In the first two weeks of January 2013, no fewer than 18 persons had been raped, killed and their bodies mutilated in Yaoundé, capital of the central African nation of Cameroon.
Police found 18 bodies dumped along the streets. Authorities said all of the bodies had been mutilated.
Until the 1970s, ritual killings were a common cultural practice in Cameroon, before education became more widespread.
Signs of its gradual resurgence beginning 2011 sent shock waves across the spines of many a Cameroonian. It was belied that the rich and powerful, especially members of government were harvesting the organs for mystical powers – some occultists believe such organs hold the keys to gaining wealth and other good fortune.
Evenings in neighborhoods’ like Mimboman and the vicinity surrounding the Yaoundé Municipal Lake were scary. Many families locked themselves indoors beginning in the late hours of the day, while young men bonded together in vigilante groups, roaming the streets looking for killers.
Fears about occult groups and human organs gained strength in late 2012 when Health Minister Andre Mama Fouda fired a laboratory technician and four mortuary attendants. They admitted to trading organs harvested from dead bodies stored in the mortuary of the state regional hospital in Douala, Cameroon’s largest city.
As if the ritual killings are not enough, a new wave of violence has enveloped schools across Cameroon, with the Centre, Littoral and West Regions topping the chart.
The killing last Tuesday, January 14 of Mathematics teacher , Boris Kiven Njomi Tchakounte, 26, on the campus of Government Bilingual High School, GBHS, Nkolbission in Yaounde VII only opened the floodgates to hitherto under reported cases of violence in Cameroonian schools.
Njomi would later die at the Yaoundé University Teaching Hospital (that’s if he got there alive) after he was stabbed by his own student in the course of a mathematics lesson.
Even before the Nkolbisson classroom murder could fade, an unending chain of violent incidents involving students and teachers rattled the nation in the last one week.
Beyond these deaths an inadmissible but rising violence on campuses is a society whose moral compass is viewed as skewing to the wrong direction. Sociologists say at the centre of this outright manifestation of violence that dishonors the sanctity of human life is a general rise in irresponsibility from all sectors of life.
Parents, guardians, government and children are the main stakeholders who must share responsibility in the momentous rise in violence on colleges. Contrary to the belief of yesteryears that the school was a place of knowledge acquisition and societal formation, current trends across Cameroon continue to make nonsense of this.
At the basic level, homes from which children come from, experts say, play a key role in their behavioral and believe pattern. The 21st century parent is rated to be among the most irresponsible.
The pace of technology and non-respect of values that laid the foundation of today’s society is said to be what is producing the extremist behaviors of today.
Parents nowadays are said to care less about the upbringing of their children. It is a society wherein everyone is pursing money, career and other personal dreams that add nothing to the content of the character of their children.
Critics say most parents sometimes relegate to society the duty of laying a proper foundation for their children’s upbringing.
While most spend their time pursuing other interests, children are left at the mercy of what society offers them. This, educationists say, explains why some parents find it difficult to belief the character of their children in school and what they are at home.
In an open letter to Secondary Education Minister, Nalova Lydonga after the Nkolbisson incident, a teacher, Pierre Claver Onana puts the blame of such extreme behaviour on parents. Onana lamented that teachers are tired of shouldering the responsibility of moulding children abandoned by their parents and society.
Onana quipped in his letter that: “one last thing, tell your famous educational community (since we are not part of it) that we are tired of taking care of children abandoned by their parents and society”.
Teachers have been viewed as also failing to adequately perform their roles. First questions have arisen within the public space on the loose security system on most colleges. Observers continue to question the reason for numerous discipline masters in schools who do little or nothing to properly check the content of students’ bags. There are fears that most teachers ‘bribe’ to be appointed to take charge of discipline in schools for the sake of the money on their payroll without being ready to deliver.
In the wake of the recurrent attacks, society has been taken aback at the number of knives, drugs and other objects that students carry to school on a daily basis. Beyond ensuring discipline, some teachers are said to be overbearing in their move to discipline students.
Minister Nalova told reporters Tuesday that: “….What I have told the teachers is that they have to be able to distinguish a disciplinary case from a criminal case, and report to the police officers put at the disposal on campus.
The teachers need to distinguish the problems they can handle at their own level and leave the rest to the police, because the students of today have problems and try to show the teachers that they know everything. It cannot be like that. We all have a problem as a society”.
The government is seen as having relaxed the society of all manners of happenings to transpire on campuses. At the policy level, educationists say Cameroon’s educational setting lacks a moral bearing. Key subjects such as civics, moral education and particularly religion that can contribute to shaping children’s upbringing have been given little or no attention.
Considering the renewed dynamics in society, observers say the state must go beyond mere declarations to reconfigure its educational apparatus to avoid constant embarrassments. Weaknesses transcend administrative to business level.
Experts say the nation could be partly living the consequences of drug dealers. These are said to be the people who import drugs into the country that end up on campuses. From the political to the legal, social to the moral fabric of Cameroon, things seem to be moving towards the end – end times.
The war against Boko Haram in the Far North, battle against kidnappers in the Adamawa, fight to curb incursions by rebels in the East and the raging civil war pitting soldiers and separatists in the North West and South West Regions are real headaches for the country’s aging leader.
The Brigade Anti-Sadinard War to end Paul Biya’s life presidency, Maurice Kamto’s struggle to seize power and the uncertainty ahead of the February 9 elections are all issues too many for the Cameroonian people battling with unemployment and acute under-development.
Over a week after the teacher was stabbed to death in Yaounde, like with similar instances the issue has been swept under the carpet as though nothing happened. Administrative authorities are yet to take any concrete measures to ensure a similar incident does not repeat itself.
The ritual killings and the recent surge in violence in schools may just be proof that the country’s very foundations have decayed and the center can no longer hold.