SCHOOL YEAR 2021/2022
Back to school with empty pockets
A few weeks before the resumption of classes, parents deplore the lack of financial means to register their offspring and acquire textbooks.It is 10 a.m. this Friday, August 12, 2021 at the Bilingual Educational Flambeau (F.E.B), a primary and nursery school in the capital city. In his office, Pierre Kameni, co-founder, puts his documents away after having chaired the parents’ meeting, he tells us. Regarding the start of the new school year, registrations have started at this school since August 9. Two weeks later, the latter registered nearly 30 students. A slightly higher figure compared to the previous year at the same time. “Parents are still lagging behind when it comes to registrations. They wait until the last minute to do so. But we can also understand that the economic crisis affecting almost all sectors of activity is at the root of all this. Compared to the following year when we did not even know the date of the start of classes, « says the co-founder. Here, the registration fee is 10,500 FCFA.
Informed by many parents, the economic crisis is at the origin of the lack of enthusiasm for registrations. “Life has become very hard and the business is not thriving at all. Even in the meetings that I do, the members fail. I’m still waiting for the start of the school year before seeing how to register the children, « considers Viviane Wouokam, parent of a student. Created in 2013, this school has implemented strategies to reduce the cost of education for parents. “In our school, the board is paid in four installments. When a parent has three or more students and who intends to pay the board, the student benefits free of charge from a compliant class outfit from a tailor of his choice. Also for this category of parents, having chosen to pay in two installments, we make them a pro rata,” explains Pierre Kameni. Another establishment with identical decor. On August 17 at the bilingual high school of Etoug-Ebé, Godlove Alungekane, president of the Association of Parents of Students and Teachers (A.P.E.E), informed some parents and students about the registration forms. With 21,500 FCFA in her pocket, Felestine Ndangmoh walks the corridors of the establishment to register her daughter Hephsibah Mafor, in Form 1 class. For this parent of a student, she prefers to register her offspring on time despite her very critical financial conditions. Since registration began on August 9, this high school has already registered nearly sixty students. A figure that has remained constant as in previous years, we learn. According to the president of the P.T.A., the large influx of student registrations often begins in early September, the day before the start of the school year.
Market direction. Sitting in front of his counter at the Mokolo market this Tuesday, August 17, Marcel, seller of school supplies, is desperately waiting for customers. Can in hand, he swallows an imported drink while making comments with the seller who has parked his wheelbarrow nearby. For Marcel, the activity is at a standstill. “We are not selling anything at this time. Most customers come and get information on the prices of things and walk away without buying anything. We have been experiencing this situation in our business for two years. I have not yet sold 20,000 FCFA for a week, « explains the 40-year-old. On its counter, school bags, water bottles and children’s boots are available at prices of 2000, 3000, 5000… 20,000 FCFA for bags, 1500/5000 FCFA for gourds, 1500/2000 FCFA for boots.
Nearby, Colins, owner of a bookstore, agrees with a lady on the price of supplies. The lady in question leaves after purchasing the 13,000 FCFA supplies. At the counter, notebooks are sold wholesale and retail. The prices vary according to the number of pages and the quality 200 FCFA (100 pages), 350 FCFA (200 pages), 600 or even 2500 (300 pages). For a package of 5 notebooks, you have to pay 1000 FCFA (100 pages), 1800 FCFA (200 pages), 2500 to 2800 FCFA (300 pages). For books, the prices are marked above. For example, for primary school, there is my graphic design and writing notebook (1000 FCFA), Inclusive English 1800 FCFA), brilliant students (1500), Majors in science and technology (1500 FCFA) etc. Those from secondary school are also present: mathematics 6th (4000 FCFA), computer science 5th (3500 FCFA), literature 4th (2000/2500 FCFA) among others. According to the report of Repères reporter, in the market, although the prices of textbooks are approved, the maneuvers are set up by the sellers to increase profit. On each manual, salespeople increase 200 FCFA to get by, they say.
Regarding the availability of books on the stalls at least two weeks before the start of the school year, the shortage for some and the scarcity for others is noticeable. “There are some books that are not yet available on the market,” says Leonard Mbemo, bookseller. Yet answering the questions of a journalist on the Canal 2 international television channel on August 11, Appolinaire Ngassa, president of the Union of Booksellers and Stationers of Cameroon, affirmed that « this year we will no longer talk about shortages. The National Council for the Approval of School Textbooks and the publishers have fought to ensure that the books on the program are available in Cameroon on time « .
Martial NZIEMIE and Translated by the redaction