Cameroonian singer Aunt Chloe’s song “Oh Teachers” blew through speakers in Yaonde’s city council courtyard on Tuesday, with nearly 200 teachers listening.
Aunt Chloe’s lyrics are about how teachers should be respected and protected as they are tasked with molding young minds for the future and development of Cameroon.
Most teachers who took part in the UN-declared World Teachers’ Day protests said they fled from the Boko Haram insurgency in the north or fighting between the government and English-speaking separatists in the west.
Fifty-two-year-old Peter Tarr, a spokesman for teachers, says teachers working in Cameroon’s conflict zones are deeply pained.
“Teachers are being persecuted every day, every hour. Some have been brutally murdered. Others, ruthlessly deprived of parts of their bodies, were forced to become internally displaced individuals from their territories. Some are now unemployed. My heart weeps for these teachers. I pray that peace returns,” he said.
Tar said he escaped from a government school in the city of Ndop after being kidnapped by separatist fighters.
The protest was organized by the Cameroon Association of Teachers in Crisis. Tar said teachers want the international community to know they are victims.
More than 40 teachers have been murdered in Cameroon since 2017. At least 300 others were kidnapped and their families freed only after paying a ransom.
Hundreds of schools in the north and west were destroyed or closed.
Valentin Tameh, president of Cameroon’s teachers union, says teachers sometimes have no choice but to avoid violence.
“It becomes, in fact, a regrettable spectacle, watching teachers flee with their families, some losing their lives, some fleeing to areas where they cannot do anything to sustain themselves. We are appealing that everyone who is involved in a kind of war should understand that the teachers and the environment in which they work is sacred and the fighters should understand that without teachers, the community is a kind of war. Preparing for the Dark Ages,” Tameh said.
Cameroon’s Minister of Basic Education, Laurent Serge Itoundi Ngoa, says the military is protecting schools, teachers and school children in areas where there is a security crisis.
He encouraged teachers fleeing insecurity to return to relatively peaceful areas for the sake of children in need of education.
“We have just recruited 5,000 teachers to support those who are already in the region. When you (teacher) go to teach in an area of Cameroon, you should know that it is your country. The children, who are there, are all our sons and daughters, so we have to do everything necessary for them to have a safe education because they are the actors who will continue to produce Cameroon tomorrow,” said Etoundi Ngoa.
The United Nations declared October 5 as World Teachers’ Day in 1994 to honor teachers for their important role in economic development and other fields.