In the wake of the Anglophone crisis, one of the most affected sectors has been education with thousands of students staying out of school for a third year today.
This is largely as a result of gun battles as well as restriction from separatist fighters.
“In their brutal campaign, separatists are using education as a weapon for political gains and are robbing an entire generation of children of their fundamental right to education. Separatist leaders should immediately direct their fighters and followers to stop interfering with children’s education,” Human Rights Watch, HRW says.
In a recent dispatch, HRW has condemned the use of violence as a means to achieve their aims. Citing the story of Marie (not her real names), HRW says her fingers were cut off after she was kidnapped on January 30.
“They’ve burned school buildings and kidnapped and assaulted students and teachers for not complying with their demands to keep schools shut. They have used schools as bases, torturing and holding people hostage in and near them,” the dispatch states.
“Marie said the separatists also maimed a 19-year-old man who was held with her and also accused of attending school. Both students were released on February 3, after a ransom payment. They have received medical treatment but have not yet returned to school,” it adds.
Though the government of Cameroon in September 2018 announced its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration, one of 28 African Union members to join this international political commitment to protect education during armed conflict, “far more needs to be done by the government to ensure children can return to school safely and to promote alternative forms of education, including teaching by radio, the internet, or television, for those students who cannot yet return,” the rights body explains.
It goes on to quote UN agencies figures; “nearly 600,000 children have been prevented from going to school since late 2016, and only 19 percent of primary and secondary schools are open across the North-West and South-West regions. Government forces have been implicated in one arson attack at a school, according to open source investigators.”
Over three thousand have been declared dead since the crisis escalated into an armed conflict in 2017.
Government and separatist fighters have since blamed each other for several excesses carried out including the burning of homes and extra judicial killings.