On Thursday, fewer than 2,000 of the 14,000 students enrolled at the University of Buea showed up for class, a day after about a dozen students were injured when police say someone set off an explosive device at the school in western Cameroon.
The governor of Cameroon's southwest region, Bernard Okalia Bilai, urged everyone to return, saying the military has been deployed to protect students and staff members.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but the government blames separatist groups. Buea is an English-speaking town in Cameroon's southwest region. Government troops and separatists have been fighting each other in the region since 2017, when teachers and lawyers protested alleged discrimination at the hands of the French-speaking majority. The military reacted with a crackdown and separatist groups took up weapons, saying they want the western regions to be an independent country.
Horace Ngomo Manga, the vice chancellor of the University of Buea, said the IED exploded at the school’s amphitheater on Wednesday evening.
"So far, we have one male student and eleven female students at the solidarity clinic, where they are following up treatment," he said. "The students are being carried one by one for X-rays for further investigations into the depth of their injuries."
The military said that last month, separatists warned all schools and universities in Buea to seal their doors but gave no further explanation.
Bilai said students should not be intimidated by the explosion, and that education is crucial to the country’s future and must be allowed to continue without interruption.
"We must bear in mind that we are dealing with the education of our children who are the leaders of tomorrow," he said. "I therefore expect everyone to support the educational sector by denouncing any form of disorder which could disrupt the smooth functioning of our schools."
However, some on campus are uneasy after the explosion. Ekane Manga, a lecturer at the university, said the presence of soldiers on campus may have invited fighters to attack the institution.
"There should be coordination amidst the ranks of the soldiers because having people with guns around students is not the best thing," he told VOA.
Separatists in Cameroon have attacked and closed hundreds of schools in recent years, but authorities say this is the first time they have set off an IED at a university.