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African Human Rights Law Journal

On-line version ISSN 1996-2096
Print version ISSN 1609-073X

Afr. hum. rights law j. vol.11 n.1 Pretoria Jan. 2011


Realising the right to primary education in Cameroon



Serges Alain Djoyou Kamga

Doctoral Candidate and Researcher, Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria, South Africa




Cameroon is party to all international and regional instruments providing for the right to education, and compulsory and free primary education in particular. The article examines Cameroon's compliance with the right to free education, based on the normative content of the right to education, defined by the United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights as compulsory and free universal access to primary education that is available, accessible, acceptable and appropriately adapted (known as the '4 A's'). The article reviews to what extent primary education is compulsory and free to all children in Cameroon; it focuses on the 4 A's framework and assesses the justiciability of the right. The article concludes that, although primary education is compulsory in the country, it is not yet available, accessible and adaptable, but is largely acceptable when it is available. Furthermore, the justiciability of the right to primary education is hindered by constitutional practices such as the lack of standing in court for private individuals, the lack of constitutional remedies in case of a violation of rights, and weak separation of powers, characterised by the pre-eminence of the executive.



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* Lic-en-dt (Yaoundé II), LLM (Human Rights and Constitutional Practice) (Pretoria); I am greatly indebted to Prof Charles Fombad for his valuable and incisive comments on earlier drafts.
1 ICESCR, General Assembly Resolution 2200A (XXI) of 16 December 1966, entry into force 3 January 1976, arts 13(2)(a) and 14.
2 Art 14 and ESCR Committee General Comment 11.
3 Art 28(1).
4 Art 4(a).
5 The Dakar goals set at the World Education Forum (2000).
6 Expression used by the first President of Cameroon in his early speeches, as quoted by C Tamasang 'The right to water in Cameroon: Legal framework for sustainable utilisation' 9, paper prepared for a workshop entitled 'Legal aspects of water sector reforms' organised in Geneva from 20 to 21 April 2007 by the International Environmental Law Research Centre (IELRC) in the context of the research partnership 2006-2009 on Water Law sponsored by the Swiss National Science Foundation (on file with author).
7 Art 17 African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, adopted on 27 June 1981 by the OAU Assembly, OAU Doc CAB/LEG/67/3 Rev 5 (1982) 21 International Legal Materials 58; C Heyns & M Killander (eds) Compendium of key human rights documents of the African Union (2010) 29, entered into force on 21 October 1986.
8 Art 11 African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, OAU Doc CAB/ LEG/24.9/49 (1990), entered into force on 2 November 1999.
9 ICESCR (ratification 27 June 1984); CEDAW (ratification 23 August 1994); CRC (ratification 11 January 1993); African Charter (ratification 20 June 1989); African Children's Charter (ratification 5 September 1997).
10 The right to education, Preliminary Report of the Special Rapporteur submitted in accordance with African Commission Resolution 1998/33, K Tomasevski, UN Doc E/ CN.4/1999/49, paras 51-56; also K Tomasevski Human rights obligations in education: The 4-A scheme (2006).
11 ESCR Committee General Comment 13, para 9.
12 ESCR Committee General Comment 11, para 6.
13 n 12 above, para 7.
14 UNESCO The right to education free of charge for all: Ensuring compliance with international obligations (2008) 6.
15 General Comment 11, para 9.
16 n 15 above, para 10.
17 UNESCO (n 14 above) 3.
18 UNESCO EFA Global Monitoring Report 'Reaching the marginalised' (2010) 253; figure 4.17. The Sector plan for primary education is included in the 1998 Cameroon Education Framework Act 633/PJ L./ATN.
19 General Comment 13, para 6(a).
20 'Cameroon - Preprimary and primary education'">Cameroon-Preprimary Primary Education</a> (accessed 17 February 2011).
21 UNESCO Education policies and strategies 7 - Decentralisation in education: National policies and practices (2005) 25.
22 Act 633/PJ L/ATN, adopted in 1998 (n 18 above).
23 The goal of Education for All was adopted in Dakar, Senegal, from 26 to 28 April 2000 through the Dakar Framework for Action.
24 Art 7(i).
25 Art 7(v).
26 Art 7(vi).
27 UNESCO (n 21 above) 26.
28 The PRSP is the World Bank-IMF-sponsored framework for poverty reduction. It is important to note that attached to the 1996 Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative characterised by timelines associated with debt reduction.
29 The other priorities of the PRSP are: promoting a stable macro-economic framework; strengthening growth by diversifying the economy; revitalising the private sector as the main engine of growth and a partner in delivering social services; developing basic infrastructures and natural resources while protecting the environment; accelerating regional integration in the framework of the Economic and Monetary Union of Central Africa (CAEMC/CEMAC); and improving the institutional framework, administrative management and governance. Also, the Cameroonian government's strategy to fight against poverty as presented by the government of Cameroon in April 2003 at (accessed 16 June 2008).
30 Order 20/B1/1464/MINEF/MINEDUC/CAB/ of 13; art 2 of the Order indicates that primary education is free.
31 Art 11(3) of this law emphasises that primary education is free.
32 IMF Country Report 06/260 of July 2006, para 213.
33 Circular Note B1/1464/MINEDUC/SG/DESG/DRH/ of 2 July 2003.
34 Telephone conversation with Maurice Kamga who worked as a teacher and primary school headmaster in rural areas for more than 30 years and is now on pension (3 March 2011).
35 More insight on the accessibility of education in Cameroon will be provided in section 3 of this article (section 3.2 below).
36 Education International '[2006-02-27] Cameroon: School without teachers, teachers without schools' (accessed 9 June 2008). It is important to note that this happened in spite of the adoption of Decrees 2000/048, 2000/049 and 2000/050 of 15 March 2000 and, most importantly, Decree 2002/041 of 4 February, which improves teachers' working conditions such as the increase of retirement age in the higher education sector as well as an increase in salaries.
37 As above.
38 December 2003 Cameroon MDGs Progress Report at Provincial Level, 6.
39 'The right to education in Cameroon' (accessed 31 March 2011).
40 As above.
41 As above.
42 As above.
43 Cameroon's second periodic report (2006) para 299, (accessed 17 May 20011).
44 As above.
45 MDGs Progress Report (n 38 above) 5.
46 Para 5 of the Preamble of the Cameroonian Constitution reads: '[We] affirm our attachment to the fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Charter of the United Nations and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and all duly ratified international conventions relating thereto.'
47 General Comment 13, para 6(b).
48 ESCR Committee General Comment 13, para 34.
49 Preamble of the Constitution, para 6.
50 Act 633/PJ L./ATN (n 22 above).
51 UNECSCO (n 21 above) 27.
52 Art 7(v).
53 UNICEF Humanitarian Action Update, Cameroon, 4 June 2008.
54 Cameroon's second periodic report (n 43 above) para 309.
55 As above.
56 As above.
57 Cameroon's third report (2010) para 281 (see overview of primary education in 2008); (accessed 17 May 2011).
58 'Cameroon - Disabled children' (accessed 15 March 2011).
59 ESCR Committee General Comment 13.
60 Act 633/PJ L/ATN (n 22 above).
61 African Commission 31st ordinary session (n 43 above) para 3(a).
62 Education International (n 36 above).
63 K Tomasevski 'The state of the right to education worldwide free or fee: 2006 Global Report' 23.
64 UN Doc CRC/C/28/Add 16 (2001) para 217; also Tomasevski (n 63 above).
65 Concluding Observations of the ESCR Committee: Cameroon, 8 December 1999.
66 Art 44(1) of CRC reads: 'States Parties undertake to submit to the Committee, through the Secretary-General of the United Nations, reports on the measures they have adopted which give effect to the rights recognised herein and on the progress made on the enjoyment of those rights.' The report mentioned above is the second periodic report of Cameroon (CRC/C/CMR/2) considered by the CRC Committee at its 1464th and 1466th meetings (see CRC/C/SR 1464 and CRC/C/SR 1466), held on 14 January 2010, and adopted, at the 1501st meeting, held on 29 January 2010.
67 Concluding Observations of the CRC Committee: Cameroon CRC/C/CMR/CO/2(2010) para 65.
68 n 67 above, paras 66(a) & (d).
69 In his annual message to the youth of the country, in 2000, President of Cameroon Paul Biya announced that public primary education would be free; also Discours de son excellence Monsieur A Kontchou Kouomegni, ministre d'etat charge des relations exterieures du Cameroon, 56eme session de la Commission des Droits de l'Homme, Geneva, 22 March 2000; and Tomasevski (n 53 above) 23.
70 Tomasevski (n 53 above) 23.
71 WD Wilson 'Human rights: Promoting gender equality in and through education' background paper for the Education for All Global Monitoring Report 2003/4 -Gender and education for all: The leap to equality 11 images/0014/001469/146974e.pdf (accessed 20 June 2010).
72 General Comment 13, para 6(c); also Tomasevski 1999 Report (n 10 above).
73 UNESCO (n 14 above) 3.
74 Act 633/PJ L./ATN (n 22 above).
75 Presidential Decree 2002/004 of 14 January 2002 on the organisation of the Ministry of National Education.
76 UNESCO (n 21 above) 28.
77 Education International (n 36 above).
78 Decision 315/B1/1464/MINEDUB of 21 February 2006.
79 Order 64C/84/MINEDUC/CAB.
80 K Chia 'Improving quality of education in Cameroon' Rudea's Vision May 2008 (accessed 25 March 2010).
81 UNICEF Humanitarian Action Update, Cameroon, 4 June 2008 'UNICEF responds to a child survival and education crisis in Eastern and Northern Cameroon' (n 53 above).
82 This is the content of the Law of Cameroon National Educational Guidelines 98/004 (1998); also art 35, corporal punishment in schools is explicitly prohibited in the draft Child Protection Code.
83 ESCR Committee Pre-Sessional Working Group 7-11 December 1998, List of Issues: Cameroon. 17/12/98; E/C.12/Q/CAMER/1 para 53.
84 Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, 4th session, Geneva, 2-13 February 2009, National Report submitted in accordance with para 15(a) of the Annex to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1* Cameroon, UN Doc A/ HRC/WG.6/4/CMR/1 para 46.
85 Cameroon second periodic report (n 57 above) para 274.
86 'Cameroon trains teachers on HIV education in primary schools' http://www.unicef. org/ infobycountry/cameroon_51320.html (accessed 15 March 2011).
87 Cameroon third report (n 57 above) para 276.
88 ESCR Committee General Comment 13 para 6(d).
89 B Fonlon 'A case for early bilingualism' (1963) 4 ABBIA: Cameroon Cultural Review 56-94; B Fonlon 'The language problem in Cameroon' (1969) 22 ABBIA: Cameroon Cultural Review 5-40.
90 BB Njock 'Le problême linguistique au Cameroun' (1966) 73 LAfrique et L'Asie 3-13.
91 M Tadadjeu 'Language planning in Cameroon: Toward a trilingual education system' in RK Herbert (ed) Patterns in language, culture, and society: Sub-Saharan Africa (1975) 53-75; M Tadadjeu (ed) L'enseignement des langues au Cameroun - Language education in Cameroon (1981).
92 EA Anchimbe 'Socio-pragmatic constraints to native or indigenous language education in Cameroon' in F Olaoba et al (eds) Selected proceedings of the 36th annual conference on African linguistics (2006) 133-141.
93 JM Essono 'De l'enseignement des langues nationales dans le secondaire: Les problêmes d'organisation' in Tadadjeu (n 91 above) 104-118.
94 See 'Education in Cameroon The Cameroon education system' (accessed 27 February 2009).
95 RK Hitchcock & D Vinding 'Introduction' in RK Hitchcock & D Vinding (eds) Indigenous people's rights in Southern Africa (2004) 11; also SA Djoyou Kamga Promotion of indigenous and tribal peoples' rights through the implementation of the principles of ILO Convention No 169 and the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights: Namibia Desk Review (2007) 32; ILO project under the auspices of the Centre for Human Rights, University of Pretoria (on file with author).
96 IWIGIA briefing on Namibia, July 2005; also Djoyou Kamga (n 95 above).
97 MDGs Progress Report (n 38 above) 5.
98 International Commission of Jurists Courts and the legal enforcement of economic, social and cultural rights: Comparative experience of justiciability (2008) 6.
99 Para 23.
100 V Bhagwan & V Bhushan Comparing constitutions (1987) 12.
101 Rapport de la Cour Supreme du Cameroun (2000), as quoted by GZ Sebenzile The Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) case as a model for the protection of the right to health in Africa, with particular reference to South Africa and Cameroon (2005) 41.
102 E Denza 'The relationship between international and national law' in MD Evans (ed) International law (2006) 437; also M Dixon Textbook on international law (2007) 88.
103 MD Afuba 'The constitutional protection of civil and political rights in Cameroon' (2006) University of Botswana Law journal 68-69.
104 Law 89/019 of 29 December 1989.
105 Constitution, para 47(1).
106 Constitution, para 47(2).
107 Tomaveski global report (n 10 above) 23; also UN Doc CRC/C/28/Add.16 (2001) paras 192-193.
108 Concluding Observations of the ESCR Committee: Cameroon 8 December 1999 E/ C12/1/Add.40 para 11.
109 As above.
110 CA Chofor Che 'Challenges of incorporating and enforcing a bill of rights in the Cameroonian Constitution' (2008) 2 Cameroon journal of Democracy and Human Rights 1 (accessed 20 March 2011).
111 High Level Group on EFA (Abuja, Nigeria, November 2002), as quoted by UNESCO (2008) 4.
112 L Arbour The Plan of Action of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Protection and Empowerment (2005); also Rights and Democracy Annual Report 2005/2006 1.
113 Art 37(3) of the Constitution.
114 As above.
115 Art 51(1) of the Constitution.
116 Art 51(2) of the Constitution.
117 M Nguélé Abada 'L'independendance des juridictions constitutionnelles dans le constitutionalisme des Etats francophones post guerre froide: L'exemple du conseil constitutionnel Camerounais' textes5/ABADA.pdf (accessed 25 March 2011).
118 CM Fombad International encyclopaedia of laws: Constitutional law (2003) 125.
119 Adopted by General Assembly Resolution 48/134 of 20 December 1993.
120 Decree 90-1459 of 8 November 1990, para 2.
121 See Paris Principles, paragraph allocated to 'Additional principles concerning the status of commissions with quasi-jurisdictional competence'.
122 Banda, the Chairperson of the Cameroonian Commission of Human Rights, as quoted by CCDH Press Release (n 119 above).
123 n 21 above.
124 J Klaaren 'South African Human Rights Commission' in S Woolman et al (eds) Constitutional law of South Africa (2010) 24-c12.
125 As above.

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