Is education still a fundamental human’s right in Cameroon?
For two years now, schools have either been ineffective in some parts of Anglophone Cameroon or in some places, completely paralyzed. The crisis that began when teachers joined lawyers of Anglophone extraction
A UN report says since the crisis escalated in 2016, schools and their staffs have become targets in the North West and South West Regions of the country. 40 schools have been burnt down by separatist fighters and about 33,000 children are said to be out of school. Even the few schools going operational have very little or no learning materials. This has pushed so many young boys and girls to engage in sexual activities for livelihood as so many are either seeking refuge in Nigeria or are internally displaced.
The situation in the English speaking regions has forced most students and pupils to relocate to the francophone regions to seek education, but how effective are they in this situation with a new environment, far from home with challenging financial and psychological conditions
Liza is a lower sixth student in the Douala Academy of arts and sciences, she tells her story from her former school in Muyuka, one of the affected localities in the South West Region
“I left my place and came here because I knew since so many people are running towards this place, it was going to be an advantage for me to gain more knowledge since everywhere in the Southwest is not safe.“
Liza just like any other child who braved the odds to school last academic year 2017/2018. Liza Talking to a team of researchers from the Children Home International narrates her ordeal fighting to acquire education and sticking close to her family within a conflict-hit area. She thinks she could have done better if she had better study conditions.
” I left my school during when I discovered that schools were not effective, I came to Douala but due to circumstances I can’t explain, I went back to meet my family in Muyuka and there I started reading on my own preparing for the GCE. I actually prepared well but when we started writing the exams… I wrote just the economics paper and fighting erupted with heavy gunshots that frightened us. We were taken to Buea to complete our GCE at the government secondary school Bokwango. While in Buea, we wrote the exams all on the ground, we couldn’t sit normally to write because we were afraid of gunshots. Even teachers were on the ground. I wrote 10 subjects and finally had five , and I believe that if we were to write under favorable conditions, I would have had more than that but thank God I succeeded. My biggest challenge now is to face the advanced level in two years from now”
A report from a local newspaper shows how even in the littoral region, a predominantly French-speaking region hosting a good number of Anglophone schools were negatively affected. According to The Post newspaper, school principals complain how they were compelled to admit students who had missed lessons for long weeks/months and rushed to the region to prepare for the GCE exams. The principals during an evaluation meeting revealed how such instructions from the then minister of secondary education Jean Ernest Masena Ngale compelled them to organize catch-up classes to put them at the same level with their mates at who have had regular classes within the French-speaking regions.T his measure according to them was greatly affecting the standard of education offered to students . They claimed their schools had already covered the school syllabus for 2017 adhering to the total number of hours recommended by UNESCO and that classes such as form 5 and upper sixth were simply revising their notes. These remarks seemed to have fallen on deaf ears as both the education ministry and UNESCO ignored the concerns.
Calls for continues school boycott from Anglophone separatists have sparked controversy even within the ranks of their supporter. These same calls have been responsible for the destruction of education in the Anglophobe regions. The United Nations has simply ended at condemning the attacks on school children, teachers, and infrastructure but heavily criticized for failing to guarantee a safe environment for children’s education within these two regions. A group of women in the North West and South West Regions of the country has come out to protest against the avoidable war that is killing their children, husbands and preventing their kids from gaining education which is considered their fundamental human right enshrined in both national and international instruments
The disruption of schools in Cameroon is not just in the Anglophone regions of Cameroon.
The Far North Region of the country has witnessed similar instances mostly due to the outbreak of the Boko Haram insurgency. This has greatly affected schools as campuses have been turned to camps for refugees and Internally Displaced Persons IDPs.
The crises in Cameroon affecting the lives of school children negatively put in question the universal declaration of human rights especially article 26 that states ‘’everyone has a right to education’’. What then is the role to be played by UN stakeholders in the domains of education in Cameroon.
Children Home International is very concerned about the situation and is proposing a series of measures to mitigate the situation in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. Such measures include organizing seminars during which psychosocial support is channeled to the affected zones and create an enabling environment for conducive studies. These measures intend stretching out to the refugee camps in Nigeria while hoping that UNESCO and other UN systems may appear soon to salvage the situation by calling for urgent dialogue between the parties in the conflict
By Solomon Ateh, freelance writer, student journalist, and blogger