THE SITUATION IN CAMEROON
The official languages of Cameroon are English and French, but there are over 230 languages spoken in the country.
Nicknamed 'Africa Miniature' due to the cultural and geographical diversity.
A famous volcano in Cameroon is called Mount Fako - 'The Chariot of the gods'
Cameroon's Lake Nyos is one of three known "exploding" lakes in the world. This is because the water is saturated with carbon dioxide, a result of a pocket of magma that sits underneath the lake. In 1986, the lake emitted a massive amount of carbon dioxide, which tragically killed 1,700 people and 3,500 livestock in the nearby towns and villages. Degassing tubes have been installed to mitigate the threat, but the lake is still a danger.
Before World War I, the vast majority of the country was a German colony. At that time it was known as Kamerun.
Cameroon has two judicial systems: The Common Law system is practiced in the Anglophone regions and the Civil Law system is practiced in the Francophone regions.
The poverty in Cameroon has increased considerably over the past few years. The population is made of mostly peasant farmers who face incredible hardships due to the drop of produce prices in recent years and the steady deterioration of the local roads. So many parents are unable to send their children to school. As a result, these children are at great risk when it comes to human trafficking. Out of desperation to find ways to sustain themselves, many families are in the position of having to send their children to work in the larger towns, some of which are out of the country.
These children are at risk of being put in dangerous working environments if they are not in school. They are often abused and exploited, living in deplorable conditions.
The positive effect of education in these children's lives is immeasurable. They can elevate the economic status of their family and even that of the whole community by qualifying for higher paying jobs. An education can help them to become leaders, fighting against human rights violations. Knowledge can give them the skills and the voice needed to elevate the living conditions of their individual communities.
Current Political Crisis
Statement our founder, Lukong Isidore, on the political situation in Cameroon as of November, 2019:
"The ongoing socio political crisis in the two English speaking regions of Cameroon started in 2016 with the unmet demands of teachers and lawyers. The teachers and lawyers were demanding for the implementation of the Anglo-Saxon system of Education and Common law system in the North and South West Regions of Cameroon. The government reaction was brutal as many people were tortured, arrested and killed by the government forces. A consortium of Anglophones made up of teachers, lawyers and civil society organizations was created to denounce the marginalization of the Anglophones and the attempt to wipe out the Anglo- saxon legal system, education and values.
The consortium was banned by the government and its leaders arrested and put to prison. Government forces continued burning houses, killing and torturing and extorting money from people. In self-defense, some of the people started taking up arms. This was the beginning of great trouble, as more and more youths became radicalized.
Since then, things have become much worse, especially when the head of state declared war on pro independence fighters labelling them as terrorists. Armed groups fighting for the independence sprang up and have been fighting the government forces for the past three years. Although both the national community and the international community have called for frank and sincere dialogue as a way out of the crisis, the government rather opted for military action which has instead radicalized the situation and plunged the country into a senseless civil war that has been claiming the lives of innocent civilians. There has been gross violation of human rights as people are being killed each day by both the military and the separatists’ fighters. There are flagrant violations of both national and international human rights by both the military and separatists’ fighters. Close to 400 people have been killed and over 800 houses torched by the military in the Kumbo diocese alone. Thousands of people have been displaced and living under deplorable human conditions. Schools have been grounded and children are victims of all forms of human rights abuses. Economic activities are grounded; many farmers were unable farm this year, an indication that there will be food crisis in the years to come. The population has been hard hit by poverty many are suffering in bushes and foreign lands.
OUR ONGOING CONCERN
The crisis has more than doubled the number of vulnerable people in the communities. Many children have been orphaned and parents rendered poor, as some of their businesses and homes have been grounded or set ablaze. Some of the children and their parents cannot be traced right now, as people keep moving from one place to another for safety. When schools would finally resume, there will be an alarming number of children seeking help to get back to school and also getting back the children back to class after three years of academic void will be an uphill task. We pray God gives us the strength, means and a loving heart to overcome these challenges.
WHAT WE ARE DOING
Ever since the crisis started, we at Ave Maria Help for Needy Association (Cameroon Foundation) and Heart of Mary Ministries (USA sister branch) have worried greatly about the plight of children whose rights to education have been greatly violated. The situation of children from poor back grounds have been made much worse. A number of strategies were put in place to keep children busy and connected to books and learning:
We bought text books to start up a small library where children come and collect books to read in their homes. Several teachers are tasked to follow up with the children regularly, although it must be done privately due to the political situation.
Some of the children in the program who relocated to safer towns are being followed up and they are enrolled in schools and their fees paid. The problem here is that fees in the South are higher than what we pay here. We are however happy they are studying.
The association continues to work with parents to let them know that despite all that is happening, they have a primary obligation to let their children continue to love to study by encouraging them at home to read books and to collaborate with the teachers. We strongly believe parents are a key partner in the education of their children and must be made aware of this. We give them talks during our weekly meetings and we are happy they are interested and collaborating. Other workshops and talks will be arranged when the library is complete.
It is striking to note the marvelous talents and imagination of these children after reading story books. With very few directives, they have produced short dramas exposing the dangers of children not going to school and the importance of going back to class.
Marveled by this, the association is working with one lady, an expert in theatre arts, to follow up these children and support their talents. Click here to watch their movie!