Discipline Masters, the Director of CISPAM, School guidance counselors, some students including those with impairments, and the President of parents support groups of Lycee Classique and Lycee Bilingue in Bafoussam have put in place Safeguarding Guidelines for their schools. This document was the outcome of a 2-day workshop from December 4-5, 2020, in Bafoussam. The workshop organized by the CBC Health Services under the Quality Education for All Project of the EDID Program, had as objective to put in place standards and guidelines preventing violence against Children with Disabilities (CWDs) and foster inclusion in these two establishments.
The content of the school Safeguarding Guidelines has many things including but not limited to setting up roles by staff for anti-bullying techniques, risks assessment, safer recruitments, putting in place focal points where in the event of abuse, learners can be able to readily access life-saving interventions including healthcare, protection, and justice. There are social workers in place to support children psychologically and psychosocially in the event of these case incidences. The document also requires reporting procedures or complaints about handling mechanisms embedded in the Safeguarding Guidelines. Most importantly, it stipulates a code of conduct that should be signed by all teaching and supporting staff, all administrative and all governing bodies including the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), contractors, visitors, interns, etc. This will ensure that people who visit the school setting do not pose any risk of harm to the learners. The guidelines also safeguard adults at risk, including teachers especially as there have been reported cases in schools where learners become a threat to the teachers with harmful objects. The Safeguarding Policy, therefore, ensures that the teaching and the learning environment is cordial, friendly, and safe.
It is worth noting that this initiative started in 2016 in Government Practicing School Ndop and it has proven to be a good practice that fosters inclusion with a call for more schools to be on board and ensure the safety of learners in different locations in Cameroon. The Bafoussam training was informed by a risk assessment carried out in both schools to underscore the different risks of harm to children. One of which was the absence of a Safeguarding Policy.
According to the Supervisor of the Gender and Child Protection Services of the CBC Health Services, Mrs. Nsono Josephine who was one of the main facilitators for the training, the participants were so “engaging” and excited with the information gained at a very timely period. The work of the participants exposes them and they are continuously in contact with learners who have conduct issues, eg children in conflict with the law, and survivors of different forms of violence. This training will therefore help them in their work which is understandably an uphill task to ensure that children and teachers are safe in the school milieu. “We have learned a lot because there are certain things that we neglect in school. The importance of the workshop was buttressed by the participants. “This workshop will help students and teachers to know their rights. It has been very enriching”, “After this workshop, we will improve on the way that we handle our students” participants.
In recent years, there has been an influx of learners both with and without disabilities from the Northwest and Southwest Regions of Cameroon due to the Socio-political crisis in these regions. Most of them have moved to the West Region. Their safety and that of the students already in this region will be guaranteed with the Safeguarding Standards that informs how the teaching and the learning process is conducted.
The CBC Health Services is an institution that focuses and is interested in the wellbeing of all learners at all levels and also renders technical support to Institutions, Organizations, Programs, and Development Actors in putting in place safeguards to ensure that children are growing up in ways consistent with their ages developmentally and physically, especially children with disabilities. It is common knowledge that there is an increase in violence in schools today in Cameroon.
This is a disturbing phenomenon and according to the representative of the Regional Delegate of Secondary Education for the West Region Mr. Kouam Gaston, this situation must be well addressed. This training comes at this important time for this to be properly handled through inclusive education. This is because inclusive education promotes safety and security for children. He ended his speech by announcing a competition for next year to get the most inclusive school, with safe schools being one of the criteria for assessment.
With the support of LilianeFonds, no child will be left behind.