Education & Jobs

Primary education

School is compulsory for children between the ages of six and 14 years. The government introduced free primary education in 2000. Therefore, enrolment at primary level is high, at around 90% of pupils.

Teaching basketball


In this video... one of the teachers at SOS Children's Villages Mbalmayo talks about her passion for teaching and basketball

A general shortage of teachers has led to large class sizes in some regions. The World Bank has been supporting the government in training and funding over 37,000 extra teachers.

Some Cameroonian children leave school early. This is because parents have to pay for uniforms, books and sometimes extra fees. These costs prove too much for the poorest families. Girls are more often taken out of school than boys. They can be expected to carry out household duties or marry early.

While literacy rates are high compared to other countries in the region, more young men are able to read and write (around 90% of 15-24  year-olds) than young women (only 78% of 15-24 year-olds).

Though most schools are state-run, there are many private schools in Cameroon, often founded by missionary or religious organisations. These schools teach over a fifth of primary school pupils and receive state subsidies.

Secondary education

There are two secondary models in Cameroon, based on the French and the British school systems, depending on where children live - see History & Politics. Both have ‘lower’ and ‘upper’ years.

However, many parents are unable to afford secondary school fees. For those lucky enough to attend secondary education and gain GCE Advanced Level or Baccaluareate qualifications at the end, there are seven public universities where they can pursue further education. All the universities except one teach in French.

  • A girl writing on the blackboard, Cameroon
  • Children in primary school

Working on the land

Working children

The minimum legal age for employment is 14 years. But in rural areas, it is common for young children to work on family farms.

At least 70% of the population still works in agriculture. Most carry out subsistence farming where they grow enough food for their families and possibly earn a little money from cash crops.

Though Cameroon’s economy has been growing steadily, jobs in the formal sectors are hard to find and unemployment is high. Even when people have work, average wages are low and the working week is normally over 50 hours, with one day off.

Nearly 280,000 Cameroonians have left the country to seek jobs abroad (according to World Bank estimates).