School attendance improving in Cameroon’s restive Anglophone regions

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Students attend a class at a high school in Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 5, 2020. (Photo by Jean Pierre Kepseu/Xinhua)
Students attend a class at a high school in Yaounde, Cameroon, Oct. 5, 2020. (Photo by Jean Pierre Kepseu/Xinhua)

School attendance is improving in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions that have been ravaged by separatist violence since 2016, local officials said on Wednesday.

Schools, particularly in rural areas that shut down because of violence, are gradually reopening, according to Adolph Lele Lafrique, governor of the Northwest, one of the troubled regions, without giving further details.

“We are seeing students coming back to school in their numbers, schools are also gradually reopening. The situation is generally improving,” Lafrique told reporters after visiting some schools in the region.

“We want to believe that this year will be a normal year for schools. The security of the children is guaranteed. We are pleased with the number of children coming to school,” said Bernard Okalia Bilai, governor of South-west region.

Separatists enforced a school boycott in the troubled regions since 2016 to protest against what they described as educational injustices against English-speakers.

The four-year school boycott has left more than 800,000 children out of school, according to UNICEF, also known as the UN Children’s Fund.

Last week, two key separatist leaders, for the first time in four years, called for school reopening in the regions, stressing that school boycott “is no longer a weapon” for the struggle for independence.

In 2017, separatist fighters began clashing with government forces in a bid to establish an independent nation they call “Ambazonia” in the two Anglophone regions of largely French-speaking Cameroon.

The new school year in Cameroon started on Monday.

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