20. The school behind bars
This project aims to ensure that young people in prison in Cameroon have access to education. In addition to the exercise of a fundamental right, this will enable them to develop various knowledge and skills and strengthen their capacities in order to promote their social reintegration and combat recidivism. The project also aims to promote a change in perception among communities and families, and to restore family ties damaged by the experience of detention.
Duration : 25 months
Promotor : grain of sand association ( GSA)
Beneficiaries : 200 minors aged 12 to 18 years old
Total budget : € 53 686
Outside financing sought : € 13 294
Some 800 minors aged 12 to 18 are currently detained in Cameroonian prisons, 76% of whom are awaiting trial, as indicated in a report by the NGO.
Defence for Children International (DCI)-Cameroon and the Christian Association for the Abolition of Torture (ACAT), following an investigation conducted in nineteen prisons across the country. Countless other children are being held in police dungeons pending a possible transfer to prison. In many respects, children are treated as adults both in court and in prisons, and the rights of the child guaranteed by international law are rarely respected.
While the average length of pre-trial detention for minors is seven months throughout the country, it can be as long as two years in some prisons, which adds to the overcrowding of remand centres. There is no alternative to incarcerating children, nor is there any service to help children after their release.
According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, art. 28; African Charter, art. 11; International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), adopted on 16 December 1966, which entered into force on 3 January 1976, art. 13, all children have the right to education, including free primary education. For this reason, deprivation of liberty cannot and must not lead to the deprivation of other fundamental rights.
However, minors in prison in Cameroon are removed from the school system as a result of their imprisonment, as prisons offer no educational opportunities. It is significant that no provision relating to the education of detainees (including minors) exists in Cameroon’s national education policy. Some of these young people have never been to school, others have been forced to drop out of school and leave home to find work after their parents’ death. Most of the minors did not go beyond primary school.
Juveniles in prison are vulnerable and influencable targets. The prison environment exposes them to crime and all kinds of abuse. Prisons are more of a place for peer-to-peer training in delinquency. Schooling, training and assistance in the development of income-generating activities are therefore minimum measures to be put in place to counter these perverse effects.
In fact, deprived of any activity during their detention, unable to support themselves or their families by earning money, some of these young people consider that the time spent in prison is rather a time to reconcile with learning, in particular to take advantage of this “free time” to learn to read and write.
> Guarantee to minors in prison in Cameroon the respect of their right to education and promote their reintegration into society by developing their self-confidence and restoring a positive image of detainees
> Promote a school curriculum identical to that of the free environment (CEP, BEPC, PROBATOIRE, BAC…)
> Facilitate access to knowledge for prisoners: libraries, new educational technologies, cultural and socio-educational practices…
> Stimulate young people to create income-generating activities;
> Provide a rest room for young people in prison;
> Improve the living conditions of minors in prison;
> Ensure that the education of minors in prison is integrated into the national education programme.
> Sensitize families and communities to the rights of these minors, to the reality of prison life and to promote the restoration of family ties.
> Operational training centres will provide young prisoners with access to schooling, information and other required services
> Trainers receive appropriate and quality training to meet the requirements of the education of minors in prison
> Income generating activities (IGAs) are implemented and reinforce the vocational training project while enhancing the value of young prisoners
> Families/communities are sensitized; relations with detained minors are improved and offer more favourable conditions for reintegration.
> The system of Coordination, Monitoring and Supervision of project execution is strengthened.