(September 10, 2018 – New York) The Republic of Cameroon has announced its endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration, said the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack (GCPEA) today. Cameroon is the 81st country worldwide and the 22nd African Union member to join this international political agreement to protect education during armed conflict.
“Students, teachers, schools, and universities in Cameroon continue to endure significant violence,” said Diya Nijhowne, GCPEA director. “Cameroon’s endorsement of the Safe Schools Declaration signals the government’s commitment to better safeguard learning and mitigate the devastating damage caused by attacks on education and military use of schools.”
GCPEA’s global study, _Education under Attack 2018_, found that Cameroon was one of 28 countries most affected by attacks on education between 2013 and 2017. In recent years, violence perpetrated by the armed group Boko Haram has spilled over into the Far North region of Cameroon, resulting in attacks on schools, students, and teachers.
In the context of conflict in Cameroon’s Anglophone regions, dozens of schools have been set on fire, and students and teachers have been threatened, killed, or kidnapped. Additionally, during protests in the Anglophone regions, security forces have reportedly detained or injured several university students and professors. Just last week, as students began the new school year, separatists attempted to launch an attack on the convoy of the Minister of Basic Education, and a high school was attacked by a gunman in Bamenda, the capital of the Anglophone regions. Moreover, according to news sources, separatists assert that the national education system marginalizes Anglophone pupils, and have ordered a boycott of schools in the areas they claim. Some separatists have threatened that they cannot guarantee the security of those who defy the boycott and attend school.
Schools have also reportedly been used for military purposes, such as detention and torture centers, by armed groups, and national armed and security forces. In at least one case documented in 2017, soldiers were present in a school while children and teachers continued to study and teach, putting the school at risk of attack by opposing forces.
Since 2015, the Safe Schools Declaration has been endorsed by over one third of all United Nations (UN) member states, the majority of current UN Security Council members, and more than one third of the African Union (AU). The AU Peace and Security Council has repeatedly called on all of its members to join the community of endorsing states. By endorsing the Declaration, states commit to using the _Guidelines for Protecting Schools and Universities from Military Use during Armed Conflict_.
At the recent Berlin conference on the Lake Chad crisis, held on September 3-4, the international community committed more than USD 2 billion to addressing the humanitarian crisis in the region. The importance of access to education for Cameroon’s children and young people was one theme highlighted. Protecting education from attack and schools from military use is critical to achieving this goal both nationally and regionally. Funding should be allocated for this purpose; or more specifically, for implementation of the Safe Schools Declaration.
“All four countries affected by the crisis in the Lake Chad region – Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria – have now endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration, providing a vital opportunity for collaboration to protect education and save lives,” said Nijhowne. “The Declaration offers a common framework to develop policies and strategies to deliver safe education to students in the region, and ensure that schools can be safe places for learning instead of places to avoid during conflicts.”
Click here to see a map of all states that have endorsed the Safe Schools Declaration.