When Teachers are back in School

Training of teachers. Photo: UNICEF/Minville

When you’re a teacher, helping children recover from one of the most violent conflicts the north of Cameroon has ever witnessed is not an easy fit, especially if you yourself have fled the violence from Boko Haram. This is why ECHO and UNICEF are joining forces to train teachers on education in emergencies.

Aicha comes from Nigeria, where she was, in her own words, ‘The mother of many children. That’s why, in my country, they call me Mama Aicha’.

Back in Nigeria, she was a head teacher in a nursery school for nine years. ‘Nine beautiful years’, she said, but in 2014, everything changed. One day, Boko Haram stormed her village. Her father was killed as well as many people in the area. The survivors escaped and hid in the mountains for about a year before crossing the Cameroonian border and finding shelter in the Minawao refugee camp.

‘What made me very sad during this period was to see all these children out of school’, said Aicha. ‘If children are out of school, the bad people win’.

A total of 56,000 refugees live in Minawao, more than 60% of which are children. When she heard that teachers were desperately needed, Aicha immediately volunteered.

‘Here, I teach very young children. It’s the same job that I was doing in Nigeria. I’m very happy to do that. It makes my days happier’.

In order to provide the necessary support to children who experienced grim violence, teachers needs to be equipped with specific skills. For this reason, as part of the ECHO-funded Children of Peace project, a five-day training for teachers on education in emergencies has been organised in the camp. It involves 118 Cameroonian and Nigerian teachers, including Aicha.

‘This training is very useful’, Aicha explains. ‘It helps us understand how to take good care of the children, how to motivate them to come to school. We were told not to discriminate in favour of the children even if some of them are under trauma: they should all be treated as equals’.

Aicha also learned how to become an advocate for education. In Minawao, many refugee parents are still shocked and reluctant to send their children to school. Her role thus goes beyond simply being a teacher.

‘I have to go in every tent and sensitise the parents so that they can bring their children to school. Through education, you learn that violence is not good. I believe that education is the only way to restore peace; that’s why I’m proud to do that job’.

Aicha also has another reason to strive for peace — something deeper, more personal: ‘I have six children. Three are with me in Cameroon, and three are still with my sister in Nigeria. I don’t know when I’ll see them again. Maybe when peace is back in my country. One day’.

By Alexandre Brecher, UNICEF Cameroon


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