COVID-19 and the Cameroon Educational Sector

COVID-19 and the Cameroon Educational Sector

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COVID-19 cases in Cameroon have been growing in leaps and bounce. Being amongst the top 5 African countries with the highest cases of coronavirus, Cameroon is still to fully take control of the indiscriminate killer virus. With over 1000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Cameroon, there are fears the number may rise geometrically (God forbid) in the days ahead. The upward trend of COVID-19 in Cameroon is affecting every facet of life of Cameroonians. Alongside the coronavirus pandemic, Cameroon is battling with other crisis like the Anglophone crisis in the two English speaking minority regions of Cameroon and the Boko Haram crisis in the Northern part of Cameroon.

One of the highest hit-sectors as COVID-19 cases keep rising in Cameroon, is the educational sector. Amongst the 13 points prescribed by the government of Cameroon to curb the spread of the virus is the suspension of classes at all levels. Since March 18, 2020 when the measures were announced all schools have remained closed. One need not to be told of the effects of this.

The new way(s) of learning in Cameroon amidst COVID-19

No comprehensive strategy has been put in place by the government of Cameroon to continue teaching especially students and pupils while at their homes. State-owned TV and radio station, CRTV has been broadcasting live classes on daily bases since the announcement of the suspension of classes in Cameroon. This is a good effort off course, but it is somehow limited to kids in urban and semi-urban areas only. It becomes worrying given that Students or pupils in hinterlands, hasn’t access to electricity talking less of TV to follow these classes. Also, the role of parents  in ensuring the participation of their children in the lessons and to do follow up can not be guaranteed.

More so, the time allocated for these classes, mostly 1 hour is too small to cover even half of the syllabus especially for the examination classes.

Some parents who are literate enough are teaching their kids while those who can afford the luxury of hiring private teachers to teach their kids at home may not, per say, feel the pinch of the closure of schools.

WhatsApp groups like the one below have equally been created as a study forum for students writing the GCE Advance and Ordinary level exterminations. Past GCE questions and answers are shared in this platform. Just like any human effort, this method has flaws given that not every student has an android phone to gain access into these groups. This has given students that have access to android phones have undue advantage (which may not be any fault of theirs) over those that don’t have.

Cameroonians of good will are equally organizing small classes at the level of their neighborhoods to teach especially students and pupils who may completely forget what they have been learning in school for the past months. This may so far be the most effective way to teach students as well as pupils if all neighborhoods were adopt the method though participants may potentially be exposed to the virus.

The situation with universities and other higher institutions of higher learning is somehow different from that of primary and secondary schools. Apart from the fact that university students are matured enough (other things being equal) to explore the internet and get whatever content they need, universities such as the University of Buea has announced the beginning of the second semester and classes will be taking place online. Other higher institutions just like the University of Buea are equally adopting the e-learning option.

 Considering that economic activities have greatly slowed down in Cameroon, most parents may not be able to afford it. Data bundles are still very expensive in Cameroon and you may start to imagine how much a university will spend a day if he or she were to attend 3 online classes of two hours. Moreso, there are Anglophone IDPs students all over Cameroon who are barely surviving. The question here is; will they be able to afford the data needed to attend these online classes? Assuming some can afford, for how long will they be able to coup with this new way of life?  The government of Cameroon under normal circumstances would have subsidized or better still made data free.  The frequent power cut in some part of Cameroon especially the Southwest region is worrying.

How are teachers surviving?

Mr. Lyonga Francis has been teaching for 7 years. He has a wife and three kids and his only source of income is teaching.  He lives in Buea, southwest region of Cameroon with his family. His wife is a fashion designer and his family, he told me, “is surviving from the income of his wife” since his salary for the month of March is still pending with the private school he has been teaching in for the past years.

Mr. Lyonga’s predicament is similar to that of most teachers in Cameroon, especially those of the private sector. There are fears these teachers will go without salary for as long as the coronavirus stays. Those that are lucky enough to be contracted by parents to teach their kid are home may not feel the pinch that much. Prices of basic consumer goods are skyrocketing. Transport fare is increasing and drivers have to respect government directives on the number of people to be carried in a taxi for example. The government of Cameroon need to intervene on behalf of teachers in the private sector before they die perhaps of hunger and starvation.

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