Ensuring that education never stops for children in Cameroon during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, “UNESCO’s distance learning initiative in Cameroon is not just a measure to fight COVID-19, but also an opportunity to bridge the gap that existed between the rural and urban population, “said Mr. Evang Assembe, Inspector of Education at the Ministry of Basic Education in Cameroon.
Since the start of the COVID-19 epidemic in Cameroon, learning has been disrupted for young people who are among the 1.6 billion children and young people affected by the pandemic around the world. The UNESCO office in Cameroon has worked to ensure that lifelong learning and teaching during COVID-19 is a development priority and a means of ensuring equity in education, in order to that learning never stops for young people, even those who live in a hard-to-reach region of Cameroon.
UNESCO has strengthened its cooperation with government and education practitioners to develop urgent response measures against the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on education in Cameroon, with funding from the Global Partnership for education (GPE).
In Cameroon, the measures involve: strategies to ensure a learning continuum during the pandemic; strategies to maintain social distance and prevent the spread of the virus in and outside of school; and finally, strategies that consist in building resilience in the face of various disasters or conflicts.
The Central African Republic, Chad and the Democratic Republic of Congo have also received financial envelopes from GPE through UNESCO to strengthen the resilience of their respective education systems in the face of external shocks such as COVID-19 and conflict. .
Ensuring a Continuum of Learning During the COVID-19 Pandemic
In collaboration with the Cameroonian government, UNESCO has developed various learning tools that use various communication channels such as television, radio and the internet to deliver lessons and education.
Primary school lessons have been adapted for radio and television by working with selected teachers and experienced journalists to pre-record lessons in video and audio format which are broadcast on national radio and television.
Project activities also prioritize investing in digitization and improving the quality of online learning, as well as improving the skills of teachers to deliver integrated learning that includes learning. remotely or online.
In March 2021, the Prime Minister of Cameroon, HE Joseph Dion Ngute, praised UNESCO’s efforts: “UNESCO has carried out considerable substantive work within the framework of the extremely useful distance learning program, on which d ‘others can easily build on. Not only in terms of access, but also in terms of quality. ” He was speaking during an audience with the Director of UNESCO, Salah Khaled, at the Prime Minister’s Office.
In addition to broadcasting the lessons on radio and television, school lessons are also available on an online multimedia platform called monecoleenligne. This multimedia platform, which is a website and a mobile application, offers teachers and learners the possibility of accessing educational resources and services to improve their knowledge and acquire practical lessons on a variety of subjects.
Distance learning opportunities have also come to solve a persistent problem in the North West, South West and Far North of Cameroon where schools were closed in some localities years before the COVID-19 crisis. .
According to Mr. Ousmanou Amadou Garga, of the Regional Delegation for Basic Education of the Far North of Cameroon, “since 2004, some schools have been closed due to insecurity in my region (Far North), distance education could therefore be a solution for education in this region “.
However, this form of learning is still new and access to these platforms remains limited for part of the Cameroonian population as explained by some players in the sector.
“Distance education is conditioned by several factors such as electricity which is not common in my region (Far North). In addition, the channels used do not have a large audience in most rural communities. “, noted Ousmanou Amadou Garga.
Even though access to radio, television and the internet remains limited for many communities in Cameroon, UNESCO and relevant stakeholders have strived to intensify efforts and find new solutions so that every child can benefit from the right to education.
“We have done enough groundwork in our laboratories through workshops and focus groups and we are ready to implement the next phase of the distance learning component of the project,” added Ousmanou Amadou. Garga.
A national platform comprising professionals from ministries of education and UNESCO has worked to manage different conceptions of distance education and expand learning opportunities to reach communities without or little access to television, radio and internet, producing course booklets which will then be distributed in these localities. The objective is to strengthen the resilience and versatility of education and improve access to quality teaching materials for people living in remote areas and poor households.
More radio stations will be used, as the audio lessons will also be distributed to community radio stations present in rural communities and the lessons will be popularized through radio listeners’ clubs that already exist in these localities.
Prevent the spread of the virus in and outside of school, while building resilience to various disasters.
An important aspect among these response measures has been the putting in place of various barrier measures to prevent the spread of the virus in and out of the school environment. These measures are also part of the Cameroonian government’s national response strategy, which includes the following elements:
-the compulsory wearing of a mask for all in public places and schools
-reducing the number of students in classrooms
-Educating students and teachers about the dangers of COVID-19 and using various learning tools to integrate teaching on how students and teachers can build resilience to all kinds of disasters.
As Mr. Evang Assembe from the Ministry of Basic Education explained, these learning tools not only respond to the current COVID-19 crisis but also provide long-term opportunities for teachers, learners and parents to participate in the process of integrating different life skills into the education of children in Cameroon.