YAOUNDE, CAMEROON - There is more turmoil in the education field in Cameroon. Teachers in the country’s eight French-speaking regions have joined their colleagues on strike in its two English-speaking regions. Francophone teachers say they are owed salaries from as far back as seven years.
“No pay, no school” were among the signs some of the hundreds of teachers from Cameroon's secondary and high schools were holding Tuesday at their rally outside the Ministry of Finance in Yaounde.
Among them was 27-year-old Rogers Kiven who traveled to the capital from Mokollo, on Cameroon's border with Nigeria. He said he began teaching four years ago, but has not yet been paid.
"We discovered that two years, three years, four years after that we still have not [received] a franc. We communicated [with] our minister and he communicated with his colleague from finance. From those communications, we were able to deduce that our moneys were with the minister of finance. Inasmuch as we are not paid, we are not going to leave this place," Kiven said.
Officials met with teacher representatives late Monday. The teachers refused a request to stop their strike while the government examines the issue.
Ministry of Secondary Education human resources director Moussa Djafarou, who spoke during that meeting, said case files have been compiled.
Djafarou said the Ministry of Secondary Education has forwarded to the Ministry of Finance more than 11,000 authenticated files from teachers who have to be paid. He said he understands that it may be difficult to raise the money and pay them at once, but stressed that there should be transparency, traceability and rationality in what is done.
About 20,000 teachers affected
An official at the Ministry of Finance did not respond to a request from VOA for an interview.
Cameroon has around 80,000 secondary school and high school teachers. Those claiming salary arrears are primarily recent graduates, about 20,000 of them, according to the association that organized the strike.
Each year in Cameroon, the state recruits about 2,000 teacher training graduates, but they say their monthly wages come late or not at all.
Thirty-year-old teacher Zudom Calvin from eastern Cameroon blames administrative bottlenecks.
"They ask us to compile documents and even when we compile those documents, sometimes they get lost. So we do not want that system to go on like that. He [the finance minister] must pay us," Calvin said.
The teachers say they are in debt and struggling to take care of their families.
This new strike leaves many classrooms empty at schools around the country. Schools remain closed in Cameroon's two English-speaking regions, the northwest and the southwest, as a separate teacher strike enters its fifth month.