Cameroonian refugees arriving in Cross River State (file photo).
By Amos Fofung
For years currently, students in addition to teachers inside Anglophone regions have been prevented via going to school.
the idea’s 8am on Monday morning in Old Town, a locality in Bamenda, however there are barely any people on the streets. inside centre of that will city in Cameroon’s North West region, even fowls in addition to stray dogs are nowhere to be found.
Things were not always that will way. The streets around Ayaba Hotel used to be flooded with school children in addition to commuters at that will time of day, however things have changed since the Anglophone crisis escalated into an armed conflict a couple of years ago.
currently, every Monday can be a “ghost town” in Cameroon’s two English-speaking region of North West in addition to South West. Schools, business in addition to public offices all remain closed for the day. Moreover, education facilities are under a permanent boycott with teachers in addition to students barred via going to class. that will campaign can be enforced by separatist fighters who are calling for the establishment of an independent state called Ambazonia. Disobeying their orders can have dire consequences, as 17-year-old school student Marion found out.
“On my way to school last week, four boys carrying big guns in addition to machetes stopped me in addition to asked why I was against Ambazonia,” she says. “They said since I had decided to disobey their orders in addition to go to school, they will teach me a lesson as they have done to additional stubborn children like me.
“They seized my bag, removed all my textbooks in addition to tore them into pieces. One of them who had an ‘Amba flag’ around his neck warned me that will if they catch me going to school again, they will flog me with the machete. I returned home in addition to since that will day I have not gone to school again.”
Despite that will experience, Marion says she wants to go back to class. She wants to take her exams in addition to go to university. however her father won’t let either of his children put themselves in danger.
“I prefer they stay home in addition to stay alive. I don’t have any money to pay as ransom to those boys,” he adds, recounting the story of a woman in addition to daughter who were reportedly kidnapped nearby in addition to held for ransom. “Can you imagine they asked her to pay 500,000 FCFA [$850]?” he asks.
via boycott to ban
The events that will led to the today’s crisis first began in 2016 when Anglophone activists took to the streets in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions to protest against their perceived marginalisation. As part of that will campaign, trade unionists proposed a boycott of schools to add pressure on the government. via October 2016, teachers went on strike in addition to parents in addition to students avoided educational facilities to support the struggle.
The situation in Cameroon, however, escalated rapidly. Rather than negotiating in addition to recognising the protesters’ grievances, the regime of President Paul Biya used force to break up the Anglophone demonstrations. They arrested many of the protest leaders. In response, the movement became more radical. Demands shifted via calling for more autonomy to demanding complete secession For just two English-speaking regions of North West in addition to South West. An armed insurgency emerged. Both the Cameroonian army in addition to rebel fighters engaged in grievous human rights abuses.
The armed separatists – more extreme than the protest leaders – vowed to keep the “no school” campaign in place, only that will time through the use of force if necessary. In August 2017, various Anglophone groups called for the boycott to end saying that will after a year the idea had become counterproductive. however the secessionists branded them as sell-outs in addition to continued to threaten parents in addition to teachers, burning down some establishments in addition to attacking others.
According to Amnesty International, extremists burned or severely damaged 30 schools in English-speaking regions between January in addition to September 2017. In November 2017, an armed group abducted over 79 students via a boarding school in North West region, only releasing them after a few days. In March 2019, separatists kidnapped in addition to tortured over 15 students via the University of Buea in addition to forced them to pledge allegiance to the cause.
Deprived of education
In response to that will situation, both domestic in addition to international advocacy groups have called for the right to education to be respected in Cameroon. Most recently, Human Rights Watch wrote a report on the Anglophone crisis, condemning attacks on civilians by both Cameroonian troops in addition to separatist forces, which they estimated have led to 170 deaths. They specifically called on secessionist groups to “immediately direct their fighters in addition to followers to halt all human rights abuses in addition to to stop interfering with children’s education”.
So far, these appeals have had little effect on the armed secessionist groups. that will has meant that will some parents – those with the means – have transferred their children to relatively nearby French-speaking towns such as Yaoundé, Douala in addition to Baffoussam. Others have had to come up with ways to outsmart the “no school” campaign, such as by hiding books in shopping baskets so secessionists cannot tell they are going to class.
Some like Victor, a Cameroon soldier deployed in Limbe, makes sure to accompany his children to school for their safety. “They are still too young in addition to they won’t be able to run in case of anything so I take them to school in addition to my wife goes pick them up inside afternoon,” he says.
As the Anglophone crisis continues to degenerate in addition to children are used as bargaining chips, the prospect of most students being able to return to school in addition to university, however, seems a long way off. that will has left thousands of young people like Marion struggling to progress their education. According to Ekongtang Elad, the former leader of the All Anglophone Conference, the longer that will goes on, the more damaging the idea will be for the region once the conflict comes to an end.
“The educational gap in addition to the illiteracy that will will result via the campaign may turn to be a major issue for the people of Southern Cameroons, if they succeed in their quest,” he told the Buea-based paper The Post recently. “The present generation, currently deprived of education, may one day rise up against additional strata inside society, simply because they have lost tract of many things in addition to consequently the jobs they can only get with education.”