The Untold Impact Of The Anglophone Crisis On Lebialem division.
Lebialem division is found in the crisis hit South West region of Cameroon. It is made up three sub divisions: Fontem (Menji central), Alou and Wabane.
Lebialem division covers a surface area of 617 and has a population of approximately 200,000 persons as of 2019.
The Anglophone crisis which started in 2016 is arguably the biggest sociopolitical upsurge Cameroon has known in its entire history.
Now, how does this crisis affect the people of Lebialem?
Lebialem has unarguably been one of the most severely affected divisions in the restive South West and North West regions since the start of the Anglophone crisis in 2016. The once very buoyant and lively division is now a complete shadow of itself.
The crisis has had a devastating impact on the division. From Bechati to Menji, to Azi, to Lewoh, to Ndugated, name them, the story is basically the same; no sign of life, abandoned homes, abandoned markets and business structures.
Going to the division at the moment is not only a risky undertaking but also an almost impossible task, that is if you are even brave enough to dare. Separatist fighters have gained grip of the division making it almost uncontrollable for the administration.
Impact of the Anglophone crisis on Lebialem division: Impact on schools
The Anglophone crisis has had a severe impact on education in the Lebialem division. Virtually every school has been shut down in the division for close to two years now.
Most of the pupils and students who have managed to find a way to continue with their education are in Dschang, Fongo Tongo and other towns in the Menoua division, a neighboring division in the West region in French Cameroon.
One of Lebialem’s most prestigious institutions of learning is Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College Fontem, a school that has produced some of the most brilliant and excelling persons in the region. Before the crisis, so many students in and out of the division would scramble for an opportunity to study in the institution.
It had in fact become a way of life for parents in other urban areas out of the division to send their children back home to study at the institution and other schools in the division because of the quality of education these schools used to offer and to also enable these young people to know more about their culture and roots.
All that seems to be in the past now. The schools have become safe homes to stray domestic animals whose owners have fled the division and other wild animals who have now found comfort in them as a result of the absence of human life that could have scared them away.
Several public exams have been written under the English sub-system of education since the start of the Anglophone crisis with the First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) and the Cameroon General Certificate of Education (GCE) being the most important ones.
The number of students who have taken these examinations in this division within the last three years has absolutely been nothing to write home about; in most cases below 5 students and in worst cases, no students at all. This alone tells you how hard life in this division has become right now.
Students have lost their lives
Barely a month back, a locally made explosive exploded in Fontem subdivision killing two children and severely wounding another. These are children who would have been in school if not for the crisis. Several others have lost their lives in gun battles.
Indeed, the impact of the anglophone crisis on Lebialem division has left many in tears.
A few weeks back, the Minister Delegate in the Ministry of Economy, Planning, and Regional Development mustered courage and stepped foot in the dreaded division. That was the first time minister Paul Tasong, an elite of the division was visiting home since his appointment in 2018.
He was there to launch a back-to-school campaign; a campaign that calls on all stakeholders in the crisis to give peace a chance and allow students to go back to school.
We have been getting more of such calls lately and we can only hope that peace would indeed be given a chance so that these young people who we expect to be the future pillars of the division can go to school and get the training they need to compete with their peers nationally and of course globally.
Though the back to school crusade is on, it would take a lot more than making back to school calls to get these children back into the classrooms. It would be virtually impossible for schools to resume if a safer environment is not ensured.
The crisis has brought hardship to the inhabitants of the division
Most of the inhabitants of the division have either fled to Dschang in the West region, Buea and other safer towns in and beyond the south west or have resorted to staying in the bushes.
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For the few individuals who have mustered the courage to remain in the division because that’s the only choice they have, life has become almost unbearable for them. It is extremely difficult for them to go to their farms and trade among themselves.
Even when they manage to find some money, where do they buy food from? Where do they buy clothes? Where do they buy other basic needs from? Go to the markets and all you will find are abandoned stores and sheds and overgrown vegetation.
Even when they find anything to buy, they buy them at very exorbitant prices. Would you believe that a cube of soap that would normally sell at 250 FCFA or at most 300 FCFA now sells at 700 FCFA in the division? Well, that’s if you manage to find it at all.
Aside being the administrative headquarter, Menji is the main commercial town in the division. However, that commercial nature has completely died down as all markets and business places have been abandoned.
The closest commercial urban center out of the region is Dschang but still, these few inhabitants cannot go there because most often, the main road leading to that town is blocked. Other secondary roads are very risky and would require you to trek for hundreds of kilometers before you could find a motorbike to hire at a very expensive cost.
Let’s look at how socio-cultural activities have been affected
In places like Azi, you cannot find even a single soul. The picture you see below is the picture of the paramount palace of Fontem Fundom. The Palace of Fontem is found in Azi and is considered to be one of the most beautiful palaces in the region.
If you have never known this palace before now, it would be almost impossible to believe that a whole lot of people used to live in this palace just over 2 years back.
This picture alone tells you that no one lives there now and in fact no one has been there for a very long time. All you can see is an abandoned palace in an almost over grown forest and vegetation. Yes! That’s just one of the many devastating impact the deepening Anglophone crisis has left on Lebialem division.
The Lebialem people pride themselves with their rich and outstanding culture. Before now, it was very common for them to assemble in their different villages at every year end to partake in sociocultural festivals, traditional marriages, death celebrations and of course, Christmas and New Year. It used to be a joyous moment for many, especially kids who would love to experience the rich culture displayed in those events as well as the beautiful scenery and amazing topography.
Unfortunately, all that has changed now as no one can go there now and celebrations and events which hitherto would take place there are either organized out of the division with less impact or suspended till further notice.
It was common to go back home and burry relatives when they die out of the division but now, the story is different; they are buried where ever they die, regardless of the location.
Administrative Official and civil servants have also fled
Some administrative officials have relocated to safer regions and thus all administrative and developmental activities have been completely halted. Civil servants have equally not been to their offices or place of work for years.
Few months back, the Senior Divisional Officer for the division ordered all civil servants to return to the division and continue with their work or risk losing their jobs. This however didn’t create any impact as all these civil servants are still living as internally displaced persons in other divisions.
Impact of the anglophone crisis on Lebialem division: Moving forward!
The impact of the Anglophone crisis on lebialem division would take days to read if we were to exhaust that in this article. To keep it simple, it has been devastating! The people of this division honestly can’t wait for this unbearable crisis to come to an end.
They are tired of not being able to go to their farms and markets. They are tired of living uncomfortably in other regions and worst, in the bushes with very horrible and devastating conditions. They are tired of losing their children and love ones to gun battles.
Children are tired of staying at home. Most definitely, they have missed their usual way of life enough. They have missed the activities that bring joy to them.
At this point when basic supplies cannot reach the division, how do the young people who are left behind get sanitary pads and other basic needs?
At this moment, we can only hope and pray that the Anglophone crisis comes to an end because the impact is enormous.
May peace come to Lebialem, West Cameroon and of course, the entire Cameroon!
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Know more about Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College Fontem here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Our_Lady_Seat_of_Wisdom_College_(Cameroon)