It's World Teachers' Day this week, a day dedicated to appreciating teachers across the world. To mark this occasion, in this week's article, we're celebrating teachers in Cameroon by highlighting some of the challenges they have to overcome every day in order to give children the education they deserve.
1. Schools are often under-resourced...
One of the primary obstacles teachers in Cameroon have to overcome in order to supply children with a quality education is the environment that they teach in. Many schools across Cameroon, particularly those in rural areas, suffer from a lack of educational resources and school facilities due to poor levels of funding.
A UNICEF report details the state of funding in the education sector of Cameroon. With the national budget for education reducing in 2014-15 and basic education only receiving 36% of the education sector's reduced budget, many children and teachers in Cameroon rely on foreign aid for adequate funding of their schools. This situation has a clear impact on the teaching resources educators have at their disposal. According to a study quoted in the same UNICEF report, on average one French or English textbook is shared between 17 pupils, a mathematics textbook is shared between 9 and a single science textbook is shared between a total of 31 children. With such limited resources, teachers have to work against the odds to deliver an education to children who are challenged by a severe lack of supplementary materials.
2. ...And overcrowded
Schools in the poorer communities of Cameroon are often not only under-resourced, but suffer from overcrowding too. There is a national teacher shortage in Cameroon, leading to extremely large class sizes in many schools. On average, UNESCO found that there are 44.6 pupils for every teacher in primary schools in Cameroon, as of 2018. To compare, in the UK teachers have 20 fewer pupils to teach on average per primary school class than Cameroon, with a ratio of 20.5 students per teacher, more than half that of Cameroon.
As with the lack of educational resources facing many teachers in Cameroon, such large class sizes cause undue stress on educators. Teachers are forced into situations where they cannot guarantee that their lessons are impacting every child in the same way. Teachers in Cameroon have to face these overwhelming conditions so that as many children in their local area as possible get a chance to access the education they deserve.
3. Lack of access to training
Before Cameroonian teachers even manage to make it into the classroom, they face difficulties gaining adequate training, especially in rural areas. Due to the national teacher shortage in Cameroon, teachers in rural and struggling communities can be hired with little to no formal training by the local authorities. If they do have training, many teachers feel that they have not experienced a long enough training period, undertaking 1 year instead of the expected 3 years of teacher training. During this training period, trainee teachers can also often suffer from a lack of practical education in their courses due to the short time span of their studies.
This all adds up to mean that teachers are often unprepared for the conditions of the schools they are set to teach in, facing the under-resourced and overcrowded classrooms described earlier without any prior practical knowledge to support them. These conditions, of course, have a severe impact on both pupils and educators. It is challenging to ensure that every child gains a high quality of education, but teachers in Cameroon must work with what they have in order to provide the best future they can for their students.
4. Compromised safety of teachers
Without a doubt, the single largest issue affecting teachers in Cameroon today has little to do with ensuring a high quality of education for their students and more to do with protecting their own personal safety. With this year's COVID-19 pandemic continuing to have devastating effects worldwide, teachers in Cameroon who work in the schools of poorer communities find themselves at an increased risk of infection. This is due to both the overcrowding of many schools and universities in Cameroon, as well as a lack of basic facilities in schools, with many teachers and pupils not even having access to soap and water when schools reopened in June.
Of course, a lack of safe facilities such as private bathrooms and running water doesn't just increase the risk of COVID-19, but other infections and diseases too. This not only puts a teacher's safety at risk, but also the education of their pupils. With a shortage of teachers nationwide, if an educator is unable to teach due to an illness, the children will have no access to learning. With many rural communities having limited to no internet connection, distance-based learning has not been an option for most in Cameroon. So, regardless of concerns for their own wellbeing, many teachers continue to work at schools in unsafe conditions to secure a future for their pupils.
5. The effects of conflict: the Anglophone Crisis
Over the past few years, teachers in Cameroon have increasingly been finding themselves in danger for reasons beyond those of infection and disease, however. Conflict and specifically the Anglophone Crisis is the plight compromising the safety of educators most in Cameroon. Teaching and education have been made central to the anglophone conflict due to school boycotts enforced by separatists, with teachers in anglophone regions at constant risk of being murdered, kidnapped or having their homes burned down. As such, in order to teach, many teachers, as well as parents and children, have had to flee anglophone regions. If teachers have not fled, they have attempted to teach in secret at their homes; if they have, they teach in anglophone schools hidden in francophone regions.
That fact that teachers from anglophone regions in Cameroon are continuing to teach in secret, in spite of the threats to their lives and livelihood, highlights their commitment to education. Without the brave work of these teachers, many children in these regions would not have access to the education they deserve. Cameroonian teachers continue to educate in the face of the challenges listed in this article because with education comes hope. For that reason, teachers in Cameroon deserve celebrating.
Or if you'd like to learn more about Cameroon's schooling system, why not look at more of our blog posts?
If you have any questions about education in Cameroon or our work, leave a comment below!