‘They punished me for having books’: schools in Cameroon terrorised by armed groups – The Guardian

December 16, 2021 by No Comments

Armed separatists in Cameroon’s anglophone regions have attacked, kidnapped and threatened hundreds of school pupils in nearly five years of violence that has forced more than 230,000 children to flee their homes, a report has found.

In a detailed analysis of the conflict that has gripped the English-speaking regions since 2017, dozens of students and teachers speak of brutal attacks by armed groups who have made education a battleground in their fight to form their own state.

Ilaria Allegrozzi, author of the Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, said it was essential that separatist leaders called off a school boycott, which was initially intended as a protest over injustices against English-speakers but which is now “destroying an entire generation of Cameroonians” by depriving them of an education.

“But most importantly, they should also start reining in their fighters,” she said. “They should instruct their fighters to stop attacking schools. Schools are not places that can be battlegrounds.”

The crisis in the anglophone regions began in late 2016, when Cameroonian security forces used excessive force against demonstrations led by teachers and lawyers angry about the perceived marginalisation of the anglophone education and legal systems.

Those protests were peaceful, but since 2017, when armed separatist groups seeking independence for the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest Regions declared an education boycott, at least 70 schools have been attacked, the report said.

More than 500 students, and at least 100 education professionals, have been attacked, it claimed, with at least 11 pupils and five teachers killed, and scores of others assaulted, harassed, and threatened for failing to comply with the boycott. Separatist fighters have also kidnapped 255 students, according to HRW.

A puddle of blood in a classroom after a shooting at a school in Kumba, western Cameroon. According to the UN, the attacks have left 700,000 students without education. Photograph: Josiane Kouagheu/Reuters

One woman, a 19-year-old secondary school pupil, from Buea, Southwest Region, recalled being abducted and brutally maimed by armed separatists in January 2020, on her way back from school.

“They were armed with machetes and knives,” she said. “They blindfolded me so I could not see where they were taking me. We had to walk for a few hours. I was not given food. I slept on the ground outside for three days. The amba [separatist fighters] called my father and asked him to pay money for my release.

“On …….

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/dec/16/they-punished-me-for-having-books-schools-in-cameroon-terrorised-by-armed-groups

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