By Boris Esono Nwenfor (Cameroon)
Saint Joseph College Sasse, one of the most recognized and cherished school in the town of Buea, South West Region and one of Cameroon’s oldest schools is the recent educational establishment to be shutting its doors due to the ongoing socio-political crisis in Cameroon.
Steady clashes between security forces and separatist fighters have made the learning environment in Bwassa, a village close to Sasse very difficult and put the life of these students at risk, forcing the school to shut down according to the Bishop of Buea, Mgr Immanuel Bushu.
The decision to shut down the school comes after a series of meetings with parents, school and catholic authorities following the alleged kidnap and release of the principal Fr. Sakwe on February 24.
With the General Certificate of Examinations, GCE edging closer, authorities of the said institutions have been quick to look for an alternative measure to see to it that students who registered for the examinations are taught and able to write the examination. Authorities say some 200 students will be transferred to Tiko, South West Region, where they will camp at Christ the King College (CKC) and prepare for the GCE which will equally be written there.
For the past two years, Cameroon’s English speaking regions-North Wes and South West have been embroiled in a battle for separation as separatist fighters seeks secession from majority French dominated La Republic. Thousands of people have been killed, many internally displaced, while others have become refugees in neighbouring Nigeria.
Schools in these regions have been the ones hard hit due to the crisis. Teachers and school administrators have suffered the most in this crisis. Several teachers have been murdered, maimed and kidnapped in the past weeks as education comes under increasing attack in the English speaking regions of Cameroon. Over 30 schools have been the targets of violence.
Students have also been victims of what many have termed a “senseless” war with no vision. Many students in the North West and South West have been kidnapped and later released with the hope of prohibiting them from going to school. Last year, 78 students were kidnapped as PSS Nkwen, in Bamenda, North West Region but later released. The school also suffered another separate attack in which 11 students were kidnapped and later released.
Saint Joseph College Sasse is the second college under the management of the Catholic Church to close down in recent weeks due to the crisis. Saint Augustine College in Kumbo set the pace by deciding to close its doors after the kidnap and release of over 150 students by gunmen.
Separatists, government forces and all those benefiting from the on-going crisis have been urged to do their utmost to see that places of education are places of safety. According to individuals, the closing down of educational institutions does not benefit anyone even the separatist themselves.
They are thus asking for a long lasting solution to the present crisis to be made or else many schools will continue to shut their doors. It is unclear however how many schools have thus far close down especially in the worst hit areas like Lebialem, Kumbo and many others. It is reported that schools are nonexistent in areas where separatist are in control.