North West-Cameroon: Parents, Security watch over examination kids in Education battle

By Bakah Derick 

Tuesday 17 May 2022, the city is dead silent. Children in Bamenda-Cameroon who have completed their primary school studies are to sit the government common entrance examination. In one of the examination centers in Nkwen, Bamenda III Subdivision, children who are candidates are arriving at 7am accompanied by their parents. 

It is a battle by parents to educate their children in the heart of an armed conflict. As the children prepared to head to the examination centers this day, promoters of the battle for the independence of the region from the rest of Cameroon have declared a ghost town. The parents have decided to accompany their children to the examination centers. 

Parents sitting in wait for their children 

Few minutes in the center, a vehicle has arrived with armed soldiers. They are given instructions and they can be seen taking positions. We are not allowed to film. The attendance is taken and kids go into the examination halls. 

The parents are asked to go up towards the administrator block away from the examination halls to allow the pupils write their examination. 

"I came this morning with two children to accompany them write their exams... I came because we were not sure of their security. We heard that today will be a lockdown and so i had to bring them." Jecenta Nyuysuiru, a parent tells hilltopvoices
"I have to wait till they finish writing. I came with them and I have to go back with them. The times  are not good and I could not allow the children to come and go back alone." Nseh Clotild, a parent said 

The parents speak this way because of a close to six years armed conflict. Voices within the conflict have called for school boycott. On the eve of examination, they have called for a lockdown. 

"I actually trecked to this place this morning. I left my house just after 6am so I could arrive here before 7. I actually got here at about 7:15am when they were already checking children into the examination hall. I am happy my son is in there writing." Julius Tamassang said 
Around the campus, armed secuity personel are stationed. They watch over the campus and look straight into bushes to ensure no unwanted person enters the examination center. 
Far up, an armed soldier is watching the examination center. We are not permitted to film so we take a picture from far.

Other schools are closed except the guarded examination centers. In another school, the Cameron flag is seen flying and some noise heard on campus. We are not allowed to get to where the noise is coming from but there are signs kids are on campus. They are respecting a lockdown order. 

"I am here but I cannot open my office talk less of the classes. As you can see everywhere is locked and no child is around but I have to be here. That is why I have decided to be working my farm around the school." Naah Caroline, a school head teacher seen farming on campus said. 
A closed school 

As we got to another examination center, it is break time. The kids are not allowed to move out of the fenced compound. We are not allowed to take pictures and the head teacher pleads he doesn't want his school to be targeted. 

"Derick, you know our situation here. If I allow you to take pictures, we might or killed. Please don't take any pictures." 
The main entrance of a school long closed for fear of invading non state militia 

The streets are empty as we move from one location to another. A few people, commercial motorcycles and Ambulances are on the streets. 

Ambulance seen at Foncha Junction in Nkwen with pedestrians walking along 

The examination ends before 4pm and the kids have used different means to get home. So far, no incident of concern has been heard.  

Schools have been burnt, students and kids attack and teachers killed or kidnapped in an attempt to prevent school attendance in the region. 

Goverment sources say there has been an arithmetic increase in school attendance while anti government advocates have maintained an opposing posture with regular calls for school lockdowns or boycott. 

Note: For security reasons, we are not using the real names of the interviewees.