The media is awash with politicians frantically trying to reconnect with their bitter people by campaigning for an effective school resumption in the NW and SW regions.
A campaign that is noble. Yet upsets many. The average South westerner North westerner doesn’t want to be lectured about education. More so by people who may not have as many rural schools as they do.
They want security. Not gunmen in front of campuses, but an assurance that their children can walk safely from home to school and back without hearing gunshots or being hit by a stray bullet. This not just in Buea and Bamenda but also in Eyumojock and in Lebialem.
The simple truth is gunshots will still resonate in these two regions every now and then, as military and secessionist engage each other. For how long hard to say.
Amidst separatist calls for school boycott and a lockdown, and government’s call for school resumption, the noise is becoming deafening and many parents are unsure which way to go.
A recent UNICEF report https://www.unicef.org/child-alert/education-threat-west-central-africa says close to 4500 schools were closed in Cameroon because of conflict. Attacks on schools recorded between the months of January to August totalled 27. At least 19 teachers and 58 students were equally kidnapped.
Josephine Bourne, chief of Education for UNICEF says “at no time is education more important than in times of war”. Extensive work by this UN agency highlights the real danger of suspending education. Young boys become child soldiers instead of teachers, young girls become child brides and mothers instead of engineers.
Hopelessness, violence, no education, no social skills will result in radicalization for many displaced children. In Somalia books and a librarian rode to communities on camels in an attempt to keep education going despite conflict.
In its August 26 press briefing in Yaounde Basic and Secondary Education officials detailed efforts to subsidize schools in the North West and South West regions.
Basic Education subsidy to the North West stands at 354 million CFAF, in the South West 253 million CFAF. Cameroon has equally injected 982 million CFAF for classroom construction in the North West and 712 in the South west, while private education has been allotted 855 million CFAF.
In a perfect world, a cease fire, dialogue, disarming and an end to hostilities must pave the way for school resumption. But we are not living in one. Families that can afford it have already sent their children to study in safer zones. Yet thousands who cannot afford it remain trapped between the warring camps. These children must continue getting education as hard as this may seem, if we want them to contribute positively to nation building in the future.
Sadly education has been weaponized by the political class. In this battle over education separatists feel school resumption will be defeat. Government thinks effective schooling will be victory.
The only victory will be getting politics out of education and making the country safe again.