The government of Cameroon has launched a program that will enable secondary school students of certificate examination levels to cover more ground in their curriculums as schools have resumed in the country after a temporary shutdown forced by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Schools in the central African nation of 25 million citizens were shut between 18 March and 31 May as part of several measures put in place by the government to contain the spread of the pandemic.

Pupils and students due to take certificate examinations as well as learners in the higher education sector went back to the classrooms on 1 June 2020 with much academic work to be covered following nearly three months of no formal teaching and learning experience.

Given that the said examinations will take place between July and August 2020 according to an adjusted school calendar approved by 87-year-old President Paul Biya, the various ministries of education are devising means and strategies to make sure that learners adequately prepare for the challenge ahead.

The landing page of the website dedicated to the e-learning program for secondary school students in Cameroon.

E-learning program to help students in Cameroon to catch-up

It is in this light that Cameroon's Ministry of Secondary Education has initiated the e-learning program to enable students to come up to speed with their lessons, while also attending classes physically.

The program, which has the support of some international organizations such as the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and the United Nations Scientific and Cultural Organisation, UNESCO, entails uploading more than 300 different lessons on a website dedicated for that purpose. Students can then log onto the website and either download the notes or read them directly from the platform.

“It’s important that we are here today to support education. This online and distance learning is what we have done in many other countries. So, we are fully prepared to support Cameroon. We are going to develop a short term program in this regard,” Frédéric Debord, Director General of Orange Cameroun, one of the mobile telephony companies supporting the initiative, said after the inaugural ceremony in Yaounde on 2 June 2020.

Limited Internet coverage in Cameroon

While some have lauded the government initiative as plausible, others have picked holes in it, asking what will be the fate of students found in areas with no access to the Internet.

Cameroon has very limited internet coverage, with just 23% of its population having access to it. Even in towns where there is, the connection is almost always slow, with people having to spend huge sums of money on internet data for otherwise very simple online tasks.

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To this worry, Secondary Education Minister Professor Pauline Nalova Lyonga says there’s a solution. During the launch of the initiative in the capital, Yaounde, she said the notes that will be uploaded to the website will be printed out in requisite quantities and expediently sent to students in schools that have no access to the internet. This, she said, will allow them to be on the same pedestal with their peers who have online access to the same. Some critics have however questioned how effective this will be.

TV, Radio learning during the COVID-19 school lockdown in Cameroon

Throughout the period when schools remained closed in Cameroon, pupils and students were not entirely out of touch with their teachers. The Ministries of Basic (in charge of primary schools) and Secondary Education, in partnership with the country’s state-owned broadcasting corporation, CRTV, ran a program in which children received lessons through radio and television every morning.

The program, which began shortly after schools were closed on 18 March 2020, ran daily until 15 May 2020 when it ended. Teachers of the French and English subsections of Cameroon’s education system came on live radio and television to deliver lessons to pupils and students of certificate examination classes. The lessons were later uploaded to the broadcaster’s social media channels.

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