afrol News, 6 November - Cameroonian teachers are on strike, protesting low government spending on the school sector and delayed salaries. An offer of an additional 9 billion CFA (12 million US$) by the government was turned down as "too little". The school enrolment rate has sunk drastically the last ten years due to teacher recruitment problems.
The Cameroonian Federation of Education Trade Unions (FECASE) had embarked on a second round of national strike beginning 29 October, which lasted till 2 November. Now, there are being made decisions to go for a third round of strikes, starting 26 November.
Trade unionists had a meeting with Prime Minister Peter Mafany Musonge on 23 October 23, in the presence of the Ministers for Employment. Musonge offered an additional 9 billion CFA to the teachers, but teachers demanded 22 billion CFA. "Once more we are disappointed and strongly shocked by the attitude of the Prime Minister, who does not show any notable improvement in understanding our problems and concerns," trade unionist Jean Kamdem told the Cameroonian "Le Messager".
The strike had been triggered by a government cut in spending for the education sector, which already had been ridden by crisis. Schools are in a terrible shape, teachers are underpaid and salaries often spend months in arriving. Cameroon's illiteracy rate is close up under 30 percent.
The first round of strikes was carried out between 8 and 12 October. During these strikes, fifteen teachers were arrested in the western provinces, in an act of "blind repression" as Kamdem calls the incident. Since then, however, there has been a dialogue with the government.
Cameroonian media, in general positive to the strikers' actions, comment that the teachers' fight at least has succeeded in putting the situation of the education sector on the political agenda in Cameroon. Journalist Leger Ntiga of 'Le Messager' analyses that, even if the struggle may still be long "due to dilettante government officials," strikers are sure to find "victory at the end of the road."
Also trade union spokesman Jean Marc Bikoko, although outraged by Prime Minister Musonge's offer, is satisfied with the efforts so far. "The movement launched on 29 October is a success insofar as it drew the attention of the government, which thus definitively takes notice of the gravity of the situation," said Bikoko.
The deteriorating situation in the Cameroonian school sector has led to a significant recruitment problem of teachers. According to figures from the Education Ministry, the need for teachers rose from 12,000 in 1990, to over 15,000 in 2001.
Recruitment of teachers, especially in rural areas, had not followed the need for new teachers, the Ministry informs. Also due to the structural adjustment programmes, the Cameroonian government had not been able to employ new teachers. The school enrolment rate thus has declined from 80 to 60 percent during the last ten years.