Editorial: Pay teachers as is done in other countries!.

Teachers, by government statistics, constitute 37.4 percent of civil servants. Various reports say there is still a shortage of teachers, especially in rural areas.

Government has, however, been finding it hair-splitting to pay teachers all their emoluments when due.

On December 31, 2023, when President Paul Biya addressed the nation, he said: "Allow me to say a few words about the national education sector. Despite Government’s efforts, calm has not been fully restored therein...various types of measures were taken by the relevant ministries, including the more than 72 billion CFA francs that was disbursed in 2023 to cover related expenses. An additional amount of 102 billion CFA francs has also been provided in the State budget for the 2024 financial year, to cover residual expenditure".

He therefore warned that: "It will be difficult for us to accept that a handful of teachers, who seem to have ulterior motives, should continue to hold our children’s education hostage. Let me be clear on this issue. As much as I am committed to ensuring that teachers practice their noble profession under appropriate conditions, I am equally uncompromising about respect for the rights of our young people to education. Strong measures will be taken to ensure that our children do not fall victim to substandard education".

He, however, conceded that there were still problems and promised that "constructive dialogue will also be pursued with recognised trade unions to address the aspirations and concerns of teachers in a peaceful manner".

However, not many have heeded that Presidential carrot and stick strategy and are fleeing the country, in droves.

Vincent-Sosthène Fouda, leader of one of the nearly 400 political parties in the country, in his own speech on social media, said: “Canada has registered 35,000 Cameroonian teachers just for the year 2023”.

The exaggerated number was, nonetheless, contested by the Minister of Secondary Education, Prof Nalova Lyonga, who on January 17, 2024, put forward the figure of “2,326 staff in a position of irregular absences”.

Many of them are, however, said to be fleeing to countries with better pay and working conditions.

In fright, there are reports in the media that the Ministry of External Relations "is currently looking for ways to stem this great haemorrhage" by restricting travels out of the country by teachers.

Will that not be a violation of their rights, especially given that some of the trained teachers are unemployed because of financial constraints?

Statistics presented by the Ministry of Basic Education reveal that government made relevant progress in improving the education system. 

The 2022 national school map revealed that Cameroon had more than 14,000 public schools and nearly 8,000 private primary schools. This represented an increase of 3,423 in four years.

Also, in 2022, there were 93,773 teachers in public Secondary Schools and 90,845 in the public Basic Education sector.

A Universal Periodic Review last month, focusing on the country's "equity of access to education and increasing quality of education", indicated that budgetary allocations for 2022, for the Basic and Secondary Education sectors was 643.9 billion FCFA, out of a total State budget of 5,752.4 billion FCFA (11.19%). 

"Despite this considerable effort, there are still many challenges related to teacher management, poor quality of education and equitable access to school, particularly in areas affected by armed conflict," the review noted.

The Global Partnership for Education recommends that the sustainability of education systems and outcomes depend on national efforts to finance education and ensure sound public financial management systems.

To this end, experts are recommending that Cameroonian authorities make more efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 4, SDG 4, which aims to ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all.

That cannot be done without teachers. The only way to keep them is to make their pay and working environment competitive, without them having to go on strike or threaten to down chalks to get just a fraction of what is theirs.

There is the phenomena where because of the conflict in the two English-speaking Regions, teachers have been deployed from more risky zones to relatively safer havens.

Because of that, government schools in towns with some relative safety are overcrowded, while many schools in restive and deserted zones have no students or teachers.

Government's virtually panicky measures to forcefully keep teachers at home is just chasing the shadows as the conflict in the two English-speaking Regions makes them targets. That is also compounded with societal decadence where students are known to have been assaulting their teachers.

The Guardian Post recommends that rather than threaten teachers, some of who are even unemployed, or attempt to prevent them from seeking greener pastures elsewhere in the world that has become a global village, they should be paid regularly as in many African countries where they take home some 400,000 FCFA monthly.

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