CAMEROUN :: In Cameroon, new school brings new hope for Baka children
East Cameroon is home to around 26,000 Baka. Living in and around the region’s dense forests, the Baka face several challenges related to deep-rooted and historic marginalization, which are further exacerbated due to inadequate or lack of access to services such as healthcare and education.
Present in Cameroon for more than the past two decades, in 2013, WWF decided to launch a Baka education project to support Baka children keen to go to school upon the request of community members and representatives. The project provides scholarships to 500 Baka children to cover fees as well as expenses related to books and other academic materials.
This year, on 9 August, marked globally as International Day of World’s Indigenous Peoples, WWF also donated a two-classroom building to support the education of Baka and Bantu children in the village of Assoumndele II in eastern Cameroon.
“We cannot talk of conservation without considering the living conditions of the custodians of the forest. The Baka face challenges particularly linked to education owing to the specificities of their lifestyle,” says Gilles Etoga Manager of WWF Jengi TRIDOM Program in East Cameroon. “We think building a school structure in their milieu will help meet their needs and encourage Baka parents to send their children to school,” he adds.
The classrooms, equipped with 30 benches each, cost FCFA 17 million (apprix. USD 34,000) and were funded by WWF-Sweden. They replace an old dilapidated structure built with mud and thatch that hosted the school in 2011 but collapsed in January 2015. Since then, close to 70 Baka and Bantu pupils have been learning their lessons while squatting in a small hut offered by the village chief.
“We are very happy with this gift. Our children will go to school, so that they can become government officers like others,” states Dindo Daniel, a Baka parent and member of the school PTA. “We will not have to seek help from our Bantu brothers to write or read our letters and other important messages every time,” adds Dindo.
While appreciating WWF’s gesture, Baka chief of Assoumndele II, Samson Mengwaba, called on government to send teachers to the newly built school.
The Baka are one of the many indigenous communities living in Cameroon. Historically marginalized, the community faces several challenges in an ever-changing Cameroon and WWF is working with key partners such as Plan International Cameroon, local civil society organizations, Cameroon’s ministries of Basic and Secondary Education and Social Affairs, to help address these issues through conservation efforts.
A joint WWF-Plan Cameroon project launched in 2017 will continue to focus on improving the schooling conditions of Baka in ten villages across the region.