Children attend class in Souza Gare primary school, southern Cameroon. Many students have been forced to flee conflict in their home villages in the North West and South West regions. Photo: Daniel Beloumou/ Education Cannot Wait
Read caption Children attend class in Souza Gare primary school, southern Cameroon. Many students have been forced to flee conflict in their home villages in the North West and South West regions. Photo: Daniel Beloumou/Education Cannot Wait

Violence impacts over 700,000 children due to school closures in Cameroon

Published 02. Dec 2021|Edited 01. Dec 2021
Attacks against education and killings, kidnappings and harassment of students and teachers, are forcing schools to close and pushing vulnerable children further to the margins.

2 December 2021, New York/Oslo/Yaoundé – Over 700,000 children have been impacted by school closures due to violence in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon, according to recent analysis by the United Nations humanitarian arm, UNOCHA.

The Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, and the Director of Education Cannot Wait, Yasmine Sherif, today called for an end to attacks on education in Cameroon during their joint visit to the country this week.

“This is among the most complex humanitarian crises in the world today. Children and youth are having to flee their homes and schools, are threatened with violence and kidnapping, and being forced into early childhood marriage and recruited into armed groups,” said Yasmine Sherif. “We call for urgent support from donors to respond to this forgotten crisis. We call for the respect of human rights and adherence to the principles of international humanitarian law and the Safe Schools Declaration, and for partners to redouble efforts so all children and adolescents can get back to the safety, protection and hope that quality learning environments provide.”

Two out of three schools are closed in the North-West and South-West regions of Cameroon, according to UNOCHA. On 24 November, four children and one teacher were killed in an attack in Ekondo Titi in Cameroon’s South-West region.

A recent lockdown imposed by a non-state armed group, from 15 September to 2 October, limited access to basic services including health and education. During the period, OCHA reported a series of attacks in the North-West. Eight students were kidnapped, and a girl’s fingers were chopped off after she tried to attend school. Five public school principals were also kidnapped, including one who was killed.   

During the lockdown all schools and community learning spaces were closed, except for some schools in a few urban areas which operated at less than 60 per cent capacity. About 200,000 people did not receive food due to the interruption of humanitarian activities.

The lockdown and insecurity have forced UN agencies and aid organisations - including the Norwegian Refugee Council - to temporarily suspend the delivery of lifesaving aid to people in need in both the North-West and South-West regions.

Nine out of ten regions of Cameroon continue to be impacted by one of three complex humanitarian crises: the crisis in the North-West and South-West, conflict in the Far North, and a refugee crisis involving people who have fled the Central African Republic. Over one million children need urgent education support because of these combined crises.

To address these multiple emergencies, made even worse by COVID-19 and climate change impacts, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises – is working closely with UN agencies, the Norwegian Refugee Council and civil society education partners to build a multi-year resilience programme in Cameroon. ECW is contributing US$25 million over three years and calls for other donors to fill the gap which is estimated at $50 million. When fully funded, the programme will provide approximately 250,000 children and adolescents with access to safe and protective learning environments in the most-affected areas.

The programme builds on the impact from ECW’s ongoing First Emergency Response in Cameroon. Announced in May, the investment is designed to ensure refugee children fleeing from the Central African Republic receive access to quality, protective learning environments.

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Note to editors:

Video b-roll and high resolution photos of the visit and children in school is free to download here.

For press inquiries: 

Anouk Desgroseilliers, adesgroseilliers@un-ecw.org, cell or whatsapp +1-917-640-6820  

Kent Page, kpage@unicef.org, +1-917-302-1735

In Cameroon: Michelle Delaney, mide@nrc.no, whatsapp + 47 941 65579, Orange +237 691 791 034, Nextell +237 660 889 541

NRC global media hotline: media@nrc.no, +47 905 62329

About Education Cannot Wait (ECW):

Education Cannot Wait (ECW) is the United Nations global fund for education in emergencies and protracted crises. We support quality education outcomes for refugee, internally displaced and other crisis-affected girls and boys, so no one is left behind. ECW works through the multilateral system to both increase the speed of responses in crises and connect immediate relief and longer-term interventions through multi-year programming.

On Twitter, please follow: @EduCannotWait @YasmineSherif1 @KentPage 

About the Norwegian Refugee Council:

The Norwegian Refugee Council is an international humanitarian organization helping people forced to flee. We work in new and protracted crises across 35 countries. We have been working in Cameroon since 2017. We assisted over 340,000 people in 2020, including with education, food, shelter and legal aid.

On Twitter, please follow: @NRC_Egeland @NRC_Norway