She sits upright, torso straight, pen in hand and listens attentively as the teacher drills the class in Mathematic. Schekina is 10 years and attending classes for the first time after staying out of school for 3 years due to the ongoing crisis in the North West and South West Regions of Cameroon. She is now in Yaounde with Constance, her mother; Assurance, her little sister and Abou, her grandmother. Her dream to become a nurse one day is alive again.
At the start of the conflict, Schekina was a pupil in Njinikom, a small community about 30km out of Bamenda. Constance, a history teacher with a secondary school managed by a religious body in the North West. Following the killing of a gendarme officer, the military stormed the locality arresting and torturing civilians. She had to accompany other villagers to take refuge in the hills. After days in the hills, Constance realized that the safety of her family was not assured if she stayed in Njinikom. The military raids were intensifying and the armed separatists constantly attacking government structures. Parents were called to pick up their children from educational institutions. Face with the dilemma Constance decided to head back to her village, Acha Tugi in Momo Division.
A few months of safety in the village and she was forced to flee into the forest with Schekina and her 70year old mother. The fighting between security forces and armed separatists had spread across the two English speaking regions like bush fire. That day is still very vivid in her mind!
“Like a bad dream, the whole town was awakened by sounds of gunshots, we all started running for our lives. We ran to a cave that is in the village. I had to go with Schekina, my mother, and other villagers, mostly women and children. The men would hide in farms but return to the village when the shooting stopped because it’s a farming community. Villagers have pigs, goats, fowls and other animals to tend too! We were safe in this cave for days but without food and water. It was very stressful for me because I was pregnant”
After staying in the cave for over a week, Constance decided to move on with other women. They realized that the fighting was not going to stop anytime soon. It was rather intensifying. After two weeks of trekking, begging along the way and living on raw tubers like sweet potatoes, they arrived Mbengwi.
“I was broke, sick, no shelter but family was fine. I called a friend in Bamenda who accepted to borrow me some money. So we headed to Bamenda, got a room and placed cartoons and old newspapers on the floor. That night we had the sleep of our lives!” A month later she had her second baby, Assurance.
After six month in Bamenda, Constance was referred to Youth Outreach Programme a local CSO supported by Mission 21. “When I got to YOP, the reception was very friendly. Our greatest joy was when we were given a mattress and a blanket! That was the best thing to have happen to me and my family! We felt like human being after a longtime! That was more important than the food we were also given! Assurance was about 4 months and had spent all her life on the floor!” With Mission 21 support the family later received a bed
We became Constance’s family. She and her mother started learning how to make necklaces using beads. She learned how to sew and would spend her days at the YOP training center. So too Schekina, who will spend her time in the ICT room learning how to use a computer.
In September, Constance was called by the Education Department of her former employer. Her services as a history teacher was needed in Yaounde if she was available and interest. She was! Once again with YOP and Mission 21 support, Constance was able to move her family to Yaounde where her daughter Schekina is now able to attend school. “We have regained our dignity as a family thanks to the support with have had from YOP and Mission 21! Today they are our family!
Schekina is doing well and looking forward to a brighter future. “I keep praying that this war should stop so that one day we can go back home, but I am happy to be in class and to be learning French!”