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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Cameroon shuts down hundreds of schools opened to absorb displaced pupils

The Cameroon government has shut down more than 260 schools that had been operating informally in the country’s francophone regions.

The schools had been opened to help absorb students fleeing the separatist uprising in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions.

I travelled to Douala where around 100 unregistered institutions have been closed.

The pupils who have fled the fighting in Cameroon’s English-speaking regions have painful memories.

“I left Bamenda because there was a war. They were killing people and they were shooting guns,” says one student.

“We couldn’t study in Bamenda because of the crisis. Anytime we are in school, bullets falling on top our classrooms, gunshots everywhere,” another adds.

A mother, Kerin Kongdem, told me how hard it is to find a school.

“The first school was closed by the authorities because they said it wasn’t authorised. So we’ve had to find a new one this year – just to pay the registration fee was not easy for us,” she says.

The school she found was also operating illegally and is one of many that have opened to accommodate the influx of English speaking learners displaced from the north.

We visited one of the illegal schools and the owner declined to speak to us for fear of closure.

Critics of the government say it’s not offering any alternatives for the children when they close the schools.

But the official for secondary education in Doula’s Wouri district, Sylvestre Fils Moukalla, denies this.

“The Minister of Secondary Education gave Parent Teacher Associations the express authorisation to build more classrooms in various schools. These PTAs mobilised enormous resources to build new classrooms. As a result, the problem of the influx has been resolved. In the Wouri for instance, all the children have found a classroom,” he says.

Some of the newly displaced parents are turning to home tutors to make sure their children don’t have to go back a school year.

“Even to feed the children isn’t easy so I decided to get a private teacher to see how we can manage to educate these children at home. I have just pleaded with this teacher. I don’t have money. I pleaded that whatever I have, I would give him. It’s too difficult for us. We are suffering,” Claude Ngwa, a father of seven told me.

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