The tangled tale of schools resumption being rehearsed by Government for denouement on September 4, has set confusion within Catholic Christians in the Northwest Region subsequent to a meeting on August 24, chaired by the Education Secretary for Bamenda Arch diocese, Reverend Father Augustine Nkwain and attended by all managers of catholic schools to plan schools reopening, ostensibly, under pressure from Government and some parents.
The meeting was hosted at the Auto Data Resource Center of the St Joseph’s Metropolitan Cathedral in Bamenda. In the opinion of Father Nkwain, the response from parents has been very timid owing to the current political climate in the Region, even as their responsibility to God and to children pushed them to the decision of formally opening their doors for schools to resume.
It is customary for Prelates to converge before the start of every school year but that of August 24 was paramount because it came out with decisive resolution regarding the education of children which has been highly politicized by many.
Though the convention wasn’t open to the press, The Rambler later caught up with Father Nkwain who said that the Catholic Church was under much pressure from voices militating against schools resumption but that in response to social responsibility and to God “whom we are answerable to, our doors are open and we want to educate children.
“There is a silent majority of parents who want their children to go back to school and we must be there for them. For those who don’t want children not to go back to school, we would say enough sacrifices have already been made, but we cannot continue to sacrifice children for political reasons because there is seemingly no short term end to what is happening. If parents were to stake the education of their children on actually resolving all political reasons before sending their children to school, then children would never go back to school. So we are doing our part to make sure that children receive their education while the social problems continue to be confronted for viable solutions.”
On if structures have been put in place to purge timidity in parents and kids, he said:
“For the moment, we are still at the level of education. We are just an agency. The Government is there, the private sector is there; so we are only doing what is possible within our means. But parents should know that we are ready to educate their children so they should think of the good of their children and send them to us. Anybody who thinks that the Church is not being responsible by asking for schools to reopen is very wrong, because we have always been responsible for children.”
On the issue of many parents demanding compensation for the lost school year he harangued that people talk because they are ignorant of how Catholic schools operate. According to the clergyman, so many things are bought in bulk at the start of the school year, including didactic material, food stuff and salaries are also paid to teachers. “When you begin to calculate all that was done you see that we have found ourselves in a serious deficit because of what happened. So for parents to think that we are sitting on money, it is very wrong. That being the case, we can only move forward so they cannot say we should compensate,”
Relating to criticisms that teachers are not being paid the Priest averred that “We took measures to ensure that teachers were paid up to January. Right now we cannot pay teachers because we don’t have the money and that’s the simple fact. We even ran into a deficit because we made sacrifices to pay them for December and January even though they did not work. You would want to know that we have more than one thousand teachers at the level of primary schools not to talk of secondary schools; so, if anybody thinks that we are sitting on money, that person is wrong. Right now, we are still struggling to pay for books we took from book suppliers when children left with books without having paid.” On the level of registration as of now, he divulged that registration is very timid, because of the atmosphere but that doors remain open and they are prepared to start.
By Mildred Ndum Wung Kum