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New education initiative targets hard to reach girls in Cameroon
The event took place at Dembo Primary School in the outskirts of Bertoua, in the Eastern Region of Cameroon, and was chaired by the Minister of Basic Education, Ms. Hadjidja Alim Youssouf. It marked the launch of the Cameroonian chapter of UNGEI, and was followed by a photo exhibition in the capital, Yaounde, showcasing the partnership for girls’ education and hosted by the Ministry of Basic Education.
"In the Far North, there is a 30 percent gap in enrolment between girls and boys, while 40 percent of girls who start school don’t complete the primary cycle," said Ms. Ora Musa Clemens-Hope, UNICEF Country Representative.
As part of its strategy, a public awareness campaign aims to change behavior towards girls' education in these areas by working with, and involving families and communities in the management of the schools. Sessions are also conducted to equip parents to better supervise their young children with a particular emphasis on girls.
Two other initiatives called "Child Friendly Schools" and "Big Sisters" will focus on empowering girls with knowledge of children's rights and building relationships between girls and older women, who will act as mentors, watching over the younger students and helping them with any learning difficulties.
While welcoming the government’s commitment to establishing a platform for dialogue among partners working for girls’ education, Ms. Clemens-Hope said that “Cameroon needs to redouble its efforts so as to attain the UN Millennium Development Goal of education for all by 2015.”
Partnering for better results
Since 2006, the Ministry of Basic Education has been working with UNICEF, its private sector partner, MTN Foundation and the US Government in supporting members of Cameroon's National Network of Mothers' Associations for Girls' Education (RECAMEF) and Mothers of Students Associations (AME) to accelerate progress in girls’ education. The multifaceted approach, including teacher training, books, scholarships and other incentives will allow girls to remain in school until the end of the cycle.
Initiatives by the United States on education in Cameroon include an US$8 million Food for Education project that encourages the cultivation of school gardens and the improvement of student nutrition. In addition, the Ambassador’s Girls Scholarship Program has provided over 7,000 scholarships to Cameroonian girls and boys at the primary, secondary, and university levels since 2004.
“There is no greater resource in this resource-rich and beautiful country than the Cameroonian people,” said US Ambassador to Cameroon, Mr. Robert P. Jackson, “and no segment of the population more worthy of investment than Cameroonian youth—and no investment with greater promise than that of education.”
Cameroon’s Minister of Basic Education, Hadjidja Youssouf, hailed the stakeholders for assisting the Government in achieving its goals.
“The plane UNGEI Cameroon is ready to take off, so I invite all those involved in educating our children in particular, our daughters, to take their seats.” exclaimed Ms. Youssouf. “Together, combine our efforts to assure the Cameroonian woman a promising future.”
Ms. Cheryl Gregory Faye, Head of the UNGEI Secretariat, applauded “… the Government of Cameroon for the strong support and political will expressed in prioritizing girls' education. Cameroon has made remarkable progress over in the last decade; however, achieving gender parity remains a challenge. We hope that UNGEI will help advance better learning achievements for all children, boys and girls, with increased social and gender equity.”