VOA | YAOUNDE, CAMEROON — Cameroon has sent government ministers and governors to convince disgruntled teachers to return to classrooms and teach. The teachers have been protesting for a month, demanding better pay and the payment of salary arrears, some dating back 10 years.
Cameroon officials say opposition politicians and what the government calls irresponsible civil society groups are encouraging protesting teachers to continue to defy state authority.
The government says several dozen politicians and civil society groups are asking children to not go to school and teachers not to teach until the government provides all their needs.
Cameroonian teachers have been protesting for a month, demanding better pay and working conditions.
Eleven political parties, including the Social Democratic Front, the Union of Cameroon People and the Cameroon Peoples Party, have asked the government to find satisfactory and definitive answers to the teachers’ demands. They said the protest is legitimate.
The government has asked senior state officials including governors and ministers to convince teachers to return to classrooms and teach.
Nalova Lyonga, Cameroon’s minister of secondary education, says Cameroonian President Paul Biya promised to pay teachers’ outstanding transportation fares and salary arrears gradually starting this month.
“Teachers, please come back. Don’t go to the streets. There is no need to go to the streets because the head of state is listening. We are going to make the teachers proud. We have to do that, so let me get my teachers back,” she said.
Lyonga said many teachers refuse to return to the classrooms but did not say how many.
The teachers say about 80,000 of them are owed a total of about $200 million.
Biya this month ordered the payment of $4 million in back pay for striking teachers who graded exams. Teachers dismissed the amount as insufficient.
Cameroon also promised to pay $34 million this month and said the rest of the transportation fares will be paid gradually. While some teachers returned to work, others again said the money is largely insufficient.
Eloundou Patrice, a spokesperson for OTS, a teachers’ pressure group spearheading the protest, says when a similar protest was held in 2017, Cameroon’s government said Biya ordered the payment of salary arrears. Eloundou says one month of salary arrears for some teachers was paid, and when the protest was called off, the government stopped settling the debts to teachers. He says he does not trust Biya and his government.
The government continues to claim it will improve the living and working conditions of teachers by providing their needs gradually.
Teachers say some of them are owed up to 10 years of salary arrears. They also asked for the monthly salaries of primary school teachers to be increased from about $150 to at least $400 and those of secondary school teachers to be increased from about $400 to at least $800.