The Cameroonian musician Aunty Clo's song "Oh Teachers" was blasting over speakers in Yaounde's city council courtyard on Tuesday, with roughly 200 teachers in attendance.
Teachers should be revered and safeguarded, according to Aunty Clo's lyrics, because they are the ones tasked with shaping young minds for the future and the growth of Cameroon.
The majority of the teachers who attended the rally, which was held to commemorate the United Nations' declaration of World Teachers Day, said they were fleeing the Boko Haram insurgency in the north or conflict between the government and English-speaking separatists in the west.
A spokeswoman for the teachers, 52-year-old Peter Tar, says instructors working in Cameroon's conflict zones face a lot of hardship.
“Teachers are being persecuted every day, every hour. Some have been brutally killed. Others, brutally deprived of some parts of their bodies, forced out of their areas to become internally displaced persons. Some are now jobless. My heart bleeds for these teachers. I pray peace should return,” he said.
Separatist fighters seized Tar from a government school in the town of Ndop, according to Tar.
The Cameroon Association of Teachers in Crisis coordinated the protest. The teachers, according to Tar, want the international community to know that they are in pain.
Since 2017, more than 40 teachers have been killed in Cameroon. At least 300 more people were kidnapped and only released after their families paid a ransom.
Hundreds of schools were damaged or closed in the north and west.
Teachers sometimes have no choice but to flee the violence, according to Valentine Tameh, president of the Cameroon Teachers Association.
“It becomes, really, a sorry spectacle, seeing teachers running with their families, some losing their lives, some fleeing to areas where they cannot do anything to sustain themselves. We are appealing that everyone who is engaged in a kind of war should understand that teachers and the milieu in which they operate are sacrosanct and fighters should understand that, without teachers, the community is preparing for a kind of dark ages,” Tameh said.
Laurent Serge Etoundi Ngoa, Cameroon's Minister of Basic Education, claims that the military is protecting schools, instructors, and students in areas where there is a security crisis.
For the benefit of the youngsters in need of education, he encouraged instructors who had escaped insecurity to return to relatively peaceful places.
“We’ve just recruited 5,000 teachers to support those who have already been in the field. When you (teachers) go to teach in a region of Cameroon, you must know that it is your country. The children, who are there, are all our sons and daughters, so we have to do everything necessary for them to have a safe education because they are the actors who tomorrow will continue building Cameroon,” Etoundi Ngoa said.
In 1994, the United Nations designated October 5 as World Teacher's Day to recognize educators' contributions to economic development and other fields.