YAOUNDÉ - Authorities in Cameroon say schools in rebel areas that reopened for the first time in four years are again being abandoned due to lack of security. Separatist forces are blamed for recent attacks that killed at least six teachers and seven schoolchildren.
In a video shared on Cameroon social media, seven armed rebels order teachers at the Kulu Memorial College in the southwestern town of Limbe to strip naked.
Teachers and students are shown crying for help as the teachers are humiliated then ordered to close the school and to leave.
Cameroon authorities confirmed the school on Wednesday was attacked.
Limbe teacher Lesslie Tabot refuses to instruct class until the government fulfils its promise to protect schools.
"The government assured parents and stakeholders of education that this time around maximum security has been put in place to ensure the smooth functioning of schools in the Northwest and Southwest regions. But what do we get every day? Students being attacked left and right, teachers also being victims."
Cameroon’s Anglophone rebels have been fighting since 2017 to create an independent state for English-speakers, separate from French-speaking-majority Cameroon.
Last month, 140 schools in the troubled Northwest and Southwest regions reopened for the first time in four years after Cameroon's government said those areas were secure.
But the military acknowledges that in the past three weeks, rebels have killed at least six teachers and seven children, abducted 23 teachers, and set three schools on fire.
The governor of Cameroon’s Northwest region, Deben Tchoffo, says about 20 of the schools that reopened in October have closed once again. And he admits several thousand students and teachers at other schools in the region are too scared to attend, despite added troops, which the governor called a “special security device.”
"It is not possible for security men to be behind every student. We are asking them to continue going for classes because after the sad incidents, a special security device has been set up by the generals in charge of security at the level of the headquarters of the region and in the other divisions to accompany the students."
Separatist groups have demanded that schools in the Northwest and Southwest remain closed until the government withdraws troops from what the rebels call their territory.
Despite the threats, president of the Cameroon Union of Parents and Teachers Peter Ndikum urged students and teachers to brave the attacks.
"We want to encourage our kids, despite their ages, they have a responsibility to write their own history. They are living within a period of consternation within the Anglophone sub system. The only way for them to make history is not to abandon the classroom. The first element is that of courage. To the parents, they should be able to realize that this call for independence is a sterile struggle."
But the risk for teachers, parents, and students was underscored Thursday as a funeral was held for the seven schoolchildren killed October 24 by suspected rebels.
The attack on a private school in the Southwest town of Kumba was condemned internationally as a massacre and a grim reminder of the conflict’s toll on children.