The UN Children’s Fund on Friday said it is alarmed by increased attacks on educational institutions in Cameroon’s North-West and South-West regions, according to a statement.
UNICEF called on all parties to protect all children, at school or in their communities in the Centrals African country.
There has been an alarming spike in attacks on schools and education centers in the North-West and South-West regions, the country’s two anglophone regions, which have been marred by violence since 2017.
‘’Since the resumption of the school year less than a month ago, there have been multiple reports of kidnappings, harassment and killings affecting students and teachers,” said UNICEF.
On Tuesday, 12 teachers and several students were kidnapped by a separatist group in Kumbo, North-West region, one of the country’s English-speaking regions.
The students were later released along with one of the teachers on the same day. The other 11 teachers were released on Thursday afternoon, Samuel Fonki, the head of the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon, told Anadolu Agency late Thursday.
The kidnapping came over one week after the murder of seven schoolchildren, some as young as 9 years old, in the city of Kumba, South-West region, another English-speaking region.
They were shot dead in their classroom by armed separatists, according to a government statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “shocked” by the “horrific attack”.
“These attacks are unacceptable,” said Marie-Pierre Poirier, the UNICEF regional director for West and Central Africa.
“Schools are places of learning where children should feel safe and protected. We call on all parties to protect all children at school or in their communities and to uphold the principles of the Safe Schools Declaration, which calls for stopping attacks on schools, education facilities, and personnel,” Poirier added.
Following the massacre, several opinion leaders took to social media with the hashtag #EndAnglophoneCrisis to denounce the attacks and urge the government and secessionists to resolve the crisis, which has affected hundreds of thousands.
The Central African country has been marred by protests and violence since 2017, with residents in English-speaking regions saying they have been marginalized for decades by the central government and the French-speaking majority.
Violence in the Anglophone regions over the last three years has claimed an estimated 3,000 lives and caused the displacement of over 730,000 civilians, according to Human Rights Watch.
In June, the Norwegian Refugee Council said that for a second year running, Cameroon topped its annual list of the world’s most neglected displacement crises in 2019.
More than 1.1 million children are out of school in Cameroon, Poirier said.