Education authorities have begun pulling out Francophone teachers from Anglophone schools, in a sudden U-turn from weeks of standoff with striking teachers.
But it may not be enough for teachers to call off their indefinite strike that has paralyzed schools in the North West and South West regions, a teachers’ union leader said.
Anglophone teachers working in Francophone schools will also be redeployed, according to a letter by the minister of secondary education to regional delegates on Monday.
Minister Jean Ernest Ngalle gave delegates 48 hours to send him the list of affected teachers, including recommendations on how they can be redeployed to “adequate structures”.
It came in the fifth week of the teachers’ strike.
Teachers had asked the government to withdraw Francophone teachers posted to Anglophone schools as part of conditions to call off the work stoppage.
“If they withdraw the teachers, that will enable us to suspend the strike so that the ad hoc committee can meet,” said Wilfred Tassang, executive-secretary of the Cameroon Teachers’ Trade Union (CATTU).
Tassang said if the ad hoc committee is not convened in time to examine their remaining grievances and fails to establish an agenda for their implementation, the strike may continue through the next term.
“We will be multiplying strategies on how to continue with the strike in January,” he said. “The committee needs to meet and deposit its report to the prime minister with timelines to implement its recommendations.”
Suspending the teachers’ strike is unlikely to end the current crises, which has also seen an industrial action by Anglophone lawyers leading to the disruption of courts.
A consortium of Anglophone civil society organizations has emerged to champion a cause that embraces broader problems of Anglophone marginalization and the drift of the country from post-independence constitutional arrangements.
“If we suspend the teachers’ strike, we will continue striking for the political issue of federalism,” Tassang said in an interview Tuesday.
Federalism was the only guarantee, he said, that the government will not come back on its word, after responding to teachers current grievances.
“There may be some serious boycotts,” Tassang said without elaborating.
The minister’s decision to begin redeploying Francophone teachers comes just over a week before President Paul Biya addresses the nation. Biya has not commented on the strikes and protests in Anglophone Cameroon, which have led to loss of life, injuries and destruction of property.
An announcement on the transfers is likely to be made before the president’s annual speech on 31 December, said a senior official of the ministry of secondary education. “The president needs something concrete to announce”, the official said, not wanting to be identified because he was not mandated to speak to the media.
Lists of teachers to be transferred had begun coming to the ministry long before Monday’s letter, he told us, adding that an announcement was even expected last week, days before Monday’s letter.
Anglophone teachers have so far rejected offers made by the government as unrelated to their grievances. These include a CFA2 billion grant to private schools throughout the country and the recruitment of 1000 bilingual science and technology teachers.
The ongoing redeployment of teachers schools is also coming at the end of the first term and its impact will only be felt in early January.