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Education woes among Nigerian refugees in Far North Cameroon
Education woes among Nigerian refugees and IDP in Far North Cameroon Maroua March 29, 2015 - Just over 6000 of the 15000 primary and secondary school-aged children in the Minawao camp in Far Northern Cameroon are enrolled in camp schools. Of the 33326 Nigerian refugees on UNHCR registers, half of them are children most of whom spend a greater part of the day fending for daily subsistence and loitering in the camp environments. Now UNICEF and partner aid agencies are grappling with a complex emergency situation. Getting enough classrooms, teachers, and child friendly environments and also providing psychosocial care to both refugee children and IDP children who are dotted in different localities is critical. (To be inserted: Primary school children attending the afternoon school session in Minawao Camp) As refugees keep drifting in, response gap in Minawao camp is growing. Although education is a priority for most aid agencies, the children need much more than just classroom teachers to forget the trauma and images of atrocities in their minds. “The schools are over populated. In some class rooms there are over 200 children with two teachers who have to cope with children coming from very difficult environments. Aid agencies have been doing their bit by building class rooms, child friendly environments and providing school needs but they are not enough given the growing needs.” Samuel Cameroun, an assistant Camp manager said. There are three primary school sections in the camp with just 21 classrooms in all to accommodate 6663 and more children. Despite of the Cameroon government’s effort in sending 17 teachers to boost the effort 34 locally recruited teachers from the refugee population, teacher pupil ratio is still very poor, 1 teacher to 150 children. (To be inserted: Child animators swarmed by children in on of the Child-friendly tents in Minawao refugee camp provided by Unicef) “I have an obligation to help these children forget their bad past for the moment. They have opportunity to study in Cameroon unlike back in Nigeria” John Dugje 61, refugee and volunteer primary school teacher in Minawao camp said. Most of the families come in with no family records and have very little information to enable placement of their children in the schools. Some at school going-age have seldom been to school and a majority of the children cannot speak and understand English. According the school head teacher, “These children have very poor educational background which makes it difficult for Cameroonian teachers to communicate with them. Without enough infrastructure, teaching materials to facilitate learning, teaching becomes very difficult.” Besides the refugee population, authorities in this region have long been struggling with how to approach the internal displacement of school children and families fleeing from BH assaults. Before the beginning of the school year in September 2014, 130 affected schools (three quarter of them primary) schools had been closed in the Logone and Chari, Mayo-Sava and Mayo-Tsanaga departments of the Far North Region, communities which lie across the border with Nigeria’s north-eastern nucleus of Boko Haram. Some of these displaced students are scattered across communities providing refuge to the displaced families. These families and relatives have been encouraged to enroll the displaced children in public schools so that they can continue the school year but challenges abound. (To be inserted: Some of the 200 displaced pupil enrolled in Doualare I primary school matching out of classroom) At the Maroua Doualare I Public primary school where over 200 displaced children have enrolled, head teacher Moumine Aloa says “These children have come to add to the existing challenges that we already face but the displaced have more peculiar and urgent needs then the old students. Many come in with no books, report cards and placements test and class performances are very poor. They need extra classes and perhaps psychosocial care to effectively study with other fellow students.” He explained that, the needs for school books, teachers and infrastructure is critical, “Some of these children still remain at home and others have missed a whole school year.” Aloa added. By Monde Nfor Kingsley
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