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Teaching Placement, Cameroon

Cameroon - November 2016

This is a report by Janet, an Independent volunteer who accepted a three month teaching placement at the Government Technical College, Ntigi, in the North West Region of Cameroon.

The project proved to be set against a difficult background due to a strike that broke out across this anglophone region because of a dispute with Government. The situation was such that Janet decided to return home early as local unrest was rising and the schools remained closed for a large part of her stay and subsequently for many weeks after her return home. The report is in Janet's own words.

"It was not without a certain nervousness and trepidation that I set foot on Cameroonian soil to embark on my new venture as a volunteer teacher of English via AIDCAMPS INTERNATIONAL in London, and  SHUMAS in Bamenda, Cameroon.

The inaugural welcoming ceremony at the Government Technical school in Bambili proved to be overwhelmingly moving and a momentous occasion where I was treated like royalty.


Some three hundred pupils, immaculate in their beige uniforms, lined the dusty route to the school waving little flags to welcome me and after numerous speeches by the Fon, (chief of the village), the Principal, head of the PTA and the wife of Shumas´ CEO, I was regaled with a selection of songs by the school choir and afterwards with traditional dances.

A few days later, however, I was put to the test when I  had to start teaching. The first hurdle was actually physically getting to the school, situated in the bush at the end of a dirt track riddled with pot holes, which no taxi driver would even contemplate.... So I had to rely on the services of a PTA member for the first few days and then a colleague.

Daunting, I think, would best describe my first day at school as I was literally thrown  in at the deep end. Nobody had warned me that there would be 90 pupils in each class nor that a number of them would have no text book. Moreover, lessons were given in double periods of 50 minutes each (total 100 mins.), which required a tremendous amount of ingenuity and effort on the teacher´s behalf to maintain the students´ interest and motivation.

The absence of a proper staff room was also a surprise and it was the norm for the staff to sit outside on a bench to mark and prepare work.

In the existing three classrooms, the rudimentary blackboards proved to be a nightmare and the chalk written lesson content was barely visible. There were absolutely no teachers´ materials not even a teacher´s book nor a table to put one´s belongings on, nor a chair  to sit on. The absence of wall displays of children´s work and colourful posters was also striking.

As an outsider, one could immediately identify the urgent need for reform and development in the educational system in Cameroon, but unfortunately I personally was unable to make much of an impact as after only two weeks, a teachers´ strike was declared and all schools were closed in the English speaking regions, and sadly the industrial action continued for several weeks after I had to leave.

My mission had hardly got off the ground and there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation other than offer my services in the NGO offices, editing and translating and giving the occasional lesson to children in the Rehabilitation Centre, before finally deciding to return to Europe due to the worsening political instability."

Janet

AidCamps really appreciates everything Janet did to make the most of her placement against very difficult odds. Despite a thorough briefing and a detailed project proposal some eventualities simply cannot be prepared for and the strike, as well as the disquiet locally, left Janet with insufficient work to do to justify her remaining in Cameroon - though we were delighted to learn that she was able to continue some work for SHUMAS on her return home. Thanks Janet!

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