Rene Emmanuel Sadi was speaking at a press conference in Yaounde Monday, August 26, 2019 in the presence of members of government charged with education - Minister of State, Minister of Higher Education, Professor Jacques Fame Ndongo, the Minister of Basic Education, Professor Laurent Serge Etoundi Ngoa, the Secretary of State to the Minister of Secondary Education, in charge of Teacher training, Mr Boniface Bayaola, and the Secretary of State to the Minister of Basic Education, Mrs Kilo Vivian Asheri.
Representatives of the Minister Delegate at the Presidency of the Republic in charge of Defence, of the Secretary of State for Defence in charge of the Gendarmerie, and of the Delegate General for National Security also attended Monday's presser.
The joint press conference focused on the upcoming back-to-school, and in particular on national mobilization to safeguard the right to education for every child in the North West and South West regions.
"Obviously, we can say without ambiguity that there is no future without school," Sadi said, citing provisions of Cameroon's constitution that harp on the importance of education.
Hear him: "I would like to recall some provisions of our Constitution and the relevant International Conventions. Items 17 and 18 of the Preamble to the Constitution of Cameroon stipulate as follows: “The Nation protects and encourages the family, the natural basis of human society. It protects women, young people, the elderly and people with disabilities”;
“The State shall ensure the child's right to education. Primary education is compulsory. The organization and control of education at all levels is an imperative duty of the State.”
In addition, the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, which entered into force on September 2, 1990, provides, inter alia, in its article 18, that “States Parties shall recognize the right of the child to education, with a view to ensuring the exercise of this right progressively and on the basis of equal opportunities”.
"In the light of the Fundamental Law and the Convention I have just mentioned, it is clear that the school shutdown observed in the North West and South West regions for a couple of months now, due to the unacceptable abuses committed by the armed gangs of the secessionist nebula, and which has made schools and universities totally or partially inaccessible to pupils, students as well as teaching and support staff, not only constitutes a flagrant violation of the relevant provisions of the laws and regulations of the Republic, but are also genuine violations of international conventions relating to the child's right to education," said Sadi.
Government claims that "everything has been done by these bands of outlaws to hinder the smooth running of activities at the various levels of education in the North West and South West Regions throughout the 2018/2019 academic year, which has just ended."
Actions against school resumption in Anglophone regions
According to Minister Sadi, calls to strike have been launched, with all kinds of threats against the population, physical attacks have been committed on school children and university students.
"Entire buildings and schools have been destroyed or burned down. Populations were terrorized and many families eventually succumbed to a generalized psychosis, which led to a desertion movement of school children and university students.
"To be honest, the overall picture of the abuses committed by secessionists against the education system in these regions over the past 12 months is to say the least, unbearable.
"The facts are self-speaking, shocking, and the Government must in such circumstances provide the public with bits of information indicative of the seriousness of the situation on the ground.
"In this respect, it should be noted, for example, that twenty-seven terrorist attacks were carried out against the education system in the South West and North West Regions between January and August 2019.
"In addition, during the 2018/2019 academic year, a total of 19 teachers and 58 students were kidnapped at the universities of Bamenda and Buea. The abduction followed by the beheading of WOUNTAI VONDOU Olivier, a History and Geography Teacher at the Nitop High School in Bamenda, is still fresh in our memories;
"The list is long, and it would be tedious to mention all the abuses and abominations perpetrated by these armed bands of secessionists, which denote unspeakable savagery and barbarity! Nevertheless, I will mention, without being exhaustive, some notable cases:-
"On January 22, 2019: Secessionists fired live ammunition at students at Presbyterian School 8 Azire. Two of these students, who were returning from school, were seriously injured;
"On February 03, 2019: acts of vandalism were committed in offices at the GTTS/ENIET in Oku and the ENIEG in Njinikedjem. During this attack, educational materials and tools, including computers, were taken away. The said attack, spread panic in the area, and led to the temporary suspension of classes in several schools, as well as the closure of boarding schools, particularly in the mission schools of the Mbui Division.
"On February 25, 2019, secessionist insurgents set fire to Espoir College and APAWYS Secondary School. - the following day, February 26, 2019, other armed gangs forced their way into Government High School Santa premises, causing havoc and despair, and taking away many of the students' belongings, including school bags, books and other school materials.
"On the same day, an armed attack was carried out against the Mbengwi Technical Teacher Training School, with large amounts of property taken away. From February 04 to August 25, 2019, many other abuses were committed against school and university infrastructure in these two regions, including:
"The attack on the Atcha Government Secondary School and the Mbam Village Primary School in the Bui Division, where the terrorist gangs eventually established their command posts; - Incursions into schools in Mbouh village in Bangem in Kupe-Muanenguba; the burning of classrooms at the Batoke High School in Kumba; shooting at students of the University of Buea; fire at Presbyterian High School; rape of two students returning from Mundemba after the First School Leaving Certificate examinations; and the burning of the Marem Islamic Primary School.
"In addition, there have been numerous cases of hostage-taking, generally followed by the murder of school staff. Several people were also abducted over the same period: - Principals of high schools in Mbiame, Bamenap, Bakingui, Bamenyam and Mudeka.
"The kidnapping of the Principal of the Ntamouloun Government Bilingual High School, as well as eighteen students and four teachers of the Jakiri Catholic College; students of the Bambili Teacher Training College during their academic internship at the Atiela and Nitob High Schools; two 11 students from the Kumba Government Technical Teacher Training College, while they were entering their campus; several teachers from the Bambui National Polytechnic School; a student from the Faculty of Health Sciences of the University of Buea.
"We can also mention the abduction by the secessionist armed gangs, of one hundred and sixty-six students from Saint Augustin College Kumbo; two students and the Bursar of the Bamenda Technical High School; two teachers from the “Destiny Bilingual School” in Bonakama, Kumba.
"Moreover, it is worth recalling the abductions of a group of children going to school for failing to respect the call for “ghost town”; that of the GCE Board Delegate for the North West; the 12 Headmaster of the "Step by Step" Primary School in Bamenda; the General Supervisor of the ENIEG in Wum; the Headmasters of public schools in Mbokevu, Ngemsiba Oku and Ngvuinkei, as well as 19 teachers in the locality of Shinga-Oku.
"Finally, the latest event is the assassination of a primary school teacher in the Mbiame Subdivision, Mbui Division, in the North-West Region, yesterday, August 25, 2019, by secessionist armed gangs hostile to school reopening for the 2019/2020 school year.
"As you can see, the list of atrocities is not exhaustive. It will be very tedious to list all acts of barbarity perpetrated by secessionist against the educational system in the North West and South West Regions."
Government gives security guarantees ahead of school resumption
Cameroon's communication minister says the country is "faced with such a serious situation that is geopardizing the education of a segment of our youths, we can only feel outraged and unreservedly condemn the senseless actions of hordes of secessionists in the North-West and South-West."
Sadi wonders thus: "How can we then, reconcile the aspiration of these outlaws to create a state, preside over the destiny of a people and their fierce obstinacy to compromise the education and training of young people – the guarantors of the future of Nations – through the destruction of school infrastructure, the murder of pupils, students, teachers and other social and educational leaders?"
Hear Sadi: "Some suggest that this is to cause harm to the President of the Republic. Yes, there is no doubt about that, for the President of the Republic is the father of the Nation, and as such, he obviously has at heart the fate of the young people of the North West and South West Regions. That is the reason why he has never relinquished his duty to do everything possible to ensure that all these young people, without exception, find their way back to school.
"But though this situation is of the utmost concern to the President of the Republic, it goes without saying that it is primarily against the interest of those children themselves who, without education, see their future compromised. The same applies in turn, to the families which these young compatriots come from, as well as their regions of origin which, like other regions, need young people who are educated and trained to ensure their development.
"Finally, it goes, of course, against the interest of Cameroon as a whole, whose future depends on an educated and equipped youth. The Government of the Republic therefore once again condemns this unacceptable situation, on the eve of the start of the school year throughout the national territory, and calls for the mobilization of the entire Nation, in order to allow, in particular with regard to our children in the two Regions of North West and South West, to fully enjoy their right to education and training.
"In this regard, the Government wishes to reassure the population about the measures taken by the administrative authorities and our Defence and Security Forces to create the conditions for a safe school reopening, despite the threats of all kinds that secessionist outlaws continue to voice against the population as well as students."
Government in need of international support
"The Government also avails itself of this opportunity to appeal once again to the international community, to Cameroon’s friendly countries, where the sponsors of the insurgency in the North West and South West reside, to be aware of the serious damage they are causing to our country from abroad, and denounce these pernicious acts and to cooperate with the Cameroonian authorities to put an end to them," Minister Sadi said Monday.
He furthered that: "In any case, on September 2, pupils enrolled in nursery and primary education on the one hand, and in secondary education on the other, will return to school throughout the national territory, for the 2019/2020 school year.
"This is a moment of obvious importance, because of the essential role of education in nation building. As for the start of the academic year in higher education, it is due to take place shortly.
"A few days before this major deadline, everything is being done, first in terms of security, to guarantee the smooth running of the academic year, but also in terms of administrative and technical preparations. On all these aspects, no less essential, the members of Government present here will take stock of the situation.
"As I said earlier, the Government has spared no effort and will continue to assume its responsibilities so that young girls and boys in the North-West and South-West regions, like their counterparts in other parts of the country, can enjoy their rights to schooling, education and training."