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The regional meetings > Sub-Saharan Africa > Cameroon

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  Reducing shortage of teachers during economic crisis
By Leila Loupis,
UNESCO Harare
   
    In 1995 there was a shortage of 15 thousand primary school teachers within Cameroon's education system (based on an average of 1 teacher for 50 students). Each school class held an average of 120 to 150 students. As the country was in a period of economic and employment crisis it was impossible for the government to increase the number of public servants on their payroll. Teacher training colleges had been closed for 4 years.
   
    With the help of community pressure, the Ministry of Education decided to reopen the teacher training colleges, and also to create another 9 more, bringing a total of 36 training colleges. But once the young teachers had been trained, how could you integrate them into the education system without being able to hire them as public servants?
   
  Innovative financial management
   
    Within the Ministry of Education, funds were available within a budget not allocated to pay salaries. The Ministry devised an innovative strategy in the financial management of the new teachers, which allowed them to hire the new graduates without fully integrating them into the public service. An experimental solution was created and the new teachers were offered contracts of limited duration, normally for 10 months to cover the school year, which could be renewed twice. The salary offered was low, but as the country experienced a high unemployment, the young teachers did not hesitate to accept the contracts offered.
   
  Growth of qualified teachers
   
 

  During the first year, 1600 teachers were hired on contracts of limited duration, the following year 3200, and the following again 3200; in three years there was an increase in number of nearly 8000 within the teaching profession. At the end of July 1999, another 3447 young teachers completed training and were integrated into the education system. For the year 2000, in other words 5 years later, more than 20,000 teachers are either in training or already working in the field - which largely surpasses challenge that had been made 5 years earlier; to find 15,000 qualified teachers for the year 2000.

   
    But if the teachers are only earning low salaries and do not have secure career prospective, how can you motivate and retain them within the education system? As of 1999, the Ministry will present the National Assembly with a proposal to integrate 4000 teachers per year into the public service, with the support of the World Bank.
   
    "Teachers are the battle horse to reach the goal of Education for All. Even during an economic crisis, all means should be put into action to improve the quality and the quantity of the new generation of young teachers". Says Mr. Yakouba Yaya, Director of primary, pre-primary and basic education and National EFA 2000 Coordinator. He emphasises the importance of searching locally for experimental solutions to problems within the education sector.
   
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