By Kesah Princely and Edoue Valentine In Buea
At a time when school attendance in Anglophone Cameroon remains timid owing to an unresolved armed conflict, a government decision to reduce leaning hours for the sake of AFCON does not resonate well in the minds of some Education leaders.
A recent release from the country’s Prime Ministry reduced the number of school hours in order to give teachers and students the opportunity to watch AFCON matches.
“During the days of the Total Energies AFCON 2021 matches, school and lectures will go from 7:30am to 1:00pm,” the release reads in parts.
The order from Yaoundé takes effect in the national triangle from Monday, January 17 till February 4, 2022.
Government’s decision to prioritize AFCON over Education has left many a pedagogue in Anglophone Cameroon upset.
Their worry is owing to the fact that schools had badly been affected by the ongoing separatist armed conflict which escalated in the Northwest and Southwest regions in 2017.
Valentine Semah, Secretary General of the Cameroon Teachers’ Trade Union (CATTU), considers the decision to reduce leaning hours as unnecessary; especially in the conflict hit regions where schools are gradually gaining steam after 5 years of inactivity.
In an exclusive interview with TWIF NEWS, Monday January 17, the CATTU head said he wept for the future of pupils and students when he stumbled on the communiqué.
“We are barely struggling to cover up the gap created due to 5 years of non-schooling; especially now that there is a semblance of effective education in the Northwest and Southwest regions,” he regretted.
Owing to unending hostilities in the two Anglophone regions characterised by lockdown and ghost town operations, thousands of pupils, students and teachers have been paying the price.
While hundreds have died either in cross fire or targeted killing, thousands of others, according to UNICEF remain at home owing to the closure of schools.
Valentine Semah thinks that, even the best teachers would not be able to complete the syllabus of the academic year because of the ongoing war.
He further stressed that, reducing learning hours for the sack of AFCON only adds insults to injury.
“When I look at the decision fundamentally as a teacher; as a trade union leader; as a professional with love for my children, I can’t subscribe to such point of view,” the CATTU boss intimated.
At a time when pupils and students attend classes in shifts as a means to curb the spread of the Coronavirus, education stakeholders like Valentine Semah now wander what will be done to accommodate all learners amidst the deadly pandemic.
But Why Did Government Take This Decision To Mobilize Support For AFCON?
Hosting the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in 50 years, many sport pundits thought the competition would serve as a moment of communion and conviviality among Cameroonians of all walks of life.
In fact, it was hoped that the camaraderie and fanfare which prevailed during the opening ceremony in Yaounde on January 9 would be the same scenario in the other AFCON venues across the country.
This, however, has not been the case.
Play grounds especially in Limbe and Bafoussam remained deserted in the first two games of the competition.
While some Cameroonian were quick to blame the poor turnout on COVID-19, others believe that, the unsolved Anglophone armed conflict, high unemployment and other issues were more pressing than AFCON.
The government quickly understood this language, and the Prime Minister, on the high instructions of the President of the republic, 15 January issued a communiqué reducing learning and working hours as a cine qua non to mobilize support for the AFCON.