Cameroon: local youth and refugees build a common future
In Bertoua, Cameroon, young students are not only
learning a vocational skill, but how to live and work alongside each other. The
Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Cameroon is offering an eight-month professional
training course, along with dormitory accommodations, for young refugees and
Cameroonians in five different centres. The project promotes reconciliation and
social cohesion with the aim to end discrimination against Central African
refugees in the country, build bridges between communities, and provide
opportunities to youths who want to build a better future.
“This training has advantages for both Cameroonians
and Central Africans,” explained Zari, a young Cameroonian who is studying in
the Health Assistant course. “For Cameroonians, it means benefiting from the
discovery of new cultures and ways of life. Also, learning to collaborate in
each other’s businesses benefits us all.”
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees(UNHCR), over 105,000 Central Africans have been displaced in
bordering countries following the violence erupting from the December 2020
elections, and more than 5,000 of them sought refuge in Cameroon.
The lack of resources and opportunities has stoked
prejudices and hostility towards these newcomers. Limited access to basic
services and education has also created instances of social exclusion to
forcibly displaced individuals from their host countries.
In this JRS youth training programme, seventy per cent
of the students are refugees, while thirty per cent come from the host
community; this creates opportunities for cultural exchanges, hospitality,
solidarity, and fellowship. The students also participate in theatre, cinema,
and peacebuilding activities.
Since the program started in 2018, around 470 students
have taken advantage of the various courses that are offered - e.g., courses
geared to teach skills in industries such as the hotel business, hair and
beauty, administration, and healthcare.
“I am learning about the functions of the human body
and how to work in a healthcare centre, because it is my dream to heal others,”
expressed Ezéchiel, from the Central African Republic, who is in the same
course as Zari.
“Personally, I would like to develop my own business
with a refugee,” explained Esther. After living together with a mixed group of
friends while following a course on administration, she came to understand the
importance of social inclusion for refugees. “Refugees need people to understand
them in order to overcome their difficulties,” she added.
the beginning I was not so sure about the idea of living with people I didn’t
know,” recounted Sylver. But later, I told myself that we can actually
complement and assist each other.” After finishing the administration course,
he wants to start a business with a Cameroonian person to contribute to peace
and stability. “You have to think about others as your brothers and sisters,”