from ROSY SADOU in Yaoundé, Cameroon
YAOUNDE, (CAJ News) – MORE than 855 000 Cameroonian children are out of school following the failure by over 4 000 schools to open for the new academic year.
Schools remain closed because of the largely English-speaking North-West and South-West regions beset by conflict between state security and separatists demanding self-rule.
More than 4 100 primary and 744 secondary schools remain closed or have ceased operating, two months into the new academic year.
Fear of violence has kept parents from sending their children to school while at the same time blocking teachers and staff from reporting to work.
Among these children, almost 150 000 have been displaced from their homes, which increases their vulnerability and trauma.
Henrietta Fore, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director, said the minors subsequently faced a higher risk of recruitment by armed groups, child marriage, early pregnancy and other forms of exploitation and abuse.
“Thousands of children in Cameroon are living in fear. They need peace so that they can resume their education and reclaim their future,” she said.
In some areas where schools have been closed, community-run learning activities have been initiated to ensure that children do not miss out further on their education.
Fore urged communities, armed groups and government authorities to protect education in all its forms and enable children to learn in a safe and protective environment.
“Education must remain above politics,” she said.
English speaking communities allege marginalization by the government of President Paul Biya, which is dominated by French-speaking Cameroonians.
– CAJ News