Illegal Schools: Stamp Out The Phenomenon

The fight against clandestine schools in Cameroon is not new. It is a very complex issue that involves several actors from different sectors. For decades, many stakeholders have come and gone with each trying fruitlessly to stamp out the phenomenon. Though, only a handful of clandestine schools existed, the number has today skyrocketed despite the simplification of the procedure by the government. The ministerial order authorizing the creation and functioning of primary and secondary schools in Cameroon has been well tailored to meet the needs of the public. To be a legal school proprietor requires two steps; first, the authorization to create a school (it has a validity of three years. After this period, if the school is not created, the proprietor is required to renew the request). This document carries information identifying the proprietor, the type of school and most importantly the reasons behind the creation of the school, a timetable, names of teachers and their qualification, a bank attestation stating that the proprietor can pay three months salary and secondly, an authorization to function. 
In spite of these clear cut measures put in place by the government, many proprietors prefer operating clandestinely. Each year authorities of the ministry of basic and secondary educational sectors with support from the ministry of Territorial Administration and Defence do comb the nocks and crannies of the country to fish out illegal schools. From the different findings, it has emerged time and again that most of these schools are considered illegal because, some have fake creation authorization, function without any creation and opening authorizations, no demarcation between primary and secondary schools, no conducive schooling environment, operating on rented sites and functioning in a private resident or religious house. While new schools do join the band wagon each year, there are other school proprietors who have decided to make ‘illegality-legal’. Of the 326 primary and 117 secondary schools operating in the country with impunity (North West and South West not included), 126 primary and 53 secondary schools are from the Littoral Region and Douala in particular, followed by the Centre Region with 72 primary and 38 illegal secondary schools. Compared to the 2021-2022 academic year where the number of illegal secondary schools stood at 106, one can rightly say without any fear that government needs to strategize, muster courage and step up the fight early enough before the start of a new academic year. This is more so because some proprietors of illegal schools have kept changing names of their schools each time they are identified.
It is true that most observers have argued that government should privilege the social aspects by applying some ‘administrative tolerance’ in some certain cases. But, for how long, when it is an open secret that the situation keeps dragging each year, because of the corrupt practices between school proprietors and some well placed administrative and educational authorities involved in the procedure of issuing and sanctioning of defaulters. At the start of each academic year, some of these officials come out with lofty declarations condemning the illegal private schools for rendering studies ineffective due to lack of infrastructure, invasion of the sector by amateurs who put benefits at the core to the detriment of quality. After these declarations, the different stakeholders involved are seen on the field placing seals in schools and asking proprietors to go see the authorities concern in order to regularize their situation. A few days after the schools re-open again and function hitch-free throughout the entire school year. The next year, it is again closed for the same motives and the drama continues at the detriment of the children who are deprived of quality education because the school is not up to standards and parents robbed of huge sums of money. For years, networks of these clandestine school businesses have become so strong that a former member of government did express difficulty to dismantle at the start of a school year because of the disturbances it brings to Primary school pupils and students, who are already enrolled in such schools.
Several years after his departure from the government, many parents still fall prey to clandestine schools ‘mafia’ due to ignorance. But while the authorities are brainstorming in...



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