Mary Lee is the Acting Chair & Secretary of the Portsmouth Bamenda Committee hear her thoughts on The Day of the African Child 2023 and the good work that her team have been doing in Bamenda.
The Day of the African Child (DAC) is held on 16 June to commemorate the student uprising on that day in 1976 in Soweto, South Africa, when students marched in protest at the poor level of education they were receiving and to demand the right to be taught in their own languages. It’s a great sadness that 40 years on, teachers and lawyers in the English-speaking provinces of Cameroon, were opposing the central government’s attempts to enforce the use of French instead of English in schools, courts, etc, the dispute escalating to the devastating internal conflict that has impacted so seriously on the lives and livelihoods of the people in our sister diocese of Bamenda since 2016.
The theme of this year’s DAC commemoration is “The Rights of the Child in the Digital Environment”. Whilst African States are being called upon to consider all aspects of the rights of the child, including the very important legislative framework that needs to be in place and then enforced to safeguard the rights of children in the digital world, protecting their personal identities, keeping them safe from pornography and sexual exploitation, etc, the areas where we in the Diocese of Portsmouth can help are the rights of the child to participation and provision, which are so important for their education generally and for their preparation for work in the digital age. A 2020 UNICEF report indicated as little as 1% of children living in the poorest quintiles in West and Central Africa have access to the internet.
When the Portsmouth delegation visited Bamenda in 2014 to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the link, we saw a primary school teacher using a flipchart with pictures of a computer and keyboard to teach her pupils how to use a computer! If pupils wanted to find work in the cities, they would need to use a computer for many jobs, so they had to know what they looked like and try to learn the sequence of the keyboard.
In 2021, the Bamenda Fund was able to support a project to fund a lab with 20 computers at St Joseph’s College, Mankon. The Archdiocese had set up the college to educate hundreds of students internally displaced by the troubles. Reporting in July 2022 on the success of the project, Fr Bon said the lab had already made a huge difference, enabling 540 students to have practical computer lessons, over 50% of the college. 25 ‘A Level’ students had taken ICT/Computer Science and wanted to go on to study Computer/Software Engineering, hopefully creating jobs for themselves and others in the future.
You can help us overcome the digital inequality that exists in Bamenda by enabling us to fund more computers in schools and colleges to give students a better chance of succeeding in their studies and finding better employment
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