, nevertheless, expressing concerns over the challenges of hands-on training with such unfavourable teacher-student ratio.
Instead seeing glee amid the apparent gloom, Dr Ngange, who became JMC Head of Department (HOD) in the 2017/2018 academic year, told the matriculation edition of The Chariot newspaper (Vol. 24, No. 5 of Saturday, November 17, 2018) that the massive admission numbers implies; “JMC is the most solicited department in UB”.
He described the department as hotcake, because, its graduates are highly solicited in the job market.
He is the fourth HOD after Professor Enoh Tanjong (1993-2005), Dr Henry Muluh (2005-2013) and Dr Julius Che Tita (2013-2017).
Ngange said it was not the decision of JMC to open the admission floodgates.
“Last year when I went to the Admissions Board, the department had taken a position that it wanted 50 students, but we were informed that it had been an exceptional year and so the admission was exceptional,” Ngange told The Chariot newspaper.
He said the “exceptional” measures taken by the university meant the admission standards across the university, not just for JMC, hit an all-time low, a sharp contrast with existing rules when JMC cut off points were upwards of eight, nine and ten.
On a personal note, he said: “When I came to [JMC], I think my grade was very high, about 14 points or so, but today, it’s different.”
He said the quality of teaching could be a remedy. “The training of students is in the lecture halls,” he said.
Going further to address the uproar over the many students JMC admitted this year, Dr Ngange said: “We must note, above all, that crowding should also be seen in the light of general population trends.
“They are always on the rise, often at geometric rates. The rise in the population of Buea, for example, means there are more human beings per square metre. The university cannot be an exception,” he said.
“JMC cannot be an exception. If we cannot reverse the tide of rising student numbers, we may strive to increase the staff numbers and training facilities to meet up with the demands, so that no child is left behind,” Dr Ngange concluded.