Campus News

Published by Communications and Public Affairs (519) 824-4120, Ext. 56982 or 53338

News Release

September 24, 1998

New, independent program builds bridge between Guelph, Cameroon

The University of Guelph and University of Dschang in Cameroon lie half a world apart.

Yet these two very different universities in two very different parts of the world became partners to help make education more accessible. The University of Guelph and University of Dschang started a distance education program in agriculture. Dschang is now ready to run the program exclusively after working with Guelph for seven years. Both universities take pride in knowing they have given all Cameroonians something they previously lacked: more opportunity for an education.

"There are so many bright people in Cameroon who never had a chance. The system is not geared to allow people to come into a program later in life as adults, or they were kept out because there is no space," said Jana Janakiram, a University of Guelph professor in Rural Extension Studies who helped facilitate the University of Dschang's program.

"Today in Cameroon, no one can say I don't have the opportunity.' That is the great difference this program has made."
Modelled after the University of Guelph's program and designed with guidance from its professors, the University of Dschang program consists of 20 courses, ranging from growing coffee and cocoa to animal science to management and marketing. Certificates are offered in agricultural management, animal science and crop science. Professors from Cameroon have visited Guelph to learn and vice versa.
Professor Ajaga Nji, co-ordinator of the Distance Education Project at the University of Dschang, visited Guelph recently to help prepare a status report on the project. "Our work was based on the Guelph experience, but the program is entirely our own," he said proudly.

Cameroon is a rural country with a tropical climate and limited resources. About 5,000 students apply annually for 100 available spots to study agriculture at the University of Dschang. Computers and televisions are not easily available to deliver distance education. By comparison, more than 3,000 students enroll in agricultural programs at the University of Guelph and they can choose to learn in the classroom or by television or computer.

Nearly 70 percent of Cameroon's people work in agriculture or agriculture-related fields. There is a constant demand for training, but limited resources, Nji said. Janakiram, who previously worked for an international institute in Cameroon, became involved in 1988 shortly after arriving at the University of Guelph. He received support from Rural Extension Studies and the Ontario Agricultural College to help create a distance education program. Initial funding was provided by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Cameroon government.

It took seven years to train University of Dschang faculty to help facilitate the program and to create courses. Courses were first offered two years ago. Learners come from all 10 provinces in Cameroon and range in age and experience. Students receive printed course packets, and mail in their assignments.

"We started at zero and we have now sold 560 courses," Nji said. One of the ways the university advertises the program is by driving a truck with the words "Agricultural Distance Education Program, University of Dschang" painted on its side. "They do so much with so little, that is something I really appreciate," Janakiram added.

For more information, contact Professor Jana Janakiram, Rural Extension Studies, University of Guelph, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 2241. Professor Ajaga Nji can be reached in Cameroon at (237) 45-13-26 or by fax (237) 45-19-55 or E-mail:

For media questions, contact Communications and Public Affairs, (519) 824-4120 Ext. 3338

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