On January 30, armed separatists kidnapped a 19-year-old high school student, “Marie” (pseudonym), in Buea, in the English-speaking region of South West Cameroon. Three days later, with a machete, they amputated a finger.
Why ? Marie wanted to go to high school.
Since 2017, armed separatist groups have imposed a boycott of education in the country’s two English-speaking regions, in their obstinate attempt to pressure the government to obtain better political recognition.
They torched school buildings, kidnapped and assaulted students and teachers who failed to meet their requirement that schools remain closed. They have established their headquarters in schools, where, or near which, they torture people and hold them hostage.
“They punished me because they found textbooks in my bag,” said Marie. “They wanted to cut a finger off my right hand, so that I could no longer write. But I begged them not to, so they cut my index finger with my left hand. “
According to Marie’s testimony, the separatists also mutilated a 19-year-old young man who was detained with her, also accused of attendions high school. The two students were released on February 3 after paying a ransom. They received medical treatment, but have not yet returned to class.
The separatist attacks on schools, students and teachers in English-speaking regions have had a devastating impact on education. According to the United Nations, nearly 600,000 children have been unable to go to class since the end of 2016, and only 19% of primary and secondary schools are open in the North-West and South-West regions. In addition, government forces were involved in [an arson attack on a school https: //dataverse.scholarsportal.info/dataset.xhtml? PersistentId = doi: 10 …. ), according to independent investigators.
In September 2018, Cameroon announced that it supported the Declaration on Safe Schools . This country is one of the 28 members of the African Union having adopted this political commitment to protect education during armed conflicts. Clearly, more needs to be done by the government to ensure that children are able to return to school safely and to promote alternative forms of education, including radio, the Internet and television, for students who cannot can’t go back there yet.
Through their brutal campaign, the separatists make education a weapon serving their political ends, depriving an entire generation of children of their fundamental right to education. The leaders of the separatist movement should immediately order their fighters and supporters to stop interfering with the education of children.
Source: Human Rights Watch