Children First

It is close to four years now that the two anglophone regions – North West and South West regions – of Cameroon have been experiencing a complicated socio-political situation. Beginning in November 2016, what was simply a series of peaceful strike actions by lawyers and teachers has with time turned into an armed conflict with a remarkable degree of destruction of both human life and property.

For this period of time, schools have been interrupted and shut down, economic stability has been greatly affected and many persons have become internally displaced because of the regular looting and burning of houses. According to UN statistics there are over 437.000[1] internally displaced children. While an atmosphere of relative calm gradually returned to some parts of these affected regions, the case of Kumbo, Bui Division was the contrary. The exchange of fire intensified, the burning of houses became rampant and going to school particularly was a taboo subject of discussion anywhere in and around Kumbo. With the presence of the Piarist Fathers in Kumbo, a Religious Institute having as charism evangelization through the integral education of children and youths especially the poor, it was incumbent on them that in such a context, even with the high-risk factors involved, something had to be done to remedy the situation of these children both at the intellectual and moral levels.

These poor and vulnerable children and youths who had suddenly become so familiar with the scenes of persons murdered in cold blood, something they had hardly experienced before, had to be helped out of such trauma. The Piarist Fathers in 2018/2019 therefore set out to organize classes to cover for the educational needs of these internally displaced poor children, victims of the anglophone crisis. These classes where aimed at responding to all the above-mentioned needs of the children, in line with the Piarist mission of offering an integral education to poor, vulnerable and rejected children and youths, so as to reintegrate them into the society and give them reasons to live a life of dignity and happiness like any other child.

With the assistance of Manos Unidas, the above-mentioned Religious Institute was able to sustain the education of 200 children as they had previewed for a start. But as time went on, we had to welcome over 400 children from within Kumbo and its environs, due to difficulties of moving out of Kumbo for studies as a result of regular road blocks. In fact, those who cannot make it out of this locality are bound to remain and bare consequences amongst which lack of formal education.

It is unarguably true that the transformation and molding of a human being for a life of dignity and value is a gradual process, yet, no matter how slow it may be, the least aspects of such a transformation process is always very visible. With Piarist Fathers taking up such an educational endeavor in the heart of the crisis coupled with the difficulties of running it effectively could only leave the parents of these children in amazement and joy. For as many confessed, their children’s future, which had seemed very blur with the escalating nature of the crisis in Kumbo had been given a spark of light and hope. It is our wish to respond to the needs of many parents and children who clamour for assistance but with limited resources we cannot offer. While hoping for better days, we implore the intercession of Calasanz who dedicated his life of the education of children. We believe like this Spanish educator that if children from their earliest years are taught diligently, their whole life will be a happy one.

Paulinus Abose ( Escolapio)

[1] OCHA, UNHCR Cameroon 2019