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  • Neba Elvis Tanwie, Open Dreams Scholar

You are the first generation that cannot and must not fail

“…You are the first generation that cannot and must not fail…” I couldn’t agree more with Bob Geldof.

As a generation, we have just recently combined our expertise to take the first ever image of a Black Hole and we are steadily on a course to developing artificial intelligent systems with the wit none of us can prognosticate, yet we also do have the knowledge and skills to make weapons that can potentially eliminate all of us and the decision of just one person can cost the lives of many. The menaces of climate change are equally real, and its effects are becoming more and more devastating from Mozambique to New Zealand to Indonesia to the US; even countries with the state-of-the-art facilities struggle with the damages caused. Indeed, our existence is at stake, our planet is at stake; our failure would mean our very end.

With all these challenges facing our generation, we need diverse ideas for solutions, we need new perspectives, we need creative minds that will be courageous enough to challenge the status quo for better results. Relenting to give every young child the ability to think critically through quality education is the biggest mistake we can make. Millions of children still can’t access primary education in Africa, Latin America and the Middle east; in fact, some statistics hold that it would cost 80 billion US dollars to enrol all children currently out of school. More worrying is the fact that, the number of school dropouts in some western countries keeps increasing as the cost of schooling continues to surge. Yet, schooling itself does not guarantee quality education. Most school systems around the world, notably in Africa continue to program young people to become “memory machines” with no ability to think independently; these systems train young minds to be “Excel worksheets” that fits data into designed formulae to get results or simply “photocopying machines” that accurately copy text from one source to another without any sense of inquisition. Uniformity is applauded; uniqueness or simply difference is discouraged. Western systems though not perfect strive to encourage uniqueness. Quality education should be focused on instilling the skills of thinking critically, writing analytically and communicating eloquently; curiosity and resilience should be at its core. Traditional courses must be given up for courses in ICT, entrepreneurship, health, and agriculture.

Our survival in the next decades would depend on how well we educate our young people and we cannot gamble that for anything. Hate crimes will escalate, terrorism would spike, and the menaces of climate change would continue to exacerbate if we do not do much to educate young people.Indeed, quality education is the sine quo non for our survival!

We must start redefining and restructuring our educational systems to make sure every young person is given the ability to think in order to circumvent the challenges we face.

Open Dreams works daily not only to give disadvantaged students the opportunity to access quality education but also does much to instil the ideals of quality education in its scholars. It places much emphasis on making its scholars become community-driven creative thinkers. The least I can do is to help in extending this vision to other parts of Cameroon. This summer, I will be working with Open Dreams to run a comprehensive summer academy for young Cameroonians in Yaoundé. Our aim is to identify and equip high-achieving low-income Cameroonians in Yaoundé, prioritising internally displaced students, with the knowledge and skills needed to compete for admission and financial assistance into top-notch universities and ultimately to solve the problems of our generation. Leadership, social entrepreneurship, ICT and community service would be at the centre of the academy. For this to actualise, we depend on you all. Firstly, we depend on current Open Dreams scholars and pre-scholars to spread the news to their current or former high schools so we can get students who can benefit most from this initiative. We equally count on Open Dreams alumni, all of whom have had a taste of problem-solving based educational systems, to make out time to give back some of the knowledge and skills they have gained during their stay abroad. We appreciate the work that our mentors have been sacrificing to help these young people and we hope we will continue to count on them for their priceless mentorship. We are equally short of words to thank our donors; they are the generous givers who invest their heart-earned emoluments to make sure financially disadvantaged student are given an opportunity of better education; we continue to count on your support.

For sure, a summer academy isn’t the solution to the problem of providing quality education faced in almost all parts of the world, but a journey of a thousand miles starts with a step. Hopefully, we will get to our destination someday, a point where no child is left uneducated for whatever reason, but we must take a step today by supporting the initiative to help 50 young Cameroonians access quality education.

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