Thousands of families in Anglophone Cameroon are in despair on the future of the education of their children, 72 hours to the start of another school year after two years of boycott.
It’s beginning to dawn on a majority of them that sacrificing three years of school for a whole generation is a price too high to pay.
Two school years lost and a third one counting, the grumbling is evident at almost every level.
A people who once stood firm in support of absconding from school are longing to see children heading back to the classrooms.
Yet arson attacks, kidnap, proliferation of arms and scores settling are among the dangers staring the very Anglophone population in the face.
Across Kumba, the economic hub of the South West Region, the expectation for schools to resume is conspicuous. The conviction is strong, but everyone hopes for some political enchantment for the atmosphere to return to normalcy.
In all these, there are no signs of school resumptions in the markets, tailoring workshops, bookstores and other associated entities.
No one is ready to invest in school uniforms or books while the gadgets idle at home and deteriorate incase schools fail to pick steam.
Anthony Itoe, a father of four, told The National Times that “in 2016 we did not expect things to turn out this way. Most of us parents supported the boycott, but the issue has turned out to be political. I am now in support for schools to resume effectively. We cannot sacrifice a generation in a world that is becoming competitive for political gains. We should all look for a way to ensure that schools resume. I am appealing to those in the diaspora in particular to support school resumption. When we achieve this, we can then come back to other issues. I know of girls that have become pregnant within this period,” Itoe lamented.
Mary Ayuk, a mother of three kids, opined that “the sacrifice is enough… every reasonable Southern Cameroonian or whatever they call themselves should accept the truth that… we have lost more as Anglophones through this Crisis than the gains. I read newspapers and watch television and all I see is some huge investment in Anglo-Saxon Education in the French-speaking Regions. So you we kill ourselves to enrich others claiming we want a better life. I think schools should resume,” Ayuk surmised.
Another parent who refused to be identified for fear of the unknown said “the damage caused in the rural areas is beyond what people are thinking. If a village has been burnt down the inhabitants chased into the forest…. How do you expect them to come back and start life? Yes I think schools should resume, but we still have a lot of security, and humanitarian challenges to address,” our respondent observed.
When The National Times approached the Principal of a private college in Kumba, on condition of anonymity, the school administrator said everyone is for school resumption, but there is too much insecurity.
“I will agree with what people are saying that schools should resume. But then we have a major problem of insecurity. Thieves have entered the whole idea of a people’s movement. Then there is mistrust between the population and the security forces … so I think we should be able to address the security concerns and every other thing will fall in place,” the Principal stated.
Beyond these, the general feeling across the board is that of a people already giving up on the idea of keeping children away from school. Most continue to lament that the current Crisis has brought unimaginable losses and pain.
At the moment, schools remain engulfed in grass. There are no signs of preparation anywhere. Most private schools have parked out of rented homes. Many continue to implement contingency measures to settle problems with landlords. Others that were under construction have simply been abandoned to fate.
The visible dichotomy is seen between the rich and poor parents. Most rich people have moved their children over to the French-speaking parts of the country. Others have crossed over to live with relatives.
The signs are telling of a great concern for schools to resume. In 2017, propaganda surfaced against the General Certificate of Education (GCE) it was written in the end.
The same happened in the 2018 session. The certificates are valid and remain in use contrary to activists’ propaganda. After all, Secondary Education Minister, Pauline Nalova Lyonga Egbe, at a recent Ecumenical Mass in Limbe said the school year is like a stream and no one can stop it from flowing.