News / Africa

Tailors Become Schoolteachers in Cameroon Camps

Children escaped from the Central African Republic civil war study at Gado Badzere refugee camp in Cameroon. (Photo by Eugene Nforngwa)
Children escaped from the Central African Republic civil war study at Gado Badzere refugee camp in Cameroon. (Photo by Eugene Nforngwa)
Eugene Nforngwa

Thousands of children from the Central African Republic continue arriving in eastern Cameroon as refugees – more than 18 months since a coup d’état sparked a cycle of killings in their country.  They have sought safety in camps next door in Cameroon, but they are not getting the education they need. With little donor money coming in, relief workers can only do the barest minimum such as teacher children songs and handwork.

This year alone, more than 106,000 Central Africans crossed the border. Relief workers expect the number to reach 180,000 by the end of the year. The vast majority of them, about 60 percent, are children who have now been put out of school.

Challenges on Cameroon’s eastern border

Refugee camps have mushroomed along Cameroon’s eastern border and challenge officials who must try to educate young residents as other life-threatening emergencies rage on: malnutrition, sanitation and personal security from violence.

Every morning hundreds of children squat on mats under large white tents in the Gado Badzere camp to sing and recite rhymes. It’s their only chance to forget the mayhem back home and the atrocities they have encountered during their flight.  

The learning and recreation areas are called “child-friendly zones” and they were carved out by UNICEF and run by a local organization. Many of those who care for the children are unpaid volunteers recruited from the ranks of the refugees themselves.

When a tailor becomes a teacher

Zaibabou Kaleb was a tailor before the killings began and she fled. She is one of a dozen refugees who have been drafted to supervise children and teach basic skills at the refugee camp, which is home to over 13,000 refugees.

Kaleb says most of the children would like to be in school but don’t have the opportunity. She says at the “child friendly-zone” boys learn how to make wooden toys and girls how to sew. They also listen to educational talks on a variety of subjects.

UNICEF, which has been looking out for the welfare of young refugees, says education is an important priority: only 3 percent of all children of school-going age in refugee camps have ever been to school.

Felicite Tchibindat is UNICEF’s resident representative in the capital, Yaounde. She says it would be hard to put them in local schools in Cameroon.

Three percent have been in a school before

“That is why we took this option of a temporary space to start preparing them and we do have accelerated curricula to help them go to school,” says Tchibinbat. “And then, those who have been to school, we have to evaluate their level and see in which class they should be. Before that we need space for children to start rebuilding, getting their life back to normal.

The program seems to be paying off. Children are beginning to master different skills. Some have developed self-confidence and are willing to walk forward and perform recitations.

The number of children attending educational and recreational activities has been growing, because parents themselves see the importance of education. But Tchibindat says critical obstacles remain.

“The biggest phase will be how to increase the capacity of the different schools in the community so that they are able to accommodate refugees. We know already that this region is a priority-education region, meaning that there are fewer classrooms, fewer teachers, and all that.”

Lack of resources could hamper the plans of organizations like UNICEF. With so many crises in the world, the plight of Central African refugees appears to be getting very little attention from donors.  UNICEF, for example, says it needs around $25-million for all its interventions this year. But half-way through the year, only 15 percent has come in.

 

 

 

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor warns of obesity’s worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam Wari
X
Katherine Gypson
May 25, 2015 1:32 AM
For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.
Video

Video Scientists Testing Space Propulsion by Light

Can the sun - the heart of our solar system - power a spacecraft to the edge of our solar system? The answer may come from a just-launched small satellite designed to test the efficiency of solar sail propulsion. Once deployed, its large sail will catch the so-called solar wind and slowly reach what scientists hope to be substantial speed. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video FIFA Trains Somali Referees

As stability returns to the once lawless nation of Somalia, the world football governing body, FIFA, is helping to rebuild the country’s sport sector by training referees as well as its young footballers. Abdulaziz Billow has more from Mogadishu.
Video

Video With US Child Obesity Rates on the Rise, Program Promotes Health Eating

In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States, where they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community. Aru Pande has more.
Video

Video Virginia Neighborhood Draws People to Nostalgic Main Street

In the U.S., people used to grow up in small towns with a main street lined by family-owned shops and restaurants. Today, however, many main streets are worn down and empty because shoppers have been lured away by shopping malls. But in the Del Ray neighborhood of Alexandria, Virginia, main street is thriving. VOA’s Deborah Block reports it has a nostalgic feel with its small restaurants and unique stores.

VOA Blogs