One of the main causes of Cameroon’s three-year-old crisis in the North West and South West Regions is government’s reaction to calls for an end to marginalization of Anglophones. With thousands killed and hundreds of thousands displaced, there have been calls for government to seek a permanent solution to the fighting.
Government action gives the impression that all is returning to normal, but realities on the ground tell a different story.
In the country’s economic capital Douala, eight permanent teachers in a private school, Institut Polyvalent Mitoukem, have been dismissed. The action by the school authorities comes after the teachers, all of the English-speaking minority, raised concerns over the non-payment of their salaries for the months of April and May.
The teachers had raised the concerns after almost all their French speaking colleagues were paid salaries but they of English-speaking extraction were not. After relieving them of their duties, the teachers say the school added salt to injury by asking them to do their worse.
“They said if we don’t want to become part time teachers, let’s go away,” one of the laid off members of staff says.
Becoming part time teachers, he adds, does not still guarantee them receiving payment. “They asked us to go if we will not accept to become part time teachers or if we are expecting any payment for April and May. They have already paid Francophone teachers,” one of the victims explains.
The school’s action comes despite calls by Prime Minister Dion Ngute for proprietors of private schools to pay workers’ salaries for the months they went without teaching due to the coronavirus. The principal of Institut Polyvalent Mitoukem, the dismissed teachers say, believes he is above the law.
“He said we can take the matter anywhere we want. That we shouldn’t depend on what the government said because the government does not buy even a piece of chalk for him.”
The 8 dismissed have vowed to go to any length to see that they get justice. “Our problem is not even the money. Had it been that they didn’t pay all the sections, we would have had no problem… We won’t accept this marginalisation! Our brothers/ parents and sisters are dying back home because of marginalization,” another victim says.
The principal on his part has defended his action by saying the Anglophone sections of his school was recently created and he’d prefer to part ways with the teachers than his long serving French speaking teachers. He also posits that he called them for a meeting to discuss the issue but none showed up. The teachers he says are mistaken if they think the issue will be resolved by taking it to the media.
While legal procedures exist, it is certain that getting justice will be an uphill task for the Anglophone teachers. The dismissed 8 are just few out of the thousands or more seeking justice.
Last year government said it was according what it called a Special Status to the minority English regions.
Separatists who boycotted the dialogue however say a Special Status is only a cosmetic solution. For peace to return, they say only a free and fair dialogue with the mediation of a neutral third party can do the trick.
(C) Mimi Mefo Info