(Nairobi, December 16, 2021) – Systematic and widespread attacks by armed separatist groups on students, teachers, and schools in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions since 2017 have had a devastating impact on children’s right to education, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
The 131-page report, “They Are Destroying Our Future: Armed Separatist Attacks on Students, Teachers, and Schools in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions,” documents scores of education-related attacks by armed separatist groups in the English-speaking North-West and South-West regions between March 2017 and November 2021. The groups have killed, beaten, abducted, threatened, and terrorized students and education professionals; harassed and intimidated families into keeping their children out of school; and burned, destroyed, damaged, and looted school buildings.
We want peace, no more killing! (Repeat)
In October 2020, suspected armed separatists attacked the Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, South-West region of Cameroon, killing 7 children and injuring at least 13 others. It was one of more than 70 attacks on schools by armed separatists documented by Human Rights Watch and other international organizations since 2017 in the English-speaking regions of the country.
For more than two years, I was not teaching because about 90% of the schools in the North-West and South-West were actually shut down, especially in rural areas like the one which I was working in Ekona.
Education has been a flash point in the Anglophone crisis. In late 2016 Cameroonian security forces began cracking down on teachers and lawyers protesting against what they considered to be marginalization of Anglophone education and legal systems.
Since then, armed separatist groups have emerged. They have declared a boycott on schools that they violently enforce.
During the past 5 years of violence, nearly 600,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.
The separatists were targeting teachers, sometimes students. I’ve been fortunate to receive only threats, where others have received more than threats. Their fingers were actually cut off, many were kidnapped, some have been killed of course.
Leaders of separatist groups should immediately announce an end to the school boycott and should cease all attacks on schools, teachers, and students.
Cameroonian authorities should investigate and prosecute those responsible for attacks on students, teachers, and schools and establish a reparations program for the victims and their families.
They should also establish a task force on education to ensure that all students in Anglophone regions have access to safe and quality education.
I was in Form 5 by that time preparing my ordinary levels examination. When the crisis started, the separatist fighters came to school, they warned us, we were all beaten. many of us have been injured. I was even having internal bleedings. they burned our administrative block and then they destroyed our documentation, so the school has to shut down since 2016, up to today.
According to the UN, 700,000 students are currently out of school in the Anglophone regions.
Felix Agbor Nkongho
Human Rights Lawyer
The first consequence to it is that our kids are not going to be educated. Ignorance will be running riot in our community. It would lead to teenage pregnancy, juvenile delinquency, and a culture where people don’t valorize education. But the worst thing is that it affects future generation of Anglophone Cameroonians, and it also has a psychological impact on their parents when kids are not going to school.
In September 2018, Cameroon endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, an international political commitment aimed at strengthening the prevention of and responses to attacks on students, teachers, schools, and universities during times of violence and armed conflict.
There has been a mass exodus into the urban areas where school goes on. There’s some degree of security. The government and the schools are making some efforts to solve the issue of overpopulation. They are trying to build many classrooms rapidly so they can decongest some of the classes.
I arrived (in) Buea on the 22nd of February 2020. I started schooling. I’m studying sciences in school hoping to become a medical doctor, so I can better up my life and the life of my family and the people around my community, so I can save lives.
December 15, 2021News Release