'Marginalised' Cameroon schools in low key re-opening

Cameroon Secondary Education minister Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe (R) being received at the Government Bilingual Grammar School Molyko in Buea in the Southwest on September 5, 2017. NDI EUGUENE NDI | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

Schools in the crisis-hit English speaking regions of Cameroon have timidly re-opened for the 2017/2018 academic year, despite the heavy deployment of security forces.

Only 200 students showed up at the Government Bilingual High School (GBHS), Bamendankwe in the Northwest, on the first day on Monday, though the number rose to 427 on Wednesday, against the 2,000 population.

Basic Education minister Youssouf Adidja Alim, who visited some primary and secondary schools in the region, said she was happy with the “progressive resumption”.

Many students also stayed away in the Southwest where Secondary Education minister Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe supervised the back-to-school.

Lawyers and teachers

Mr Bibehe, however, said “schools have effectively resumed in the region”.

Schools shut their operations in the Northwest and Southwest last November when Anglophone lawyers and teachers called for work boycott against alleged marginalisation by the predominantly French speaking Yaoundé government.

Several people have been killed and many others arrested in the wake of the protests—a situation that has attracted global condemnation to President Paul Biya’s 35-year regime.

Though President Biya last Friday ordered the release of some activists arrested during the social unrest in the minority regions, some English speakers kept their children at home, heeding the calls to show solidarity with those still detained.

Duping them

The unconditional release of all those arrested has been a major recommendation of national and international agencies, but President Biya set free only 55 of the known 75 detainees.

Those still behind bars include radio presenter Mancho Bibixy aka BBC.

Cameroon’s Anglophones have held grudges against their Francophone brothers for duping them in a post-independence reunification deal where they expected to be equal partners. They often complain of being treated as second-class citizens.

According to socio-political anthropologist, Prof Paul Nkwi, the lawyers’ and teachers’ protest had just opened a Pandora's box.

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