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Millions of English-Speaking Students Fail to Attend Class in Cameroon

2017-09-07

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[00:00.00]
  • Millions of school children failed to attend classes in English-speaking areas of Cameroon when the school term began recently.
  • [00:12.06]
  • Schools opened after the government released many of the jailed leaders of protests in Cameroon’s English-speaking areas.
  • [00:22.27]
  • The protests were called to direct attention to what some people see as the strong influence of the French language in the country.
  • [00:33.92]
  • Cameroon has two official languages: French and English.
  • [00:40.17]
  • Many English-speakers believe they are discriminated against by those who speak French.
  • [00:50.06]
  • Those sounds are coming from a classroom at the Ntamulung bilingual high school in Bamenda, Cameroon.
  • [00:58.91]
  • The teacher taught 20 children on the first day of school.
  • [01:03.71]
  • At least 70 students were expected in the classroom.
  • [01:09.08]
  • Schools have been closed in the English-speaking northwest and southwest areas of Cameroon since November.
  • [01:17.89]
  • That is when lawyers and teachers called for a strike to stop what they believe is the overuse of the French language.
  • [01:28.11]
  • After leaders of the strike were arrested, pressure groups called for their immediate and unconditional release before the new school term.
  • [01:40.16]
  • Last week, 55 of the 75 protesters were released, while charges against them were dropped.
  • [01:48.89]
  • Observers said their release was an important concession to the strikers’ demands.
  • [01:56.94]
  • They said it could lead to new talks on ending the crisis.
  • [02:02.51]
  • However, separatist groups are asking for President Paul Biya to release 20 other protestors, and to call back those who escaped into exile.
  • [02:15.07]
  • They also want him to order the removal of 5,000 soldiers from the English-speaking areas before they will agree to restart negotiations.
  • [02:28.14]
  • Finnian Tim is a reporter. He was released from jail after seven months.
  • [02:35.93]
  • He says the detainees want to see schools reopen.
  • [02:40.26]
  • “We were pleading with our brothers to stop whatever thing they were doing, because what they were doing, like ghost towns, was not helping us in any way...”
  • [02:47.20]
  • The government sent officials to the English-speaking areas in an effort to persuade parents to send their children back to school.
  • [02:58.28]
  • Fu Calistus is the Secretary of State in the Ministry of Industries, Mines and Technological Development.
  • [03:07.48]
  • He visited northwestern Cameroon.
  • [03:11.08]
  • “The state cannot sit and fold its hands and see people being prevented from going to school. Such a state becomes an irresponsible state in the eyes of the world community. If you prevent someone from going to school, it cannot be accepted.”
  • [03:25.35]
  • President Biya reacted to the strike by announcing reforms.
  • [03:30.31]
  • These include a new common law division at the Supreme Court and the appointment of the first English-speaker to lead the judicial bench of the court.
  • [03:42.36]
  • But he has said that he will not take part in talks that threaten national unity.
  • [03:49.77]
  • I’m John Russell.
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