We have been waiting for the crisis to end. It has been a long period when everyone has been living hopefully expecting better days ahead. As parents we knew it will be over soon and our children will get to school. We wanted the crisis to come to an end. We wanted peace to reign. We all wanted the best out of our children.
Living through this devastating and hardship period, parents had discussions expressing different views: those who were ready to relocate their children to safer towns or villages and those who wanted to stay and patiently wait for the political matter to be resolved.
In most communities, the areas experiencing this crisis in Cameroon, children had not only been out of school for two academic school years or more but had also become internally displaced. As a result of the crisis, families in some areas had to seek refuge in the bushes and refugee camps. Some others migrated to safer cities within our nation that are not affected by the crisis.
As we waited for the “new independence day’, we were excited about the future, but also anxious and afraid.
We wanted to experience the growth and development associated with independence, and we wanted to uphold our distinctive identity and culture. We wanted to experience freedom someday, and we wanted the kind of life where no leader would be a dictator. We expected that kind of equal attention that a traditional African man would have for his two wives (as we were made to believe that polygamy was for good).
With bleeding hearts, we talked to our children and made them understand what was going on and the next most probable steps and possibilities to stay safe. Most believed that parents prevented their kids from going to school, but the truth is that the insecurity was unbearable and some schools were being burned down, causing fear, panic and trauma. We were made to believe that the school year will be cancelled or annulled and certificates would not be recognized for those years in any part of the world.
When it was back to school period, we prepared our children. Shopping was done in a lukewarm manner. We made and received calls from other parents to be informed about the current situation. Our children were happy that they will resume schooling. Some other optimistic parents did not do any preparation and their innocent children just kept calm in despair and tears.
On the reopening day in the crisis areas, some children left for school in their uniform and others in assorted dresses. You could see some other children running up to the road staring at their friends with eyes that said: “Where are you going to? Your life is in danger.”
After one month of timid schooling, some schools were set on fire. The children had to stay at home. Classes stopped abruptly. Education became a target for the crisis. Our children stayed out of school!
Teenage boys and girls had no other option than to get busy somehow. Some of them became petty traders; others learned life skills while waiting for peace to reign and the next school resumption. During this tempting period many girls got pregnant and boys developed deviant attitudes. Youths became exposed to all forms of assault and violence. Rape stories became headline news. The sound of gunshots became like early morning bird sounds.
Some parents who could afford the cost, relocated immediately to other parts of the country with their family. Some left for good saying they will never return.
As days go by, the families that stayed back, like mine, keep on praying; little did we know that the uprising shall even get worse. As the tension and fear increases my thoughts are wondering in total confusion. It is hard to believe that as we are suffering in pain to stay alive, some other parts of our nation are in peace. I am traumatized by the videos and graphic images that flood our social media daily in addition to hate speech and violence on line. Mondays have become a public holiday that is spent indoors keeping our ears fully alert for any strange sound.
During this summer holidays, when children from other peaceful areas discuss about the school year, those that were out of school are filled with sadness and sometimes depressed. We the parents are fearful of what the future might hold when things get back to normal. We feel the imbalance in our nation and the educational gap that our children are experiencing.
I write this story with tears running down my cheeks and my fingers shaking, as I can't count the number of time I got up from the floor to carefully shift the blinds to peep through the window after hearing load sounds from the road. Living near the main road that used to be a great advantage for easy movement has become a nightmare.
I ask my self, will I soon also become a refugee?
As discussions about seeking solutions to the crisis were going on, we have come to understand that dialogue is the key to the return of peace. Extremism and violence is not the solution. After interacting and engaging in talks on the issue, we learned that together we can build a secure and peaceful nation even when we have differences or misunderstandings.
Despite all the challenges faced, we are still prayerful and hopeful, that someday this crisis will come to an end and peace will reign again. We expect our government to have genuine, inclusive meaningful dialogue with the citizens. We hope that someday our children will acquire the best education they deserve in a comfortable learning environment.