Located at a strategic crossroads within the Lake Chad basin, Northern Cameroon is marked by a diversity of ethnicities, languages, religions and religious sects. Cameroon has historically been known as a country of inter-ethnic and religious tolerance and collaboration. Yet vast geographic inequalities in access to education, information, and livelihood opportunities have left the northern population, particularly women and youth, marginalized, under-served, and neglected. The result is a people in critical need of access to information and education.
The North and Far North are the least developed of any of Cameroon’s 10 regions. While the national average for literacy sits at 71%, the figures for the North and Far North are 35% and 26%, respectively. Only 54% (Far North) and 48% (North) of the population receives any formal education versus 81% for the country as a whole. The average years of schooling for those in the North and Far North (4.3 and 4.2 years) is more than a third below the national average (6.7). Only 5% (Far North) and 10% (North) of the population in each region have received formal professional training, compared to 27% for the country overall. Compounding the regions’ low literacy rates, 85% and 79% of the population in the Far North and North, respectively, are underemployed, as compared to 66% for the country as a whole. Among youth in the North and Far North those numbers are even higher.
Within this context, a comprehensive solution empowering marginalized youth, women, and whole communities, particularly in rural areas, with information, education, and practical tools to lead productive lives while inspiring their positive community participation is critically needed. With formal education systems lacking and increased unemployment, citizens must be provided with positive opportunities for information, education, and inspiration by supporting moderate voices, improving information flows among community members on peace and tolerance concepts, and promoting dialogue between stakeholders about issues of concern.