Ask any young person in Cameroon if they could have one wish, and there is only one answer: “To go to school.” But so much gets in the way of their dreams.
Only 50% of Cameroonians complete an elementary education, even though primary school is free. Families still have to pay for books, uniforms, and supplies, which is more than many can afford.
Tuition and fees at the secondary school level are often out of reach for many families. As a result, just 28% of males and 22% of females in Cameroon finish high school.
Families are often forced to make impossible decisions such as the decision between food for their family and school for their children. Too often parents are forced to take their children out of school so they can work in the fields or the family business to help put food on the table.
Girls are at a disadvantage. In 2004, 22% of women in Cameroon had no education (compared to 10% of men). If families are forced to choose, for financial reasons, which of their children attend school, they often keep girls at home for domestic chores. There are also widespread cultural and religious beliefs that schooling for girls is not important because girls will just get married and not seek formal employment.
What It Means
Bottom line: Education improves a person’s quality of life–especially in a developing country like Cameroon. It improves that person’s health and well-being and improves the future prospects for their family, community, and country.
Educating a women educates an entire family, since women are often caretakers for their family. Women in Africa who complete a secondary school education typically have higher incomes, smaller families, and healthier children.
An educated individual has more job opportunities and greater earning potential. In Cameroon, the higher a family’s socioeconomic status, the greater the chances that their children will survive past their 5th birthday.
The more educated a person is, the better their health–even for families with low incomes. For example, the frequency of infant death, diarrheal disease, and malaria among children all decrease as the education level of their parents increases, regardless of socioeconomic status.