By Mua Patrick, January 24, 2017
Cameroon Journal, Yaoundé – Schools remained closed across the North West and South West Regions yesterday despite frantic efforts by the government to ensure an effective resumption of the academic year that has since been interrupted for over seven weeks now.
Denizens in most towns and cities across the two English-speaking Regions stayed off the streets in respect of a Ghost Town Operation expected to end today.
Hundreds of troops deployed to the North West and South West kept guard while the streets remained empty with banks, fuel stations, markets and offices shutdown.
In Bamenda, few pupils and students mostly Francophones were spotted in uniforms in some campuses though they ended up not being taught as teachers remained off campuses due to the ongoing Anglophone teachers’ strike action.
People in Bamenda have continued to live in constant panic and fear as sporadic arrests are being carried out by security operatives every day. The heavy presence of troops on campuses in Bamenda, Buea, Kumba, Limbe and elsewhere observers say is instead scaring pupils and students from returning to school.
Unlike in the previous Ghost Town Operations, no cases of violence were reported across the two Anglophone Regions yesterday. In Limbe, where clashes erupted between civilians and armed soldiers last week during the second Ghost Town operation, there was relative calm yesterday. Francophone schools in Limbe that had attempted last week to go about their normal activities remained shut down yesterday.
Last week, Secondary Education Minister, Jean Ernest Massena Ngalle Bibehe said in a statement government had taken every necessary measure to ensure that schools effectively begin in the North West and South West Regions yesterday.
In a statement issued January 19 and addressed to the North West and South West Regional Delegates of Secondary Education, the Secondary Education boss, instructed them to put in every effort to ensure that pupils, students, and teachers go back to the classrooms from yesterday.
“I have the honour to instruct you to put all in place for the effective resumption of classes in all public and private educational establishments in your area of jurisdiction on Monday, January 23, 2017”, the Minister wrote.
He said his communiqué, which was also copied the Secretary General of the Presidency and the Civil Cabinet of the Prime Minister’s office, was at the behest of the “high instructions” of the Prime Minister, Head of Government, Philemon Yang.
Ngalle Bibehe, in the same communiqué, further called on the Regional Delegates to transmit same instructions to all school heads in their area.
He also urged his regional collaborators to use every necessary means to communicate with parents of students and students themselves to rest assured of appropriate steps taken by government to ensure the security of all on school campuses.
“You will have to make available to me a daily report of your activities aimed at the effective execution of the above instructions,” the Minister concluded his communiqué.
It should be recalled that doors of schools in these two-English speaking Regions have remained shut since November 21, 2016 when Anglophone teachers started a sit-in strike action. They have been calling for sweeping reforms in the Anglo-Saxon sub system of education.
Despite efforts to reach a deal between government and the protesting teachers, schools have remained closed since January 9, when classes effectively took off elsewhere around the national territory for the second term of the academic year. The teachers have refused to call of the strike and parents too appear poised to hold back their children until teachers’ demands are met.