Cameroon does not have a fixed definition of inclusive education.
Special educational needs
Cameroon defines children with special educational needs (Acts No. 2010/003 and 2005/006) as children with significant learning difficulties due to some form of disability/disadvantage. This category includes children from areas that are remote and far away from schools; displaced, disadvantaged and poor populations; children from marginalized populations; nomads; and students in overcrowded classrooms.
The teacher training partnership agreement signed by the Ministry of Secondary Education and the non-governmental organization (NGO) Sightsavers in May 2018 refers to children with disabilities; children belonging to an ethnic minority; street children; children from displaced or refugee families; and children living with HIV or AIDS.
Act No. 90/1516 stipulates that "education of children and young adults with disabilities must be ensured in mainstream and special schools. Where necessary, mainstream schools accommodating children with disabilities will be provided with special teachers and teaching materials that are tailored to children’s needs." That being said, three types of institution provide education for children with disabilities:
- functional rehabilitation centres
- specialized institutions
- special classes in mainstream schools.
It is still very difficult to enrol children with disabilities in mainstream schools: they are often enrolled in special schools run by NGOs and private stakeholders. In 2012, there were 19 special schools in Cameroon, 16 of which were missionary-owned and three government-owned. The teacher in special schools teaches children with severe and profound disabilities. This is the case for the École spécialisée pour enfants déficients auditifs [special school for children with hearing impairments – ESEDA] and Colombe d'Etoug-Ebe nursery school in Yaoundé which accommodates students with severe learning disabilities. These schools are under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Affairs. Not including children with disabilities in mainstream schools makes it difficult for them to integrate socially and professionally. Special schools are institutions that provide a pool of "teacher champions" in more inclusive settings. Finally, autistic children are still not accepted in mainstream schools.
However, the inclusive approach is currently being implemented and takes several disabilities into account. The process is in its pilot phase in 68 inclusive schools. In addition, several services were delivered to seven experimental inclusive schools supported by Sightsavers to ensure training, sharing of good practices, provision of teaching materials, incentive bonuses and improvement of the school environment. The training received enabled teachers to take ownership of concepts and techniques for managing an inclusive school. Some private institutions really do practice inclusive education. This is the case for the Promhandicam Association and the Club des jeunes aveugles réhabilités du Cameroun [Club for Rehabilitated Blind Youth in Cameroon – CJARC].
The country has signed and ratified several international conventions on the protection of the rights of refugees, women, children, persons with disabilities and learners with special educational needs. The Constitution of 1996 and the National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Cameroon (2015–2019) recognize the right to education (free and compulsory at the primary level, regardless of disability). This enables, among other things, economically and socially marginalized learners to prepare for the world of work and to fully participate in community life. Furthermore, the Education Framework Act No. 98/004 of 14 April 1998 states that "the State shall ensure that everyone has equal opportunities for access to education without discrimination on grounds of sex; political, philosophical and religious views; or social, cultural, linguistic or geographical origin." A national inclusive education policy and an implementation strategy are in the process of being finalized.
The Constitution and other decrees, laws and circulars (Circular No.283/07/LC/MINESEC/MINAS and Circular No. 08/006/LC/MINESUP/MINAS) protect students with disabilities and vulnerable students. The laws aim to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and state that human and educational resources must be provided.
- Act No. 83/13 stipulates that families should provide their children with disabilities with access to mainstream schools and that the State should support them in this regard.
- Act No. 2010/002 addresses these learners’ well-being and aims to strengthen their psychological capacities, self-esteem and social relationships. It provides for penalties (fines and imprisonment) for school officials who discriminate against these learners.
- Act No. 90/1516 stipulates that students with disabilities must be permitted to repeat a grade twice when their disability is the reason for their failure. It also sets quotas for educational support and stresses the need to train more teachers on inclusive education strategies. Although it is often not explicitly stated, these laws and practices attempt to achieve inclusion in education.
From a policy and practices perspective, the National Plan of Action for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in Cameroon (2015–2019) presents some concrete achievements in inclusive education, including the drafting of a practical guide on accessibility for project managers, contracting authorities, architecture firms and decision makers. The Government also grants scholarships, training grants and excellence grants to deserving learners with disabilities.
The Education Sector Plan 2013–2020 mentions that the "Government will continue working closely with all stakeholders involved in the detection, care or treatment of disabilities (health; social affairs; associations; NGOs; etc.) in order to study the response and adaptation options for the school environment (institutions; equipment; educational tools; teaching aids; specific training; teaching practices) for an inclusive approach and/or to develop special education if it is more appropriate for certain disabilities." Among the reforms envisaged for access and equity in educational and training facilities, the plan mentions "taking persons with disabilities and vulnerable populations (inclusive education) into account in education policy, particularly in school buildings and training of trainers, etc."
The country has a national gender policy. Measures have also been taken with NGOs to reduce disparities and promote gender equality, including the granting of attractive school "packages". The "minimum package" is an accompanying measure to free primary education; it consists of providing schools with a minimum amount of equipment and supplies.
UN Women's "Gender Road Project", funded by the Development Bank of the Central African States and the Government of Cameroon, aims to reach at least 20,000 women in rural communities by 2020 by teaching them financial and entrepreneurial skills and improved agricultural techniques. The project also aims to facilitate their access to public services and land rights.
Ethnicity and languages
Minorities are integrated into the Anglophone or Francophone education system. To this end, the Constitution ensures the "protection of minorities" and upholds the rights of indigenous populations in accordance with the law. Since the adoption of the Education Framework Act No. 98/004 of 14 April 1998, native languages have increasingly been integrated into the official curricula. This framework act aims to facilitate learners’ understanding of their own and other cultures. It aims to enable students to learn to read, write and speak various languages fluently.
The Education Sector Plan (2013–2020) states that there are no fees at state primary or secondary schools and that scholarships are awarded to deserving students at other levels of education. Furthermore, Cameroon has implemented a more accessible schoolbook policy. Textbooks are also distributed to students and teachers in priority education areas.
The Ministry of Basic Education, the Ministry of Secondary Education, the Ministry of Higher Education and the Ministry of Technical and Vocational Education are responsible for implementing inclusive education. There is also an inclusive education department and an inclusive education unit within these ministries. The Ministry of Social Affairs assesses learners with disabilities via its regional offices and issues disability cards. The Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family, and the Ministry of Health also help promote inclusive education.
Finally, various national actors are striving to ensure the right to education (Ministry of Basic Education; Ministry of Secondary Education; Ministry of Higher Education; Ministry of Employment and Vocational Training; Ministry Of Youth Affairs and Civic Education; and National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms), the rights of persons with disabilities (Ministry of Social Affairs; National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms; Promhandicam Association; National Blindness Control Programme), indigenous populations (Ministry of Social Affairs; Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family; Ministry of State Property, Surveys and Land Tenure; National Commission on Human Rights and Freedoms; Elections Cameroon) and refugees (Ministry of External Relations). They are supported by NGOs (such as Plan Cameroon; the Mbororo Social and Cultural Development Association [MBOSCUDA]; the Forum for African Women Educationalists Cameroon [FAWECAM]; the National Association of Cameroonian Language Committees [ANACLAC]; the Cameroon Education For All Network [CEFAN]; Sightsavers; and the Education Cluster), teachers' unions, parent-teacher associations and other organizations (such as the United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund [UNICEF]; the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO]; the World Bank; and the Israeli Embassy).
Services and infrastructure
Under Act No. 90/1516, schools are required to make the necessary adjustments to meet all children’s needs, including children with disabilities. Act No. 2011/018 makes the practice of physical and sporting activities compulsory, including in rehabilitation institutions for persons with disabilities.
Curriculum and teaching materials
The assessment system and curricula are the same, except for some learners with disabilities. There were plans to reform the system for student assessment in order to "turn learning assessments into an educational tool and not one of exclusion".
There is no national training framework for educators and teachers specializing in the education of persons with visual and hearing impairments. As a result, there are few training centres for inclusive education teachers. However, NGOs and academic institutions offer several training courses. To this end, the Ministry of Secondary Education and the NGO Sightsavers signed a partnership agreement in 2018 for teacher training on inclusive education. Sightsavers plans to provide training on inclusive education at the National Teacher Training College in Buea. It will also provide resources to other training institutes in the long term.
The Higher Teacher Training College at the University of Bamenda and the Cameroon Baptist Convention Health Board (CBCHB) have introduced a module on inclusive education. They plan to create a special needs department. Furthermore, the Higher Institute of Applied Psychopedagogy also plays an active role in inclusive education training. Finally, the private centre, the Cameroon Inclusive Special Education Teacher Training and Empowerment Programme (CISETTEP) has been training and empowering professionals for inclusive and special education since 2015. It also trains transcribers in sign language and Braille. One of the institution’s objectives is to help to identify issues affecting persons living with disabilities, and to initiate, develop and introduce innovative and sustainable solutions through education and training.
Cameroon does not have a national education monitoring report.