A separatist crisis in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions have caused 530,000 people internally displaced, many of them children and teenagers whose schooling is affected. A UNICEF report and the government said thousands of schools were forcibly closed, and many of these schools were used as bases of the armed separatists. Ten-year-old Cameroonian girl Kelsy Shinyuy shares how she has been lucky enough to resume schooling against all odds.
By Arison Tamfu, Alain Georges Lietbouo
YAOUNDE, Sept. 10 (Xinhua) -- As early as 6:30 am on the day of school reopening, 10-year-old Cameroonian girl Kelsy Shinyuy was already on her way to meet her new teachers and classmates.
Kelsy Shinyuy (1st L) went to school on the day of school reopening in Foumban, Cameroon, Sept. 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Jean Pierre Kepseu)
"I am very happy because I have not been to school for long. Very happy," she said.
Shinyuy had to stay at home since 2017 due to a persistent crisis in the Cameroon's two English-speaking regions of Northwest and Southwest, where separatists have been clashing with government forces in a bid to secede from the French-majority Cameroon and create an independent nation they call "Ambazonia".
In late August this year, Shinyuy and her family left their home in Kumbo in the Northwest to take refuge in Foumban, chief-town of Noun division in the Francophone part of Cameroon, about 100 km away from Kumbo. She was finally able to restart school at Saint Joseph Bilingual School of Foumban.
Her mother Lidwina Limunyuy was very excited that she managed to resend her child back to school, although for lack of money, the other two younger brothers of Shinyuy have to keep staying at home.
"We went through hardship. In fact we are lucky to be alive," Limunyuy said.
A UNICEF report released in August estimates that insecurity spreading across Cameroon's Anglophone regions has left more than 4,400 schools forcibly closed, affecting more than 600,000 children. According to the government, many of these schools were found being used as bases of the armed separatists.
According to UN estimations in July, the conflicts have resulted in about 530,000 internally displaced persons (IDP). Among them, many are children and teenagers struggling to resume schooling with very limited ressources.
A staff member of the Red Cross talked with an internally displaced girl from English-speaking regions in Foumban, Cameroon, Sept. 2, 2019. (Xinhua/Jean Pierre Kepseu)
"The situation is sad and touching...We have asked all the school authorities to admit all the internally displaced children. We are very focused to make sure they go to school hitch-free," said Amidou Mbouombouo, divisional delegate of the secondary education ministry in Noun.
Magdaline Abongmbuh, a teacher at Government Bilingual High School of Foumban, said 33 IDP students registered in her class.
"Some of the students came to school without uniforms and books and school fees. When I asked them to go home and dress properly before coming to school, they burst into tears and insisted that they are ready to study in any condition," said Abongmbuh. "They cried, Madam, we have suffered a lot and we want to go to school."
Humanitarian agencies like the Red Cross are also taking actions.
Last academic year, the Red Cross helped about 7,000 displaced children register in primary and secondary schools in Noun, where there are currently 38,940 IDPs, according to Ibrahim Pouamoun, divisional secretary of the Red Cross in Noun.
Local elites make their contribution too. Members of Bamoun Kingdom, a major chiefdom in Noun, visited displaced families before school resumption to donate learning equipments.
To provide IDPs with sustainable sources of income, the sultan king Ibrahim Mbombo Njoya has made available 600 hectares of farm land, according to Inoussa Ngoupayou, first deputy to the sultan king.
On this first day of school, Shinyuy was already making new friends. All children have been instructed to be kind to their mates coming from crisis-hit regions, school headmistress Caroline Yaah told Xinhua.
"I will study hard to become a doctor," Shinyuy said.