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Cameroon: For gay students, new school year brings worries

For LGBTI students, returning to school in September means returning to a hotbed of stigmatization and discrimination. LGBTI advocacy groups help them cope.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Campus scene at the University of Yaoundé I. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

By Courtney Stans

After a long vacation, the start of the school year is difficult for LGBTI students, who often are denied a supportive school environment.

Stigmatization and discrimination against LGBTI people are common in many social environments, particularly in schools as well as in health services and the legal system.

LGBTI students often are rejected by their peers, scorned by teachers and threatened with expulsion by administrators.

All those factors tempt LGBTI students to abandon their studies, a decision that leads many into a life of poverty and limited job prospects.

“LGBTI people need education like everyone else. That is their right, which the government of Cameroon should take steps to ensure,” says 21-year-old Hervé, a second-year student at the University of Yaoundé I.

Angel, who is in his final year in university, agrees with Hervé. He actually  thinks LGBTI people are smarter than other students, but need help from the government in repressing anti-gay bias at schools.

On a yearly basis, Cameroon’s various LGBTI advocacy organizations such as Camfaids, Alternatives-Cameroon and Humanity First Cameroon carry out awareness-raising activities in order to improve the climate for LGBTI youth in schools and professional training institutes.

They are especially designed for LGBTI students, seeking to inform them about how to behave in school environments, including how to interact with classmates and teachers — be discreet, avoid displays of sexual orientation or gender identity, don’t make sexual advances to classmates. Be punctual, studious and hardworking, clean and poised. Avoid  debates about gay rights.  Separate their private emotional life from their public school life.

Courtney Stans adds:

For the new school year 2020-2021, we wish good luck to all LGBTI students in Cameroon.

Courtney Stans, the author of this article, is a Cameroonian journalist who writes under a pseudonym. Contact her at [email protected].