The Colbert Factor:
Get your knees off our children’s education
When Muteff community in Fundong Subdivision of Boyo Division of the North West Region opted for school boycott in the 70s as part of the strategy to achieve autonomy from mainland Abuh, they knew it was after all just going to be only an ad hoc move, not a permanent one. That’s why one year after, they were quick to take their knees off the necks of the hundreds of children who had forcefully been withdrawn from the main school in Abuh and allowed to continue schooling in Muteff, even as the struggle intensified. And that’s definitely the reason why it is the children that went to school in Muteff at that time that are providing informed leadership and development initiatives to that emblematic community today. That, to the Muteff spirit, is the meaning of independence.
Although the immediate cause of the brutal decision by Muteff parents to withdraw their children from CBC school Abuh was Abuh authorities’ refusal to allow for a junior primary school in Muteff (where children could mature before crossing over to complete at Abuh main school since the river running through the two communities used to sweep away little children going to school each time it overflowed its banks); the remote cause of the conflict had been the reluctance by mainland Abuh to okay the construction of a bridge over that river linking Muteff to Abuh. Interestingly, (and instead of using that natural dividing feature to be the symbol of division between the two communities), the very first sign of Muteff community’s determination and resolve to be independent of Abuh traditional leadership was to construct the bridge over the river Ngwah that rather facilitated movement between the two warring communities. That, to the Muteff spirit, was the meaning of independence.
Judging at that very early stage that independence for independence sake was meaningless (without assurance of continuity in quality human resources as children were already out of school for a whole year), Muteff community leaders resolved education could not wait. All parents and community influencers were charged to make sure not only those who were withdrawn from school in Abuh but this time around, everyone of school-going age in Muteff go back to school.
It was a simple but efficient household-to- household, rooftop-to-rooftop, and finally neighborhood-to-neighborhood strategy of fishing out children to occupy the classrooms. That’s how it came about that every child born in the 60s and 70s in Muteff village had at least, a First School Leaving Certificate, FSLC. That, to the Muteff spirit, was the meaning of independence. They were quick to discern even at that early stage that the education of their children was the most powerful tool towards achieving independence.
And come to think of the fact that the Muteff parents I am writing about today, were stack illiterates. Yet, rather than using me and other children in the village as the collateral damage for their struggle, (however genuine their grievances were), they gave us all the protection and encourageant we needed to go to school. They knew the conditions were not the best. Yet, something within them told them the education of their children couldn’t wait. Fast-forward to 2016 and counting…in the North West and South West regions of Cameroon or former native West Cameroon. Your guess is as good as mine.
Suffice to state that just like the white police officer who knelt on George Flyod’s neck bringing untold shame to the United States of America on May 25, 2020, the leadership of the struggle for autonomy for the two English-speaking regions of Cameroon has been kneeling on the necks of children of school-going age on GZ for far-too-long.
No one doubts the fact that the struggle for self-determination is a right enshrined in regional and international charters and instruments. Yet, no one too should doubt the fact that such a right must not be fostered by violating the rights of children to go to school, however we perceive the school system to be (as it has been tested and proven that even the dullest sermon can still take one to Heaven. So too with education).
No one doubts the fact that a better future could be built through autonomy or self determination. Yet, no one should doubt the fact that education is the best tool in building a better world. We can only rise up against violence and oppression through education. It is quite embarrassing to note that even Palestine with its internecine history of warfare has one of the highest primary school attendance rates.
As the 2022/2023 school year resumes in the days ahead, the one big question each and everyone of us should ask is : How long can we wait to see schools resume even in the most remote communities of the North West and South West regions ? Have we waited for too long ? Did we assume that being apologetically patient is a virtue ?
Was it not Nelson Mandela who said ‘Education is the most powerful tool you can use to change the world’ ? Did the activists not use the fact that they were educated to identify the fact that we were marginalized and being exploited ? Must we now not all join in reversing the situation by being unapologetically impatient and investing in the education of our most-valued assets- our children ? How much longer can children in remote communities of the two English-speaking regions of the country wait to be given the opportunity to enjoy a safe learning environment, develop to their full potential and learn the skills needed for their future ?
Schools have been persistently attacked, girls and boys severely abused, dying and losing their homes and loved ones, and an estimated 1.2 m of primary-age children out of school in the restive regions. If we have to make our children more creative and better critical thinkers, we have to give them the opportunity to be educated. And that opportunity is now.
Activists both at home and abroad could do well NOW by leveraging their strength and control over communities in making sure no child is left behind as schools resume this year. They could redirect their rooftop by rooftop, household by household and neighborhood by neighborhood strategy in making sure no child of school going age stays away from school. As well as ensure their safety and those of teachers. That would be real show of strength as they would have succeeded where Yaounde authorities failed. That would reverse the current mass exodus of our future valued assets in future struggles to francophone regions, with all the attendant consequences.
As the autonomy whiles in coming, we should at least encourage all our children to attend their individual independences by going to school. In that way would not be behaving like the famous Yindo Tangeh in Muteff, who, knowing that there were two ‘crydies’ in two different quarters in Muteff, thought he could play smart and benefit from the sharing of goat meat from the ‘chong’ traditional fraternities in the two distant ceremonies. Rather than patiently wait and collect his share in the first ceremony, he rushed down to the second ceremony. By the time he was arriving there, the fraternity had just finished sharing the booty. He turned and rushed back to the first compound only to realize that immediately he left, the goat meat sharing started. He only had his eyes to feed on the traces of blood from the slaughtering of the many goods in the two ceremonies. Recall goat meat was and had remained a delicacy in village communities. Imagine how Yindo Tangeh could curse himself and everyone else in that community that day.
And even as @TheColbertFactor we weep for education that used to be the biggest industry and income-earner in Bamenda prio to 2016 (in much the same way Jeremiah (confer chapter 16 : 14-17) the weeping prophet, wept for Jérusalem and Israel-that were great centres of attraction but soon became a pile of ruin, like Bamenda today) ; we invite you to ponder over the words of Malala Yousafzai, Oprah Winfrey, Mario Montesari and Barack Obama, below :
Malala Yousafzai : ‘One book, one pen, one child and one teacher can change the world’
Oprah Winfrey : ‘Education is the key to unlocking the world, a passport to freedom’
Maria Montesori : ‘The greatest gift we can give our children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence’
Barack Obama : ‘In a global economy, where the most valuable skill you can sell is knowledge, education is no longer just a pathway to opportunity, it is a prerequisite’.
Now ! Think for a moment before you go about your daily activities : If the author of this article you just enjoyed was denied the opportunity of going to school just because Muteff felt marginalized by Abuh, who would have pieced together this stuff for you ?
You can support The Colbert Factor reach out to children in Muteff and other communities in Fundong Subdivision with Malala’s plea for one book, one pen, one child and one teacher strategy. Just consider doing it now, and the world would only be a better place. Remember any other thing can be taken away from you, not your education.
Just consider supporting this worthwhile investment today by sending your widow’s mite to MTN number: 677852476
And you would have fulfilled God’s will that ‘whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, thou you do unto me,