700,000 children have been affected by school closures in Cameroon’s Northwest (NW) and Southwest (SW) regions (referred to from now on as the NWSW regions), as a result of the Anglophone crisis that began in 2016 (key informant interview 16/11/2020; OCHA 31/05/2019). Some separatist armed groups are protesting against the Government of Cameroon’s (GoC) education system by forcing schools to close and attacking students, teachers, and education facilities. In 2017, the separatists imposed a boycott on formal education that uses the GoC’s curriculum, and most schools in the NWSW regions are closed for the fourth consecutive year (IFRI 06/2020; ICG 02/08/2017; BBC 02/09/2019; The Guardian 03/09/2019; AI 12/06/2018; key informant interview 03/02/2021).
Education is a key component of the Anglophone crisis: on the one hand it has been significantly affected by the crisis; on the other hand, strikes related to education issues have been a driver of the conflict. Since the independence of Cameroon in 1961, the government’s focus on the Francophone regions over the Anglophone ones has translated into the perceived marginalisation of the NWSW regions, gaps in governance, and dual systems, including education. Because of a lack of harmonisation in the education system, weak nationwide promotion of bilingualism, and undiversified allocation of resources, children and adults have started experiencing increased constraints to studying under the English education system in the NWSW regions, contributing to the current crisis. The armed groups’ boycott of formal education in the NWSW regions has prevented children from attending school and has led to a learning impasse (IFRI 06/2020; ICG 02/08/2017; OCHA 31/10/2020;
Children and teachers have been threatened, kidnapped, harassed, and killed for going to school. This violence, stress, and fear can cause both visible and invisible health and mental health effects in the long and short term (Protection Cluster 04/2019; Cameroon Education Cluster 04/09/2020).
Children affected by the Anglophone crisis face an increased risk of child recruitment, gender-based violence (GBV), child abuse, and child labour. Some parents rely on child labour to help support their families, including sending their children to work as domestic workers, to work on farms, harvest bitter leaf, beg, and – for adolescent girls – engage in survival sex work (Protection Cluster 04/2019; DRC 11/2020; OCHA 06/2020).
Some community members, including retired teachers and members of churches, have discreetly offered non-formal education, though this is limited (IFRI 06/2020).
Prolonged school closures will worsen the loss of human capital and economic opportunities in the long term (OCHA 24/07/2020).
The most pressing concerns are lack of safe and secure learning environments, lack of trained and skilled teachers (including teachers trained in basic skills in psychological support services), and lack of teaching and learning materials (UNICEF Cameroon accessed 01/02/2021).