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New School Year Begins in Cameroon amid COVID-19

Students in Cameroon have started classes for the new academic year, seven months after COVID-19 forced the government to partially shut down schools.

Lessons effectively took off in some schools on October 5, with some students wearing face masks. Prior to reopening schools, the government had urged that all institutions observe barrier measures against the Coronavirus.

In some schools, officials checked students’ temperatures as they entered their different campuses. They also set up wash-hand points for learners to wash their hands before going to class.

School resumption in the conflict-hit Anglophone regions

For four years now, close to a million children in Cameroon’s two English-speaking regions have been out of school. Anglophone separatists seeking to form a break-away state imposed a boycott on schools in the North West and South West regions of the Central African country.

Government made several efforts to ensure that students returned to school in these areas, which host frequent gun battles between state troops and separatist fighters. The efforts yielded very little success over the years.

So many students stayed home, for fear that they might be victimized by separatist fighters if they defied the ban on schools.

Now, even some Anglophone separatists and activists have reversed their initial stance on school boycott. Some of them have urged children in Anglophone Cameroon to resume school.

This has been seen as a big step on the part of the secessionists, even though some rival separatist groups have opposed it.

When schools reopened on Monday, the Anglophone regions recorded a timid start. This was primarily because the two regions observe a separatist-imposed ghost town every Monday. However, some schools in these regions began classes, despite the ghost town order.

A true picture of back-to-school will only be felt in Anglophone Cameroon beginning Tuesday. It remains to be seen whether children here will be able to go to school hitch-free, without attacks from those separatists who still oppose school-going.

Learning amid COVID-19

When COVID-19 hit Cameroon in March, the government placed a number of restrictions — among them the closure of schools. But, the shutting down of schools was only partial.

Students who had to sit in for certificate examinations resumed in-person lectures in June. University students resumed as well, while those in kindergarten, junior primary and secondary were not allowed to have in-person classes.

Meanwhile, Cameroon’s Basic and Secondary Education Ministries organized digital learning for students at home, through the state broadcaster. This, they said, was meant to keep the students in touch with their curricula.

For the students who resumed in June, they had to learn under strict conditions, in compliance with Coronavirus barrier measures.

Now, the experience might be new for those resuming for the first time in seven months, since the pandemic forced the closure of schools in March. The number of students per class has been reduced; social distancing enforced, among other gestures.

Cameroon now has 20,924 confirmed cases, with 420 deaths. With these figures, the government has assured that learners will be safe, as they resume in-person classes.

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