Complete Shudown of Schools in Anglophone Cameroon Portrays Government as Toothless Bulldog
Gwain Colbert, blogger and freelance journalist, Bamenda-Cameroon
The 2nd term for the 2016/2017 academic year in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon has failed to take off despite assurances from the Cameroon government that all security measures have been put in place to see to it that schools reopen this Monday January 9, 2017. Classes were interrupted last November 21, 2016 following an across-the-board strike action called by the collective of Anglophone teachers trade unions protesting what they called the ‘deliberate rape of the Anglophone subsystem of education by the francophone-led regime in Yaoundé.
The Anglophone Teachers Trade Unions of Cameroon made up of the Cameroon Teachers Trade Union, CATTU, the Teachers Association of Cameroon, TAC, the Presbyterian Education Authority Teachers Trade Union, PEATTU, the Baptist Teachers Trade Union of Cameroon, BATTUC, and the Catholic Education Workers Trade Union, CEWOTU, had within the year 2016 submitted an 11 point grievances that have plagued the Anglo-Saxon system of education in Cameroon for years. The teachers who have grounded schools in the English Speaking parts of Cameroon from the Nursery through secondary to the tertiary levels because government had sent francophone teachers with little knowledge of the Anglo Saxon educational system to ‘unteach’ Anglophone children had vowed that schools would only reopen when those teachers have been withdrawn and corresponding Anglophone-trained teachers redeployed. They had decried the systematic marginalization of Anglophones in the recruitment and training of scientific and technical teachers that can teach in Anglophone technical schools.
Government which had originally minimized and under looked the demands of the striking teachers by rather appealing to parents and students to return to school, soon discovered a huge storm hard gathered around the striking teachers. The discontent of teachers, parents and students soon spread to the political sphere. Rather than put the Christmas holidays into use by dialoguing with the striking teachers trade unions, the government of La Republique du Cameroun resorted to lobbying local administrative officials, traditional rulers, transporters, Anglophone elites and local ruling party officials with brown envelopes to go comb the neighborhoods and urge children and students to disrespect the union’s strike action and return to school.
The francophone Governors of the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon had in the run-up to Monday January 9, 2017 school reopening have been making rounds in the different administrative units assuring parents, teachers, students as well as the general public that all security measures have been taken for a smooth take off of the 2nd term of the 2016/17 academic year. They had even sworn on their honour that schools must reopen in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon and that the state was going to take its responsibilities. They called the teachers extremists who have been manipulated.
In reaction, the All Anglophone Teachers trade unions who had joined forces with equally striking lawyers protesting the systematic annihilation of the Common Law legal system by the francophone-led Yaoundé regime, also vowed that not even a single school would open its doors to students until all their demands were met. Central government reinforced security by drafting in thousands of armed police and gendarme officers as well as elite forces to make sure schools reopen on Monday January 9, 2017. In the face of this challenge the consortium of striking teachers and lawyers went ahead to launch a ghost town operation in the North West and South West regions so as to frustrate any moves to enable schools reopen. They asked teachers, children and students to stay at home. Economic and social life was simply shutdown in the North West and South West Regions.
Two francophone ministers of Education who had travelled from Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, to supervise the effective reopening of the school year in this part of the nation were forced to sneak out of Bamenda and back to Yaoundé in shame as not even one school responded to government’s plea for schools to reopen. As if that was not enough, the Governor of the North West region who had gone round reassuring the population of what wonderful security measures he had put in place to make sure schools reopen never himself sent his own children to school, despite the fact that St.Bridget, where his children attend school is situated at the administrative area of the city of Bamenda. The senior District Officer for Boyo Division, one of the administrative areas of the North West region, himself did not also send his children to school, despite the fact that Faith International School-Fundong, where his children attend school is equally secured.
Worse still, francophone and Anglophone government ministers as well as senior state functionaries in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, whose children attend the prestigious and academically-grounded boarding mission schools in Bamenda and Buea, and who had vowed that was to make sure schools reopen in Anglophone Cameroon on last Monday, never also send back their children to schools in these regions. Prof. Ghoghomou Paul, Director of Cameroon’s Prime Minister’s Cabinet and President of an Interministerial Ad Hoc Committee set up by the Prime Minister on instructions from Cameroon’s President, Paul Biya, was reported to be rather withdrawing his children from a boarding mission school in Bamenda and seeking admission in a Baptist boarding facility in the outskirts of Yaoundé.
During his state-of-the-nation’s address last December 31, 2016, 84 years old President Paul Biya, who has ruled the triangular patch-up called Cameroon for the past 34 years and counting….said the rights of Cameroonians to peaceful protests, was inalienable but that he out rightly condemned all forms of violence and extremism. Although Cameroonians in general and those of English expression in particular, faulted him for not also condemning his brutal uniform officers who last December 8, 2016, in Bamenda killed some four unarmed protesters and kidnapped hundreds to unknown destinations, President Biya who is seeking reelection against the wishes of a majority of Cameroonians for another seven year mandate next year went ahead to urge striking teachers and common law lawyers to engage in dialogue with government so that lasting solutions could be found to their demands. Government negotiators on the other hand, premised the start of effective dialogue on condition that teachers called off the strike so children could go back to school. Striking teachers did not only reject government’s precondition but also went ahead to set their own precondition for dialogue to begin-that all youths arrested last December 8, 2016, and taken to unknown destinations should unconditionally be released.
Today in Bamenda, talk is rife with how government has rather joined the striking teachers to deprive innocent Anglophone children of
Still Empty Classrooms in Anglophone Cameroon their right to education as since the beginning of the strike acton, students, especially those in certificate examination classes have depended on internet to educate themselves and to receive critical advise from online teachers but government has gone ahead to completely shutdown internet in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. As the impasse last, the over 1500 schools plus higher institutions in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon that serve some 2.5 million youths remain shutdown with government finally portrayed as a toothless bulldog and a key perpetrator of the strike action so as to continue to retard the advancement of the English speaking community in the larger Cameroon nation.