Preparations have been heating up towards the 75th anniversary celebrations of St Josephs College Sasse, Buea in Cameroon. Past and present students and friends of the college are being mobilized for the event that is expected to attract thousands of people to the foothills of the Buea mountain.
Bishop Immanuel Bushu, Archbishop of the Buea diocese is by virtue of his position, proprietor of Sasse college and will be actively involved in overseeing the celebrations.
A 1965 graduate of the college, he was part of the last batch of students who attended the minor seminary in Sasse College before it was moved to present day Bishop Rogan.
The soft spoken Bishop says arrangements are being made to ensure massive participation during the celebrations. He also reacted to claims of beatings on campus and the need to give former students pride of place during the anniversary celebrations.
He spoke to Francis Ngwa in Buea.
Q St Josephs College Sasse has its 75th anniversary in December. What’s the reason d’etre of the celebrations?
We are celebrating the fact that for 75 years, the college has formed and educated integrally, young people who went through the college
Q What are going to be the key points of the celebrations?
As a catholic college, the most important thing that will happen will be praying to God and thanking him that he did allow that the college train thousands of young people who have become great people in their communities. Added to that, other things will also happen during the celebrations. Those related to the college including past students, parents, parents-teachers association and friends of the college, will need to come together. We therefore have to work out the modalities to celebrate an event of that magnitude. A lot is going on now concerning the preparations.
Q I understand a good number of face lifting projects will be carried out on campus as part of the celebrations?
One of the envisaged projects is a sick bay for students who are not well. The project has been going on for the past four years. We will be very keen to finish that project. There is also the road leading from the school to Limbe which is also a major project. There will be work on some of the buildings because the college is quiet big now with 900 students and the accommodation is not what we will want it to be. There will be many projects like that intended to give the college a facelift so it could make it a place worth celebrating
Q I understand figures of 500 million FCFA has been mentioned as budget for the celebrations. Is that a right estimate?
When you throw something like this for discussions, some people will just say anything but that is certainly not a realistic figure. We might only get about a quarter of the figure you mentioned.
Q What role will ex students of the college be playing in the anniversary celebrations? Are they actively involved in the organization?
We will want to actively involve everybody in the celebrations. The new General President is quite an active man and a programme for the celebrations will be released eventually. We are organizing everything since we still have a couple of months before the event.
Q Talking about the structures of Sasse college, most of them were built in 1939 and have been there ever since. As you rightly say, there will be a facelift before the anniversary celebrations. In concrete terms, what should people expect will change?
I cannot be very precise about that to you now because the organizing committee needs to make final decisions about that. They will identify and name the priority projects.
Q Like the proprietor of Sasse College, why should any parent send their children to the college?
From the very beginning, the Catholic Church is a teacher by its very nature. When you are teaching especially the younger generations, you always need to form them spiritually, morally , physically and intellectually so that they are fit to live in communities. When Sasse was created, the aim was to train young people to be proper members of the society. We have been doing that and will continue doing so. Parents should send their children there because they can get an all round education there.
Q Are you an ex student of Sasse College?
Yes, I was there in 1961
Q What memories do you still have of your time as a student of the college?
I thought it was a great great college, We took the entrance exams as we did for other colleges at that time and we passed and thought it was a wonderful thing. We were very very happy to attend school in Sasse. We had what was called Spartan life training there meaning it was a time when you were well drilled so you could fit in anywhere in and out of Cameroon. You get every kind of training you will ever need in your life in the college. You are trained to be morally, spiritually and intellectually strong. I thought it was a worthwhile endeavour to study in the college.
Q How did you move from Sasse to priesthood?
Back then, there were actually two campuses in the college, the main one for ordinary secondary students and a smaller one and a dormitory apart for those who wanted to go into the priesthood. That means there was a minor seminary on campus but it was still attached to St Josephs college sasse. In 1965 when we were leaving the college, the then Bishop and his council decided there will do the minor seminary away from Sasse to Soppo and that is how Bishop Rogan college was created and Sasse stopped hosting the minor seminary. The thing was that when you were in the minor seminary, everyday you went to classes on campus but you stayed in a separate dormitory. That was the only difference between the two sets of students.
Q I Spoke to some students on campus and they had two main problems; they complained they did not have the kind of food and variety they will like and about four dormitories that had chronic water shortage problem. Can you guarantee some improvements will be made before the anniversary celebrations?
The water shortage problem, I am hearing hat from you now. I am not aware that some dormitories have a water shortage problem. It is not possible to run a place like that without water because you will start getting problems with health. If that is one of the main problems, I hope that will be resolved as part of the build-up to the celebrations.
Q And what about complains about food?
The students contribute money for food because they stay on campus. I know they eat well and look good. I am only hearing that from you now.
Q Despite your best intentions for the welfare of the students, some unfortunate situations still can happen like the stabbing that led to the death of a lower sixth student. When I spoke to some of the students, I learnt the student was stabbed because the discipline masters had to beat students of the basketball and volleyball teams after they lost a friendly match against Bishop Rogan. The boy who died took the sports shorts of the student who knifed him to cushion the beating. Why is teacher/student beatings still allowed on campus?
A I am not aware of this type of beating. I however know they might be some beating among students but I am not aware that discipline masters beat students.
Q You probably did not know about that but that is what I learnt from speaking to some of the students.
Why should they be beaten? It is a competition which means you might win or you might not win. Those in charge need to know this is just not done and that should not be happening
Q You are the proprietor and should take that decision to stop any form of beating on campus.
As I said, I am not aware that happens .They must learn to accept defeat. Colleges that win competitions must have worked hard but some must loss.
Q The stabbing was unfortunate but still gave the college a bad name. How do you intend to rise above challenges like that and ensure it never happens again?
Those are things that nobody expected. I think the incident was well managed by the principal and administration of the college. It could have been a volatile situation and parents might have withdrawn their children from the college. Not a single parent withdrew their children. There are things we need to talk about to ensure that does not happen again.
Q As proprietor of Sasse, what message do you have for some ex students who still have an active interest in what happens in the college years after they graduated?
I want to congratulate them for being ex students and for their active interest in the welfare of the college. They are still very strong members of the Sasse family which is a very good thing. I will say it is a blessing they are there and the pride of those who have passed through the college and are now Sobans are there. The fact that they are still there and identify with the college is a good thing and a blessing. It gives us a lot of courage. Sasse is a pace setter as far as secondary schools are concerned in Cameroon. We want them to keep on leading, keep on having the interests and keep on supporting us.