By Opting for Online Payment of School Fees, Secondary Education Minister, Nalova Lyonga, Boldly Takes Cameroon Closer to its Decarbonization Goals

By Opting for Online Payment of School Fees, Secondary Education Minister, Nalova Lyonga, Boldly Takes Cameroon Closer to its Decarbonization Goals

Colbert Gwain

Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, made a commitment during the 2021 Paris Climate Change Conference, PCCC, wherein he declared the nation’s readiness to fully fulfill its obligation of reducing its carbon footprint by 32% by 2035 in comparison to the levels of 2010. This commitment was firmly grounded in the recognition that Cameroon’s developmental strategy, aiming to elevate its status to that of an emerging nation by the same timeframe, could only be realized through a strategic approach to climate change adaptation. This, in turn, necessitated the formulation of a clean development mechanism.
President Paul Biya, cognizant of these imperatives, pronounced the country’s resolute political determination to undertake the arduous yet indispensable decisions required to effectively coordinate the collaborative endeavors aimed at realizing this set commitment.

In a significant stride aligning with the decarbonization objectives set forth in Paris during the COP21 by President Paul Biya, Professor Nalova Lyonga, the Minister of Secondary Education, has introduced a digital payment system for school fees, commencing in the academic year 2023/2024. This progressive move brings Cameroon closer to the goals outlined at COP21. Moreover, beyond its contribution to the reduction of carbon emissions, this initiative enhances President Paul Biya’s international standing as a steadfast keeper of promises, a stature that will be accentuated during the upcoming COP28 at the Expo City in Dubai from November 30 to December 12, 2023. The said conference demands that nations substantiate their fulfillment of commitments made post-COP21.

This novel method of virtual and paperless fee payment in public schools, spearheaded by Professor Nalova Lyonga, not only advances the broader objective of carbon footprint reduction but also safeguards students, parents, and guardians from the perils of pathogenic agents prevalent on physical currency notes and coins that exchange numerous hands over time.

The conventional fee collection method, apart from its strain on human resources and material assets, suffered from considerable human errors in fee calculation, invoicing, and reconciliation. In stark contrast, the eco-conscious system introduced by the forward-thinking and digitally-oriented Nalova Lyonga significantly contributes to environmental well-being by markedly diminishing the volume of paper consumption in administrative processes across the nation’s educational institutions.

Assuming a conservative estimate of 1,000,000 students in public secondary schools across Cameroon, it is evident that this new digital fee payment mechanism obviates the need for an equivalent number of paper receipts. By extension, it contributes substantially to reducing the carbon footprint associated with these 1,000,000 students, their parents, or guardians. Given that assessing individual carbon footprints entails accounting for daily activities, ranging from dietary habits to office paperwork, the cumulative yearly consumption of paper in processing and documenting school fees across over 23,000 schools adversely impacts the environment.

The ecological impact extends beyond paper, affecting printers, ink, and ink cartridges, all of which pose environmental hazards. Crafting a laser printer and inkjet cartridges requires over 3 quarts of oil and involves the use of chemicals that can prove detrimental if disposed of improperly, leading to water and soil pollution. Thus, apart from building upon this innovative step by promoting afforestation and the establishment of school gardens, the Minister of Secondary Education should also consider instilling environmental awareness in students, introducing them to #carbon footprint calculators.

This initiative would empower millions of secondary school students in Cameroon to utilize calculators to gauge their environmental impact, fostering not only an understanding of sustainable living but also nurturing a sense of responsibility towards the planet.

Advantages of the Digital Fee Payment System:

Beyond its eco-friendly attributes, the chosen digital payment system for secondary education in Cameroon confers various benefits, including enhanced convenience, security, and cost reduction.

This pivotal decision, while demanding, profoundly influences the upcoming generation of decision-makers and climate advocates in Cameroon. It arises from the myriad challenges previously encountered by students, parents, and school administrators when dealing with tuition fees and examination charges.

The labor-intensive process of manually organizing and tracking paper documents is both time-consuming and prone to complications arising from disorganized stacks of papers. Acknowledging the universally accepted notion that an average individual spends approximately 10 minutes daily searching for misplaced items, it can be inferred that those responsible for manual fee payment expended nearly six months annually in the pursuit of lost fee receipts.

The cost-effectiveness of digital payments far outweighs the expenses tied to outdated payment procedures. Seamless digital transactions facilitate precise record-keeping while relieving teachers of the responsibility of handling funds, which often leads to mismanagement. This, in turn, grants educators more time to focus on critical educational activities. With digital payments, parents and guardians are freed from the need to entrust students with the transportation of cash, thus substantially reducing the risk of financial loss due to theft or mishandling.

The digital payment system empowers parents to effect payments at their convenience, from the comfort of their homes, workplaces, or leisure spots, including outside office hours. This is especially beneficial for working parents who previously spent prolonged periods in queues while juggling work responsibilities. By simplifying the fee payment process with a mere click, this innovation contributes to improved student outcomes, allowing administrators to dedicate more time to designing effective curricula and exam patterns.

Instances abound of parents assuming they had remitted school fees, only to discover at year-end that their child’s participation in end-of-course assessments was barred due to unpaid fees. Similarly, instances of funds disappearing between the school and the bank were not uncommon. By embracing this digital payment mechanism, the Minister of Secondary Education ensures that such issues become relics of the past.
As mentioned earlier, the online fee payment system enhances productivity not only for students and school administrators but also for parents. Furthermore, it substantially curtails CO2 emissions by discouraging millions of parents from making frequent trips to distant school campuses, thereby reducing atmospheric pollution.

Recognizing that digital services might not be universally accessible, Professor Nalova Lyonga has extended alternatives for fee payment, including the Cameroon Postal Services (CAMPOST) and traditional banking institutions like Afriland First Bank, Eco Bank, and Express Union. This accommodates parents who are unable to access MTN Mobile or Orange Money, the predominant players in the digital finance sector.

African countries present several arguments against embracing paperless money systems. They emphasize the challenges of a digital divide, where inadequate technology infrastructure and internet access hinder equal participation. Concerns over technological literacy, especially among older and rural populations, further discourage the adoption of paperless services. African nations stress the importance of inclusivity, suggesting that traditional methods cater to those uncomfortable with digital technologies. Worries about data security and system reliability in digital platforms also contribute to their hesitance. Additionally, linguistic diversity and cultural preferences for tangible documents are cited as factors. Some African countries assert that addressing climate change is secondary to their development priorities and urge Western countries, historically responsible for carbon emissions, to provide compensation and support for climate initiatives due to their disproportionate impact on Africa’s resources and economy.

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