Education is said to be the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another but with the aggravated armed conflict in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon, the next generation of this country might not be able to get this soul nor pass it on as students and teachers are frustrated with the paralyzed Anglophone system of education.
On the 21st of November 2016 the Anglophone teacher trade union in Bamenda North West Region of Cameroon, started a strike action calling on the government to respect the Anglophone sub system of education (Anglosaxon system of education) and to stop the massive recruitment of French speaking teachers into Anglophone schools. This gradually turned into an armed conflict with many calls for ghost towns by the leaders of the self – proclaimed Ambazonia.
As part of civil disobedience, the leaders of the restoration forces asked school owners to shut down their schools and those who disobeyed have been termed as “blacklegs”. Schools have been burnt and children who insist on schooling have either been kidnapped or severely beaten by the restoration fighters.
Sacred Heart College in Bamenda, GBHS Bamenda, CCAST Kumba among other schools in the two English speaking regions have suffered such attacks. These actions have instill fear into the heart of students and parents, thereby causing some parent who are financial stable to send their children to school in the French speaking parts of Cameroon. Those who cannot afford, either have to bear the risk of sending their children to school, let them learn a trade or let them get into the business world.
On the 5th of November 2018, 68 students and 4 staff members were kidnapped from PSS Nkwen, a boarding school in the NWR of Cameroon. This led to the withdrawal of most of the students from school by their parents for fear of the unknown. 11 students were also kidnapped from the University of Bamenda on the 12 of February 2019. All these happenings left students confused and not sure of what the future holds for them.
Some who brave the odds no longer dress in school uniforms for fear of being recognized. The rural areas are said to be the most affected areas as most schools in the villages have been burned. Teachers and students have fled to other areas for security reasons.
Ngwa Michael a student of GBHS Bamenda, explains how he disguises to school.
“When I leave home for school, I put on assorted clothes which make me look like I am going to the market or running an errand around the neighborhood. When I get to school I change into my school uniform. This is because I fear being kidnapped or killed on my way to school”.
Students in the two English state universities say they live in fear. Thinking they will be attacked or kidnap in their quest for education.
Nanga Naomi, a student of the University of Bamenda describes her frustration in this scenario: “I go to school every day in fear hoping not to get killed or kidnap. We see strange people threatening us to stop going to school. I really hope the government hear our cries and solve the problem. We only go to school 4 times a week and sometimes less because of the ghost towns.”
Meanwhile University lecturers are not having an easy time doing their jobs as some of them have been killed and others attacked or kidnapped.
“It has been very difficult to teach because the Amazonian fighters commonly called the amba boys are threatening our lives so we don’t teach often. We just have to do everything in haste in other to save the students and keep them away from harm .I can’t drive to school for fear of being shot on my way for going to work.” Says Dr Joseph Ndi, a lecturer at the University of Bamenda.
To remedy the situation, students now study online and in smaller groups in neighborhoods hoping to make the best out it. Many students have missed their final year exams causing them to stay in the same class since the crisis started in 2016 and can only think of how old they will be when they return to the classroom.
According to UNICEF, Education is a social and cultural right and plays an important role in reducing poverty and child labour. Furthermore, education promotes democracy, peace, tolerance, development and economic growth.
Maikem Emmanuela Manzie and Amamboh Carrey-Pride