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School Year Begins in Cameroon, But Many Children Not in Class


Two students prepare for classes at Marou Bi-Lingual High School in Cameroon.

Two students prepare for classes at Marou Bi-Lingual High School in Cameroon.

Schools in Cameroon re-opened this week for the beginning of a new school year.

But an estimated 100,000 children in northern Cameroon are not attending classes. They have been forced from their homes because of the conflict with Boko Haram militants.

Schools in some areas are overcrowded and the building of more schools has been delayed because of security concerns.

Sixteen-year-old old Lara Salamatou fled her home in Kerawa three months ago. She says she then tried to go to the government high school in the town of Maroua.

She said the school in Maroua is overcrowded and has few teachers. She wants conditions there to improve, and would like to continue her education.

Officials recently closed her school in Kerawa and 160 other schools because of attacks by Boko Haram supporters. The militants are said to have entered Cameroon from Nigeria.

The government says at least 100,000 displaced children are not in classes this year.

At an elementary school in Maroua, classes have begun. But about 500 young people are waiting outside the building.

Teacher Njah Clementine says school officials are refusing to admit children whose parents have yet to make payments for their education. She knows many of those waiting have been displaced because of the conflict. She says the government has yet to tell the school to admit the boys and girls.

She says many parents wait until the last minute to make the payments. She said some of them beg the school to let their children go to class even without paying. But she says for those who have paid, their children are in class and there is effective teaching. Teachers are teaching. They prepared their lessons last week.

Education officials have moved teachers paid by the government to schools in areas at risk of Boko Haram attacks. But since 2014, some of those teachers have refused to go. This causes more problems for the schools in those areas.

Across the border in northern Nigeria, Boko Haram has targeted government schools and schoolchildren.

Youssouf Hadidja Alim is Cameroon’s Minister of Basic Education. She says the government is building schools in safe areas.

She says the government has built more than 200 classrooms, 87 buildings with restrooms and 56 water wells. She says the government has also built more than 6,000 school benches. And it has paid extra money to teachers in an effort to persuade them to teach in some areas.

More schools are planned but have not been built.

Aminou Sanda Zoua is the top basic education official in the Far North area of Cameroon. He says Boko Haram fighters target companies building the schools.

He says workers began building the schools, but stopped because of problems with security. He says crews are waiting for the right time to complete the work. But he says some classrooms have been built by the Army and they are ready to be used.

I’m Christopher Jones-Cruise.

Moki Edwin Kindzeka in Cameroon reported this story for VOANews.com. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted his report for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

lesson – n. an activity that you do in order to learn something

basic – adj. describing the simplest and most important parts of something (such as a subject of study)

bench – n. a long and usually hard seat for two or more people

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