Keeping children in school in North of Cameroon
Yaounde, Cameroon, 10 July 2009-Yvonne Nissole became pregnant when she was in fifth grade in 2007 while attending a primary school in Garoua in northern region of Cameroon.
Within 7 months after her pregnancy, She was discovered by the school headmaster and then dropped out of school that same year.
With the assistance from the Association of Mothers of Pupils in her school, arrangements were made with the school headmaster and her parents so Yvone could return to school after giving birth to her baby.
Upon giving birth, she did return in 2008 to continue. This year she will graduate from the primary school and enter secondary school
While Yvonne’s story has a good ending, this is not the case for all Children in the Cameroon.
School drop out is a big problem in the country as some parents do not allow their children to complete the primary school.
Significant disparities exist particularly in the three northern regions in regard to access to education or full completion of education cycle.
National primary school enrolment rate in 2006 was 80%, with 49% in the Far-North, 55% in the North and 60% in the Adamawa regions (all 3 regions located in North of Cameroon)
Fewer parents send their children to school in the North. Most prefer them to take care of sheep and goats, or sell things in the streets in order to bring some income home.
In addition, early marriage for girls has been a common practice among the northern communities.
Partenering to keep girls children at school
UNICEF with government partners and NGO are actively prompting girls’ Education, through a massive and ongoing campaign in northern Cameroon and the rest of the country.
Activities include advocacy meetings with traditional, administrative and religious leaders and influential personalities in the northern regions; raising awareness through rural and community radio stations, development and dissemination of advocacy material such as posters such as “10 good reasons for the education of the girl child”; strengthening the Mother Pupil Associations for the promotion of girl’s education.
UNICEF and partners are also partnering with a private telecommunication company, MTN, for distribution of key messages.
Following the outreach activities with the communities, The 2007/2008 school year witnessed an increase in enrolment with a national rate of 89.9% and particularly the figures in the North were 51.5% in the Far-North, 60.5% for the North and 62.8% for Adamawa regions respectively.
As Yvone clearly puts it, “going to school will improve a lot of things in my life and give me a better future; I hope the same for all the children in Cameroon.”
By John Nkuo