Bishops of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) have made a fresh appeal for school resumption in the restive English speaking regions of Cameroon, three years on since schools were shutdown.
The appeal was made during their 67th Ordinary Meeting in Bamenda from 16 to 23 August 2019, in an open letter to “Amba Fighters,” the government and the military, parents and teachers and the Anglophone Diaspora.
Over 80 per cent of schools in Anglophone Cameroon shut down
According to the UN, more than 80 per cent of schools in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon are closed; as the security situation and living conditions continue to deteriorate due to the three-year conflict between the government and armed groups.
The school closures are the result of a ban on education imposed by militia groups, which has affected more than 600,000 children, seen at least 74 schools destroyed, and exposed students, teachers and school personnel to violence, abduction and intimidation.
Bishops Concerned about the Resumption of Schools
In an open letter, the Bishops stated their concerns about the resumption of schools, some of which include:
“The fact that; all the children in the North West and the South West regions deserve this right to education and to a good future wherever they decide to make their lives, the crisis has been going on for three years and there has been no school in most places all these years, the struggle for no return to school is a grave injustice against the poor of our society, many parents have been consistently deceived about the education of their children, the argument for the lack of security is being used to frighten and prevent the parents from sending their children to school, the manipulation of the people of these two Regions by those who are in the Diaspora and thousands of Anglophone Cameroonians who served as teachers in various schools have been rendered jobless.”
The Bishops called on the fighters to be emotional when taking decisions. “We call on the “Amba Fighters” to try as much as possible to approach this problem of schools more with reason than with emotions. Some “Amba Fighters” have burnt down schools and they have inflicted torture, mutilated people, maimed others and even taken the lives of some of those who work in schools or who are pro schools,” the letter read.
To the government and the military, the Bishops reminded them of their duty to protect citizens.
“It is the right of every state to have a military and to employ this military for the protection of its citizens and the defence of its territorial integrity. However, it has also been known that some military have exaggerated the use of force against innocent civilians and sometimes have committed horrendous crimes against children,” they said.
“We appeal to the Government to exercise more vigilance over its military and at the same time we implore the military to stay as far away from schools as possible. The school is not a barracks and they should not go to the schools if they have not been invited by the competent authorities,” they added.
The Bishops appealed to the Anglophone Diaspora “for a review of the strategies in this struggle which will not include children not going to school.” In addition, they called on them “not to be influencing and encouraging in any way, the ”Amba Fighters” to disturb the attendance of schools.”