Leaders of Anglophone teacher’s trade unions who suspended a strike that had paralyzed education in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon since November 21, 2016, have revealed to Journal du Cameroon that they did so under pressure
Valentine Tammeh, is President of the Teachers Association of Cameroon. One of the four trade union leaders who signed the decision to call off the strike; the four who are accused of each collecting 150million FCFA bribe from government.
“We did not collect 150million from government. I signed the document under duress. Can you imagine we held 11 meetings in about five days? The governor kept calling us to his office and insisting we should sign the document and call off the strike. He said if we refused, we would be held responsible for calling on people to boycott the February 11 celebrations.” He told us in a phone interview.
Tammeh also revealed that the governor went as far as attempting to bring the communique to his house for him to sign it. “I pleaded he should not come and traumatise my children. I went to him and he kept telling me in a calm voice to sign the document. I told him we started working on this document with Tassang Wilfred and held several meetings in the North West and South West. I told him solidarity requires that all of us (six trade union leaders) who organised the strike should be present to call it off.” He revealed.
Tammeh who said he was not in hiding and gave to understanding that he now fears for his life, said he told Governor Adolphe Lele Lafrique it was signing the communique was not the right thing for him to do. “I only signed because of pressure” he said, but added that he is happy they called the strike off because “it has proven that the strike was no longer a teachers’ thing.”
Tammeh noted that people on the West of the Mungo are calling him a traitor, but said he knows God will know he did not betray anyone, if it happens that he dies because of the on-going movement. “My wish is that the crisis should be over and let those who are in hiding and in prison regain their places in our society. When we started this strike, our prayer was that not a single citizen be killed. But many people have been killed and imprisoned.” Said he.
Disagreed with the Consortium from the onset
He also regretted the fact that English-speaking Cameroonians disgruntled by prolonged marginalisation, used the teacher’s strike to express their despair.”was not really our place to ask for a return to federation. Demanding solutions to education issues would have had short term ramifications. The call for a return to federation would have long term ramifications. Right now I am in school, Government Bilingual High School, Bamenda and there are no students. Nothing is happening here.”
Stephen Afuh, President of the Presbyterian Education Authority Teachers Trade Union; PEATTU who, reports say has been disavowed by the Synod Clerk of the Presbyterian Church in Cameroon for signing the communique, corroborated Tammeh’s declaration that they were under duress. He confirmed that they were threatened they would be held responsible if the 11th February celebration is boycotted in the NW and SW as the Consortium is advocating. “We were also under preasure from teachers in the private sector who have not been receiving salaries. It is their only source of income and school proprietors have not been paying them on grounds that school fees are not being paid.” he said.
Afuh, also noted that he had been against the addition to education-related demands, the request for a return to federalism. “We are not signatories to The Consortium. “I told Tassang Wilfred to let us solve our education problems and let the federation issue be handled on a different platform”.
The Cameroon Baptist Convention issued a statement dissociating itself from the suspension of the strike. This was shortly after the communique which was also signed by Ayeah Emmanuela on behalf of Baptist school teachers, was made public. The Catholics, Presbyterians and universities of Bamenda and Buea have also refused to reopen their schools.
Meanwhile, in the communique suspending the strike, the teachers stated that they reserve the right to lift the suspension of the strike anytime they are convinced that government is not fulfilling nor honouring the pledge made in the Ad Hoc resolutions and recommendations.