One of the separatist factions in the ongoing Anglophone crisis has drummed up the call for effective school resumption in the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon ahead of the start of a new academic calendar.
The recent call was made by the Ambazonia People’s Liberation Council (APLC).
The APLC spokesperson identified as FM Bita Kolar made the fresh call for back-to-school in a video that has gone viral on social media.
In the video, FM Bita Kolar stressed the need for children to return to classrooms as much as they seek a separate State.
Schools nationwide will open their doors for the first term of the 2023–2024 Academic Year on September 4.
However, the pro-separatist group stated that schools in the restive regions may have to wait two weeks after the government-slated date for reopening.
“Schools in Ambazonia will resume on September 19, 2023,” the APLC spokesperson stated.
He also urged religious organisations and private individuals to abolish any exorbitant school fees so that low- and average-income parents could afford them.
“Private and mission schools should reduce their fees so that they can accommodate the poor,” he said.
For failing to respect this, the spokesperson said they would face severe punishment.
The call for effective school resumption comes at a time when schooling has, for some time now, come under fire from some separatist groups that oppose education in the restive regions.
Since the start of the armed crisis, many institutions of learning have suffered arson attacks, destruction, and attacks on teachers and schoolgoers, among other heinous crimes.
Calls for frank dialogue between the government and the angry citizens who picked up arms have not ceased to multiply in search of lasting solutions to the armed conflict that has been going on for seven years.
Separatist factions divided over schooling in NW, SW
When the Anglophone crisis, which started with the corporate demands of teachers and lawyers, mutated into an armed conflict in 2017, school boycotts were imposed by separatist groups as a way of forcing the government to sit down for dialogue.
The school boycott operation, which had a perilous effect on the hundreds of thousands students in the two restive regions, soon sparked a differences in opinion on the several factions of separatist groups.
While the president of the Ambazonia Interim Government, Sisiku Ayuk Tabe, and other leaders like Mancho Bibixy and Tassang Wilfred, among others serving prison sentences at the Yaounde Central Prison, have in recent years joined the movement in drumming the back-to-school call in the two restive regions.
However, other factions, mostly based in the diaspora, still believe that the smoking guns in the two restive regions don’t guarantee enough safety for kids to return to school.
One of these separatist leaders who does not back the move for effective school resumption in the regions is Chris Anu.
On November 5, 2019, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF declared that more than 855,000 children out of school in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon, after three years of violence and instability.
UNICEF had warned that without urgent action, and a commitment from all parties to the conflict to protect education in all its forms, the future of these children is at risk.
In another UNICEF report of July 13, 2023, the UN agency stressed that educational facilities have, unfortunately, been one of the main targets during this crisis, which started in 2016.
For example, during the 2021–2022 academic year, 66% of schools in both regions were still closed, and for the 2022–2023 school year, 54% of schools remained closed, causing the displacement of about 200,000 school-aged children, most of whom remain out of school, going by the UNICEF report.
“Thousands of children in Cameroon are living in fear. They need peace so that they can resume their education and reclaim their future,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore.
She added that: “When children are out of school, they face a higher risk of recruitment by armed groups, child marriage, early pregnancy, and other forms of exploitation and abuse.”