Yaoundé (Agenzia Fides) - "We are concerned about the growing frequency of drug abuse and violence in our schools". This is the cry of alarm launched by the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Bamenda, an Anglophone western region of Cameroon, where a civil war is underway between the army and secessionist militias.
In their Sunday, August 21 statement, members of the Bamenda Provincial Episcopal Conference (BAPEC) urge the government to "intensify sensitization on the damaging effects of indulging in the abuse of drugs and in violence" and express concern about "the growing frequency of drug abuse and violence registered in schools all over the Country in the course of the 2021/2022 School Year".
Citing some serious news stories, which saw students engaged in orgies or involved in the killing of teachers or their peers, the Bishops underline that "such acts of self-destruction can seriously compromise the attainment of the goals of education in schools".
"The government should intensify sensitization on the damaging effects of indulging in the abuse of drugs and in violence, and also strengthen the application of measures to prevent the sale, circulation and use of illegal drugs", ask the Bishops.
Young people should become "the evangelizers of their peers. No one can do this better than them", they stress.
The Anglophone regions that make up about 20% of Cameroon's nearly 27 million inhabitants are devastated by nearly six years of war, with separatists struggling to create a new state called Ambazonia.
The Cameroonian government says at least 4,000 people have been killed and more than a million have been forced to flee their homes during the war.
Cameroonian Prime Minister Joseph Dion Ngute said there was a 72% drop in school enrollment in the separatist region between 2017 and 2022. According to the UN, more than 700,000 children have been forced to drop out of school and two schools out of three in the regions have been closed due to the violence.
The Catholic Bishops lament the protracted conflict in the country’s Anglophone regions, including "the piteous and distressing cries of anguish", which they say they hear every day as a result of "banditry, kidnappings, assassinations, lynchings, armed robberies and reckless use of force by some armed groups and some security agencies". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 25/8/2022)