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Getting Baka Children Out Of Forest To School 

By Yerima Kini NsomThese Baka children will now leave their old ways and go to school

The Baka ethnic minority that is predominantly in the East Region of Cameroon are a unique people endowed with specific cultural idiosyncrasies. They have a strong umbilical-cord with the forest where they rely on for their livelihood.

“The Bakas rely only on the forest for everything. They hunt and catch wild animals, harvest fruits in the forest for food and use herbs to treat themselves of diseases”, one enlightened Baka; Jean Mikam told The Post in his native Nomedjoh village in Lomie Subdivision of the Upper Nyong Division recently.
To him, a Baka person does not believe in the past or future. “They believe only in the present.

To them, the past and the future do not exist. That’s why they do not own farms; they do not invest in anything that will guarantee their livelihood in future.

If you provide a Baka person with sex, food and drink and place a huge sum of money near him, he will not even look at it,” Mikam explained.
He said in their typical tradition, the Bakas have nothing to do with modernism. Thus, sending their children to school is not even an option to a majority of them.

The inclusive quality education that the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF and Plan Cameroon launched in Abong Mbang, East Region last week, is tailored to gradually reverse such a negative trend among the Bakas. It is intended to lure the Baka children away from the forest to school. Attracting more Baka children to school, it is hoped, will create a new generation of educated Baka Communities that will turn things around.

Going by a study UNICEF carried out in collaboration with the Ministry of Basic Education, MINEDUB in 2014, only 18 percent of Baka boys and 5 percent of girls complete primary school. The study equally reveals that many teachers more often are absent from school, do not exhaust their syllabuses. Only few Baka parents, the study hints are actually implicated in the education of the children. An evaluation MINEDUB carried out in 2013, shows that only 10 percent of Baka parents are part of the Parents Teachers Associations, PTA, all over the country.

The inclusive education project was conceived to sensitize Baka parents to be more implicated in the education of their children. The project is intended to ensure that more Baka children have access to and complete pre-primary and primary levels at least.

According to the UNICEF Head of Office for the East and Adamawa Regions, Sabina Avakian, the project is being executed in Lomie and Yokadouma subdivisions of the East Region. It is also aimed at sensitizing Bakas to take an active part in the education of their children.

Thus UNICEF’s target is to make sure that 1000 Baka children (boys and girls) are registered in school both at the pre-primary and primary levels and actually stay in school for the whole academic year learning.

The project aims at ensuring that 36 teachers of the area and 22 lectures of the teacher training collages in the East Region are taught with specific skills and methods to Baka children taking into consideration their cultural specificities. UNICEF officials say they intend to improve the performance of 4820 pupils in the 12 schools targeted by the project. They also expect a strong pedagogic supervision chain of the project.

Going by an official of Plan Cameroon in charge of the project in Lomie Subdivision, Eric Hervé Ntouba, six schools in the area have been targeted for the inclusive education program. The project will also cover six schools in the Yokadouma sub-division. The joint project will cost FCFA 4.40 million.

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