Christians should own, love and make schools truly Catholic – Bishop Nkuo

Interviewed by Mirabel Azangeh Tandafor Fru
Mgr George Nkuo might have moved from Education
Secretary to Bishop, but it would always remain his second nature to bother about what is happening to Catholic schools. In this exclusive interview conducted while he was on a short visit to Buea Diocese, he talks about the challenges facing Catholic Education in his current Diocese – Kumbo. To him, there is no magic but for Christian communities to own, love and make schools really Catholic. He also has a message for the flock in Buea. Read on! Excerpts

You have been Bishop since July 2006. How are you faring in that office?

It is very challenging, but by the Grace of God, I will make it. It is an exciting experience to work with the people of God in Kumbo. Somehow, I admire the great dynamism, youthfulness and vitality of the Church in Kumbo. Praise be to God!

What do you attribute your numerous achievements after this short duration as Bishop to?

I don’t want to talk about them as achievements, but I know that we have been doing a lot of work. I believe in team and community work. In Kumbo, there is already this beautiful set up where people have learned to work together, and are doing their best. I only joined a programme that had been put in place. We are now trying to improve on it and to make the Diocese alive.

If a lost Christian community of the Diocese recently joined the fold and the Diocese celebrated its Silver Jubilee under you, what then should such efforts be called if not achievements?

I think we are doing the work of God – building the Kingdom of God. For me that is what it is. That every hand is put on deck to see that it is done and done very well.

Should we presume that it would only be second to your nature to extend your skills as former Catholic Education Secretary to the education family in Kumbo?

When I went to Kumbo, people thought that having been Education Secretary and now Bishop, I was going to bring miracles to solve all the education problems in Kumbo. I am not a miracle worker. There are very pertinent problems of education in the Diocese, and we have this far, gathered the people, tried to sensitize them and to draw their attention to what needs to be done. There is low enrolment in our schools, teachers go for months without salaries, and there is general low morale among them. We are trying to put all these things together to sensitize them to see what we can do concretely to ameliorate their situation. We are really working very hard to get every single community where there is a Catholic school to own the school, love the school, and to make it really Catholic.

How feasible are these proposals?

They are quite feasible. I think if the people of Kumbo make an effort, we would go a long way, rather than depend everyday on government assistance which is not forthcoming.

Does the idea of richer schools helping the poorer ones, obtain in Kumbo?

That is unfortunately not the case because most of the schools in Kumbo are in rural areas. So, there is no question of the richer schools helping the poorer ones. I am not sure we have come to that stage where the schools in Yaounde, Douala, and may be Buea, would have to send us emergency help. However, if schools in Kumbo have to survive, they need to mobilize themselves, even if they are in rural areas. One of the things that have come up in our meetings is that Kumbo hasn’t got a monopoly of poverty. This means that even if the schools are in rural areas, people can do a lot to keep the schools alive. Lets all join hands to see how we can get the schools going.

What do you attribute the poor enrolment in Catholic schools to? Perhaps, low salaries accruing from the rural nature of schools?

We pay teachers with what we have. It is not like we have money and refuse to pay them. The government subventions we get and the low school fees paid is all we have at our disposal. We are also trying to see if the communities can contribute to the growth of our schools. Yes they are poorly paid, but that is all that is available, and we give the teachers every single franc that is made available to us.

Concretely, what can be done to revive Catholic Education?

People should love the schools. This would boost the morale of the teachers there. Also, the government should try to appreciate what is being done by making a substantial contribution to private education, and treat it fairly. The problem of government schools being constructed very close to mission schools is even more serious in Kumbo because our schools are situated in small villages. It is a big problem, and I think we have to educate the people about that. Politicians are to blame for this because they want to confuse and deceive people by opening schools which only exist on paper.

Almost two years out of this Diocese, what do you think has changed?

Lots of things! I am extremely impressed by the vitality and the new spirit that the new Bishop with his great team have done. The John Paul II Institute of Theology – JOPASIT is one of the exciting things I have seen I find other new schools around and vibrant parishes. It’s amazing and it is really beautiful to see Buea taking major strides. I am really proud of Buea that gave me birth, in a sense.

What about the measures taken by your successor in the education sector?

I think it is important for change to come. All we need to do is to get people for this. The Church is not a clerical Church. It is the people’s Church, and we should get the people more and more involved in Church affairs. This shows the Church is growing. I have nothing but praises for what is happening in the education family I left behind.

As a product of Buea, what message do you leave behind for the flock here?

It is important for the people of God to be knowledgeable about their faith. I see what is already happening here through JOPASIT. People should be committed about their faith and should live their faith fully. One of the key things is that people should not lead double lives. What we say and do in Church should be shown in our daily lives so that our lives are truly transformed by the Gospel. We should not be seen as doing one thing in Church, and the next day we are an embarrassment to the Church. People should be authentic Christians.

Anything to add?

I come to Buea really refreshed, and I am happy to see that the Church is so alive and growing. I want to ask the people of Buea not to forget the Diocese of Kumbo. I am a product of Buea, and if there is anything they can do for Kumbo, they should not hesitate to call on me in order for us to see how we can build the Church together.

April 24, 2008

The Plight of Catholic schools and Teachers: a cause for concern

By Livinus Tal Bam

Fr_zepherinuskumbo L’Effort Camerounais met with Rev. Father Zephyrinus
Mbuh, the Catholic Education Secretary of the Diocese of Kumbo, and he had the following to say on the plight of the Catholic school and of the Catholic teacher. In 1985, the Government issued a salary scale for Private Education according to which teachers were paid. The scale took into consideration the zone to which a teacher belonged, his/her qualification and longevity. In order to ensure that the salary scale was fully implemented, the Government assisted Private Education Agencies through subventions.

This practice came close to the grants in aid that obtained in the days of West Cameroon. The 1985 salary scale was respected by all Private Education Agencies until the 1992/1993 School Year when, due to economic crisis, the Government could not give subventions to Private Education.

This situation took the Private Education Agencies by surprise. As a result, they had to look for ways of coping with it. For the Catholic Education Agency in the Diocese of Kumbo, as was the case elsewhere in the Bamenda Ecclesiastical Province, secondary school teachers and auxiliary staff suffered salary cuts while their counterparts in the primary schools went on token allowances, paid only as far as the income from school fees could go. This continued for two years until a protocol agreement was reached with these teachers. The Catholic Education Agency in Kumbo Diocese continues to owe fabulous sums of money to both current and former teachers for the 1992/1993 and 1993/1994 School Years.

The inability to pay teachers’ salaries was coupled with the unavoidable failure to pay contributions on behalf of the teachers to the National Social Insurance Fund. As a result, the Agency has accumulated huge debts, both contributions and penalties, with the Fund. The Diocese has been molested time and again, irrespective of the fact that State subventions have not been paid for the period concerned. Efforts are being made to clear the debs. The Catholic teacher continues to receive meagre salaries neither commensurate with his/her effort, sacrifice and dedication nor adequate to meet their needs.

This has caused untold suffering and pain to the Catholic teacher in particular and to the Private Education Agencies in general. Cameroon having attained the completion of the Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) Initiative, the Catholic teacher would like to feel its rippling positive effect, as a teacher feels fulfilled when he/she receives a just wage and witnesses the progress of his/her pupils or students. Some of our teachers erroneously think that the Church is indifferent to their suffering. The Church, that is the voice of the voiceless, the strength of the weak, the wealth of the poor, the defender of the defenceless and the mother of all cannot afford to be indifferent to the pain and misery of teachers and their families!

That is why the Bishop of Kumbo leaves no stone unturned in search of a solution to the problems of the Catholic school and the Catholic teacher. On March 30, 2008 an educational process was launched in all the parishes of the Diocese of Kumbo, through which the Priests, Religious Men and Women, teachers, members of the Parents’ and Teachers’ Associations and the Education Commission, explained to Christian communities that Catholic schools belong to them and they are obliged to work tirelessly towards their survival. It is hoped that this sensitisation will make parents realise the need to pay fees and make other financial contributions to ensure the survival of Catholic schools and Catholic teachers.

The transparent managements of resources by administrators, is also indispensable. This will give a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment to both the teachers and the managers. Parents need to be reminded of their obligation to bring up their children in the Catholic faith. Convinced of this obligation, parents will be able to send their children to Catholic schools where this is guaranteed and pay higher fees to enable the Church to educate their children. The Catholic teacher has an enormous task to offer quality and faith-based education to their pupils. It is the duty of the Government to provide for the education of her citizens.

It is important to take note that although Government subvention to Private Education has dwindled and is not promptly disbursed, the Government always makes the effort to allocate it. We are close to the end of the 2007/2008 School Year and we have only received 71 percent of the subvention allocated for the 2006 Financial Year, to say nothing of the 2007 Financial Year! With the recent 15 percent increase in the salaries of civil servants, we hope that the Government will do well to increase the subvention package so that teachers of the Private Sector can be paid equal salaries with their counterparts in Government schools.

The Government teacher and the teacher of the Private Sector offer the same service to the State – educating the Cameroonian child. Is there any reason why Government teachers should be paid salaries about 5 times more than those of the teachers of the Private Sector? It is undeniable the Church runs schools for the purpose of evangelisation. This explains why the Church opens schools in the most remote areas of our country, places where those who run schools for the purpose of making profit would not go. We know that the Cameroon Government has made a lot of effort to bring education nearer to the people by opening schools in every community.

We also know that there are Government schools that do not have teachers because the few posted to remote schools spend most of their time chasing dossiers and salaries or running businesses in townships. The Catholic teacher, on the contrary, is very dedicated to his/her job in spite of the fact that they are not well paid. In dealing with teachers Priests need to function as pastors of souls, bearing in mind the fact that being called ‘Father’ does not only connote a title of respect, but a certain and conscious fatherly approach in dealing with the flock entrusted to their care. The Catholic teacher in particular, and every teacher who takes his/her job seriously, deserves to be congratulated on his/her careful, conscious and focused task of moulding consciences and raising responsible citizens and leaders of society.

We call on our Members of Parliament and the leaders of our country to give due and favourable attention to the cry of Private Education Agencies and to the teacher of the Private Sector and encourage him/her in his/her noble teaching profession!

April 24, 2008

Fr. Andrew’s priest ministry celebaration 19th. april

Most noble one,
On the 19th of April 2001, I became a priest. On this day I thank God for all those through whom he let me to his altar and those with whom I have journeyed so far. You are one of those.You may not know that you have an irreplaceable role that you have been playing and are still playing in my life. Everything I think of all the goodness arround your person, I am convinced of the reality of holiness. Time has unfolded to us all a practice wherein every good act is received with the words, Thank You. I thank you so much from within my being. May God purify and grant all your hearts desires for these and the life hereafter.
Pray for me that God in his mercy may forgive my so many sins and give me the grace of perseverance in the promised life of evangelical simplicity, and chastity in obedience to his will all the days of my life. My prayer for you is this psalm line, “let those who hope in you not be put to shame through me lord of Host; let not those who seek you be dismayed through me God of Israel.”
Remain blessed,Remain Good and remain positive In the Risen Lord.

Fr. Andrew Solii

Bishop Nkuo calls on women to adopt priests as sons

By Florence Mbong Nganji
Bishop_nkuo_calls_on_womenHis Lordship Bishop George Nkuo has called on the women of Kumbo Diocese to adopt priests in the diocese as their own sons. The Bishop made the call in St. Theresia’s Cathedral Church Kumbo on March, 19, during the traditional come together marking the birthday of the priesthood.

The event brought together 64 priests and three deacons from the 25 parishes and institutions of the diocese. Also present to give thanks to God for the gift of Priesthood were religious men and women and many lay faithful.

During the Holy Mass that is usually celebrated on the occasion, the oils of catechumen and the sick are blessed and the Holy Chrism consecrated. The celebration owes its name to the Holy Chrism, ‘Chrism Mass’.

In a 25-minute sermon, Bishop Nkuo called on all the women of Kumbo Diocese to be spiritual mothers to all those who have been called to the priesthood. He said the vocation of spiritual mother to priests is neither known nor understood by Christians.

All women, irrespective of their ages and civil status, may be spiritual mothers to a specific priest even without the knowledge of the priest, the Bishop explained. These women pray for the priest and accompany him throughout his life. This equally applies to women missionaries and religious who offer their whole life to God for the sanctification of humanity.

The Bishop also called on each parish in the diocese to start intensifying and promoting what he described as true and proper “Upper Rooms”, where consecrated and lay people can join in a spirit of communion to pray for genuine reparation and purification through continuous Eucharistic Adoration.

Mgr George Nkuo sent a special public invitation to all religious women and members of Catholic Women Association in particular and to the entire womenfolk of the diocese in general, to become true spiritual mothers to the priests of Kumbo Diocese.

He appealed to all the Christians to pray for their priests because prayer is very important in the apostolate of priests. Christians were also told that prayers for the priest started in the days of St. Peter, the first Pope, and St Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. They needed prayers to sustain and strengthen their lives as priests, Kumbo Christians were told. In the same vein, today’s priests need prayers.

The Bishop reiterated that priests come from the society and are therefore susceptible to human frailties. He pointed out that instead of giving them flask of food and other material things, prayers remain the most precious gift to offer priests.

All the 6 deaneries that make up the Diocese of Kumbo were represented at the celebration. Gifts were presented mostly in kind to the bishop at the offertory according to the various deaneries. The Holy Mass was animated by the Tabenken Deanery.


Bishop Nkuo ordains three priests

By Livinus Tal Bam
OrdinationkumboThe Bishop of Kumbo, Mgr George Nkuo has ordained three priests. Edwin, Hyacinth and Siver were ordained last March 27, 2008 at the St. Theresa’s Cathedral in Kumbo. While Edwin Boye and Hyacinth will serving in the Diocese of Kumbo, Br. Siver answered the call to join the Capuchin, a member of the custody of St Francis of Assisi in Cameroon .

Drawing inspiration from Matt. 9: 35 – 39, Bishop George called on the ordained to emulate the example of Christ who went around towns and villages proclaiming the word of God.

Quoting different documents, the Bishop went on to remind them of the qualities of a good priest. A good priest, he said, is always a messenger of God, one who allows himself for people to take a chunk from and is open to people. He further called on them to be on guard against the threatening powers of evil. The Bishop said they should be awaken to the word of God.

Just like Jesus did, Bishop George called on the newly ordained to take up the preaching of the Word of God as their primary responsibility. In the context of the pastoral programme of the Diocese of Kumbo for 2008, which focuses on the intensification of catechesis, he lauded the commitment of the new and old priests, who have taken the challenges as first catechists.

Having received the grace of ordination, Edwin, Hyacinth and Siver were further called upon to proclaim the word of God with assurance as priests just as Jesus did. Reminding them that they will be persecuted in the course of carrying out their ministry, the bishop told them to teach the community what Christ wants them to hear and not to tell the people what they want to hear.

Saying yes to the priesthood is a yes forever. This means living faithfully to the priestly call. But the Bishop noted, however, that they will be moments of disappointment and frustration. This shall disrupt the happiness of a priestly life, but it shall not warrant the newly ordained to drop their priestly fidelity, the Bishop advised the newly ordained.



Fr Robert Tantoh of the Diocese of Kumbo appointed Assistant Secretary General of NECC

Final Communiqué of the 33rd Plenary Assembly of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon

The 33rd Plenary Assembly of the National Episcopal Conference of Cameroon (NECC) held at the John XXIII Centre, Mvolyé, from March 31 to April 5, 2008. The session was chaired by the Vice President, Mgr Samuel Kleda, sitting in for Mgr Victor Tonye Bakot, victim of a ghastly accident, a few days earlier, that necessitated his evacuation to Europe for treatment.

From the beginning of the session, and especially during the solemn opening Mass presided at by Mgr Antoine Ntalou at the St Laurent Chapel, the bishops prayed for the speedy recovery of their president.

During the session, the bishops listened to the reports of the different services of the National Episcopal Conference and gave guidelines for the smooth functioning of the structure. They also reviewed some upcoming important ecclesial events notably:

– The 49th International Eucharistic Congress that will hold in Ottawa from June 15 to 22, 2008.

– The Plenary Assembly of the Association of the Episcopal Conferences of the Central African Sub-region that will hold in Bangui from June 29 to July 6, 2008.

– The World Youth Days that will hold in Sydney from July 14 to 20, 2008.

– The Synod of Bishops on The Word of God that will hold in Rome from October 5 to 26, 2008.

The Apostolic Nuncio, Mgr Antonio Eliseo Ariotti, attended the session and encouraged the bishops, especially following the serious accident of which Mgr Victor Tonye Bakot was the victim. The Holy Father and the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of the Peoples also sent encouragement messages to the bishops in which they exhorted more cohesion among bishops in their pastoral activities, reminding them of the session’s themes, that is, the Word of God that remains for ever relevant; the sometimes difficult choices that have to be made in the management of Church resources for the good of God’s people, and the Eucharist, source of life to the world that permits the youths to grow spiritually.

After long discussions and profound reflection on last February’s unfortunate social unrest in our country, the bishops called on youths to exercise more restraint and to respect public and private property. This responsibility, among others, consists of being accountable for their actions, always being driven by the desire for public good and not allowing themselves to be manipulated by others. The bishops further called on the youths to always allow justice and Christ’s love to shape or determine all their actions. They then assured the youths of their prayers in the face of the frustrating unemployment situation that is theirs.

The bishops expressed satisfaction with the measures the government has taken to resolve some present political and social problems. They exhorted the powers that be to always strive to look for durable solutions to problems in order to preserve peace in the country.The bishops announced the Pilgrimage of the Relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux in Cameroon from November 1, 2008 to February 15, 2009.

The year dedicated to St Paul decreed by the Holy Father will be celebrated throughout the national territory. A national closing ceremony shall be celebrated in Yaounde from the June 26 to 28, 2009.

The bishops made the following appointments:
– Assistant Secretary General of NECC, Fr Robert Tantoh of the Diocese of Kumbo

– National Coordinator of Justice and Peace, Professor Siméon Ombiono

– Director of AMA, Professor Lious-Pascal Modo Asse

– The Bishops of Cameroon will participate in the Plenary Assembly of ACERAC in Bangui from June 29 to July 6, 2008. They will come together again for their Annual Seminar from January 3 to 10, 2009, in Maroua.

Mvolyé, April 5, 2008
Signed: Mgr Joseph Akonga Essomba
Secretary General, NECC
Translated by the Central News Desk