Cameroon teachers protesting against growing student violence, calling for government to reinstate corporal punishment in schools.

YAOUNDE – Teachers in Cameroon have been protesting against what they called a growing violence against them by both students and their parents. The teachers are urging the government of Cameroon to protect them and reinstate corporal punishment that has been dismissed in the schools. According to the teachers the absence of corporal punishment is encouraging abuse of teachers. This week, several attacks on teaching staffs have been reported reported, including one in which a teenage student fatally stabbed his teacher to dead in the capital city Yaounde.

On Saturday at a government-run school in Obala, a town on the outskirts of Cameroon’s capital, Yaounde, students were protesting the principal’s decision to destroy all mobile phones and knives seized from children Friday at the school. According to Narcisse Ateba, one of the senior discipline masters, , the students use mobile phones to access social media platforms that promote violence, and they also use sharp objects such as knives to attack their peers and teachers.

He says that some parents and students will want to harass or beat him up, but he has nonetheless decided to publicly destroy the 15 mobile phones found and seized by teachers from students on Friday because it is illegal and against the rules of the school to use them in classrooms. He says he will not allow students to come to school with razor blades, box-cutters and knives and other dangerous objects.

The destruction of the mobile phones and the peaceful marches of the teachers to the  administrative offices and palaces are part of protests by teachers at Obala against what they say are increasing acts of violence against them.

Students’ violence against peers and teachers

A 16 year old form five student at a public school in Nkolbisson early this week stabbed his mathematics teacher with a knife. The teacher later died of excessive bleeding as he was being rushed to the hospital by his colleagues. According to reports from the school, the student insisted on using his mobile phone during the mathematics class against the instruction of the teacher. The student was arrested and is presently under police custody to answer charges against him, including premeditated killing.

Another teacher this week was battered by students in Douala who questioned their late coming to school. Again, another teacher in Douala was beaten by a parent and fell into a coma. According to the parent he was angry with the teacher’s decision to use corporal punishment on his son as punishment for making noise in class. In another incident, a student used a machete to chop off another student’s finger in Obala after a fight during a football match.

According to Elvis Yisinyuy, an official with the Cameroon Teachers Trade Union in Yaounde, attacks by students on teachers intensified in 2015 when the government of Cameroon prohibited teachers from beating or severely punishing students.

“When a minister says that teachers are not supposed to administer corporal punishment to students, the student will now see that he [the minister] has the right to bring disorder because there is nothing the teacher can do in class,” said Yisinyuy. “The minister should revisit the text and permit teachers to administer corporal punishment with caution.”

Yusinyuy said the high wave of drug consumption by students and the inability of teachers to use corporal punishment because they have been prohibited from doing so is also responsible for the wave of attacks.

Minister’s reaction

Nalova Lyonga, Cameroon’s minister for secondary education says corporal punishment cannot be tolerated because it is an abuse on the rights of students who are mostly children.

“What I have told the teachers is that they themselves have to make a distinction between a disciplinary case and a case which becomes a criminal case, and they should be able to report to the special police at the disposal of the schools,” said Lyonga.

Lyonga said Cameroon students are exposed to other cultures of the world because of the increasing use of mobile phones, and they gain access to social media platforms that promote violence, while neglecting the peace and unity that Cameroon traditionally preaches.

Corporal punishment vs rights of a child

Carol Kayum, president of Reference Citizens, a non-governmental organization that promotes citizenship education, has been visiting schools in Yaounde to educate and sensitize both teachers and students against the use of violence. She says Cameroon should uphold its culture of non-violence to prevent the growing number of assaults on other students and teachers.

“Our cultures are rich. Parents should transmit them to children, and also there should be communication between schools and parents so that we know what our children are doing in school, and we also tell the school authorities what the children do at home,” said Kayum. “School authorities and parents should control the use of drugs.

Kayum said many people now join the teaching profession because they lack jobs, and not for the love and passion for teaching, and as such, they are not loved by students.

The students on their part also complained they are harassed by some teachers whom they accuse of behaving poorly or not teaching well.

The Cameroon Ministry of Secondary Education has recorded 40 violent attacks by students on their peers, 22 attacks on teachers and 15 attacks by parents on teachers within the past month.