The lack of birth certificates has been of primary concern in Cameroon these past weeks, with children being the most affected.
While a lot of focus has been paid to kids in the conflict hit North West, South West and Far North Regions, their counterparts in other parts of the country are no better.
The Bagyellis in Kribi, South Region are no exemption. Several pupils taking the Certificat d’Etudes Primaires, CEP exam are reported to be desperate, as their lack of the document makes it impossible for them to register for the exam session.
Of the 16 Bagyelli students at the Lendi – Aviation primary school in Kribi I, none can boast of having the document. Reports quote Christophe Ngallo, the school’s head teacher as saying that when pupils arrive the school already suffering from a lack of equipment and teaching staff, “we estimate their date of birth with the help of their parents; but that does not guarantee anything because, they have no file.”
His Majesty, Biang Roger, head of the Lendi-Aviatiion camp shares a similar worry over the lack of the precious document, adding that he too is in want.
“My ID card that we had been given by hand recently, will soon expire. Since I don’t have a birth certificate like the other Bagyellis, what am I going to do?” he asks.
In more advanced sections of the locality, the worry remains the same. “I wanted to make birth certificates for my children. The first condition I was given was to have the marriage certificate … Then I was presented with a long procedure for recognizing children. That’s where I get stuck,” explained a member of the Bagyelli community.
Government and civils society organisations have for long now been seeking remedies to the birth certificate crisis in the South Region and other parts of the country, including discussing it at the National Assembly.
But more clearly needs to be done.
Though every baby born in Cameroon has the right to a free birth certificate within 90 days of birth, it is glaring that government and partners have a lot more on their hands to see that the goal is attained.