In Cameroon, most children are faced with the prospect of a completely unknown future that lies ahead for them. The mantra “Survival for the fittest” that has been reluctantly accepted by the average Cameroonian, unfortunately, also applies to the development of children in Cameroon.
On this 30th anniversary of the International Day of the African Child, we take a closer look at the struggles being a child from an average family in Cameroon in the 21st century, when things are supposed to have evolved.
Often without a voice to speak out for themselves, the child becomes the most neglected being in the Cameroonian society.
In the North Region of Cameroon, the child experiences almost no aspect of their childhood. The excess hunger and epidemics in these regions have blighted the somewhat joyous childhood these children are supposed to experience. In 2017, close to 35% of the population in the Far North Region was experiencing extreme malnutrition, with the many children in the region dying from hunger and diseases.
The situation is becoming worse with incursions from the Islamist terrorist group Boko Haram in the region.
Down south, children are being used for commercial purposes, taking out a very vital part of their childhood. It is common in the major cities like Douala and Yaounde, to see children carrying merchandise on their heads walking around the town to sell as a way of assisting their parents.
This to some parents may seem like training the child to be responsible but on the contrary could be very dangerous for the security of the child as well as that of the entire family. While on the streets, the children are exposed to all sorts of harassments from all sorts of persons. The girl children in this context are particularly very vulnerable. With prevalence of Paedophiles in Cameroon, the children can only be left to fate if they are faced by such evil.
Many children in these towns have equally resorted to fleeing their homes to settle on the streets. Some of them complain of being grossly maltreated by their parents (most of them ill-treated by their step parents), kept hungry or continuously beaten till they decide to flee.
In the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon, the Anglophone crisis has amongst others affected the children most.
The crisis has taken the children hostage by denying them the fundamental right to quality education. The crisis officially started in 2016 with teachers announcing school boycotts if their needs were not adhered to. The strike action was however called off, but it had already been hijacked by separatists who imposed an indefinite lockdown on schools until Southern Cameroon gained its independence.
It has been four years running and more than 80 percent of the children in these two regions have not sat in a classroom. Some parents have had to displace their families to unknown French towns in order to give their children the education they so much require. What is going to be the fate of a country if its youth are illiterate? It will obviously be bleaker than it is now for sure. Education is the best gift a parent has to give his child.
The Ambazonian fight too has taken its own toll on the development of the children in these regions. The separatist fighters in desperation to enlarge their numbers have resulted to recruiting child soldiers to fight for them. This is an absolute disaster by the separatist group. A child recruited as a soldier completely loses his childhood with no hope of ever having a normal growth like the other kids. The child is exposed to violence and will always view the world differently from his peers.
Many have been killed by the belligerents. The military is known to have killed a baby in Muyuka as well as children and pregnant women in Ngarbuh.
The government and NGOs in the country have indeed done great in trying to alleviate the burden on the pitiful situation of the child in Cameroon. But there indeed is still a lot to be done. Children in Cameroon have to be protected and their potentials unlocked, for they indeed are going to be the pillars of this nation, and we won’t want them to act based on the negative environment they grew up in would we?
Mimi Mefo Info