By Constance Ndeleko
Recent reports indicate atrocities that happened in the wake of war in Cameroon between the English speaking and the French speaking citizens.
On 24 October, a group of armed men attacked Mother Francisca International Bilingual Academy in Kumba, in Cameroon’s restive South-West region. According to local reports, the victims were aged between 12 and 14.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Cameroon, Matthias Z. Naab, says the attack is the worst atrocity since the resumption of the school year on 5 October, in which more students enrolled in the North-West and South-West regions than in recent years. Unrest in parts of Cameroon had affected school enrollment and access to education. “Children have a right to education. Violence against schools and innocent school children is not acceptable under any circumstances and can constitute a crime against humanity if proven in a court of law,”
It is estimated that more than one million internally displaced people live in the cities and villages of Cameroon, most of whom are young people who are out of school. They have fled violence, armed fighting and murders in order to seek refuge in safe and peaceful places”.
As the worlds fights the unseen enemy Corona Virus, the war in Cameroon escalates living children disturbed and shocked with the merciless attacks that have directly targeted them.
Attack on education facilities are a grave violations of children rights and future. The aftermath of it forces teachers and student to flee, causes destruction of infrastructure which could take years to build and blocks the capacity to manage the education system.
Conflict and wars affects children’s chances of receiving a good-quality education in many different ways. And as we know school not only serve an educational purpose for children but it is where they receive their most nutritious meal of the day, it is their safe space, it is where they social interact to understand their ability as they grow and develop.
The crisis signals a historic gap between the French-speaking majority and the Anglophone minority, but it was amplified after the strikes by teachers and lawyers in October 2016, against the sending of French-speaking judges and teachers to the Western Anglophone regions.
We should all understand that a single attack on a school can keep hundreds of children out of the classroom, potentially destroying a community’s only place of learning and a principal hub which could lead to a lost generation.
Governments must ensure that effective judicial systems and redress mechanisms guarantee that perpetrators of attacks against education are not beyond the law. Armed forces must take major steps to enforce customary provisions of international humanitarian law that prohibit attacks against schools and civilians.
There’s a clear need for governments to sign the safe school education and foster peace education in classroom to help children achieve their optimal goal. Schools should be zones of peace where children are granted protection even in times of conflict.