BAMENDA, CAMEROON – Mbi Nfor, a parent from Bamenda, the capital of Cameroon’s Northwest region, kept her 4-year-old son home for a few days after school resumed in September to make sure the Ministry of Basic Education would not shut it down.
“I had paid my child’s fees before I heard on the streets and then on radio that the Ministry of Basic Education was shutting down many schools for failing to meet some requirements by the ministry,” she says.
Nfor says she has not yet seen the list of the schools that the ministry has banned. But she is sure the school her child is enrolled in is authorized because officials from the ministry’s local delegation have not come to close it.
The Ministry of Basic Education is shutting down schools operating without proper paperwork, curriculum and infrastructure throughout the country. Although some applaud ministry efforts to improve education in Cameroon, administrators and parents ask why the ministry did not step in before the school year started. Now, students and teachers must find new schools. As the ministry works to ensure schools comply with requirements, officials advise parents on how to identify accredited schools.
Youssouf Adjidja Alim, Cameroon’s minister of basic education, signed an initiative in June to shut down nursery and primary schools not in compliance with the ministry, according to a release posted on notice boards at the ministry’s divisional and regional offices. The ministry has shut down approximately 800 schools throughout five of Cameroon’s 10 regions so far, and the process is ongoing.
The Northwest region of Cameroon registered the highest number of schools operating without proper paperwork and curricula standards, according to ministry notices posted at its regional delegation. Ministry officials closed 370 nursery and primary schools throughout the region.
The ministry is shutting down clandestine schools to guarantee quality education for pupils, says Clement Angwafor, divisional delegate for the Ministry of Basic Education in the Mezam division of the Northwest region.
“Government took moves to ban schools because most of the schools were functioning without respecting the laid-down norms,” he says.
He says these schools lacked government recognition, infrastructure and learning materials.
“When we moved out to the field, we realized that there are schools that operate in people’s living room, so it’s school by day, proprietor’s home by night,” Angwafor says. “There are some with no didactic materials. There are some nursery schools that even close at 2 p.m., which is not supposed to be the case.”
Other schools affected by the closure were those that did not teach the complete, approved curriculum, Angwafor says.
“With all these irregularities, the Ministry of Basic Education had to step in,” he says.
Stephen Afu, president of Presbyterian Education Authority Teachers Trade Union, which manages the network of Presbyterian schools and teachers in the country, says the education sector is becoming lucrative, so many people are venturing into it for greed rather than a desire to educate.
He says that in almost every neighborhood