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Hitting the streets | Krystie In Midst of the Anglophone Crisis

It started with ghost towns, gunshots, kidnappings, indiscriminate killings, and destruction of property. The Anglophone crisis affecting Bamenda, my home town in Cameroon, started in 2016. At that time, I was in grade form 3. Most schools were targeted including mine and shut down. This meant going for one year without formal education as I spent the rest of the year at home.

The following year when shutdowns were scaled down and some schools regained their activities, I started all over from grade form 3. A retardation rather than a progress. I studied under unsafe conditions, paying attention to the sounds of gunshots and the fear in my heart rather than the teacher's voice. Kidnappings and school destruction evolved into unavoidable events as most public schools were still the target of separatist fighters. As a result, I had to dress in unofficial attire to avoid being identified as a student by separatist fighters. This was typical for public school students like me.

Unlike most families in the countryside, my parents had very little financial means to relocate to a safer region. In these circumstances, I had to show proof of resilience and study under unfavorable conditions.

In October 2017 my dad passed away due to an acute illness. It was a hard knock on our family given that dad was our main source of income and family support. My mom, a local seamstress, took up the responsibility of both parents with the most difficult being the financial responsibility of my education and that of my 4 siblings. With a decline in economic activities due to this socio-political unrest, things became undoubtedly difficult.

Countless are the number of times I was sent home from school because I had not paid my tuition.

On a Saturday morning in December 2017, Mom got up with the sweet sound of morning birds and a positive energy to start off her daily activities. Setting out to her seamstress workplace she only returned home in tears. Her workshop had been set on fire by unidentified individuals. All her investments burnt down into ashes.

There was no money to pay for my tuition or even guarantee payments in installments. I was finally sent away from school for good. A 2nd year out of school.

To make ends meet and secure my education, I joined my mom in her endeavors to start afresh. She stitched fabrics using her home machine while I hawked the streets to sell these clothes. I experienced what it was to “hit the streets”. The experience was indeed a hard one but from every experience, there was a lesson to learn and some skills to develop.

On some days, I sold no clothes after touring the streets of Bamenda. On other days, customers' manners of approach and rude behavior made me question my identity if this activity was meant for me. That was the only way to raise money to return to school, so I had to cultivate patience, resilience, and perseverance.

Working alongside Mom not only strengthened our bond but also ignited my passion for sewing. I learned other trades such as hairdressing and stitching chair/table mats.

Through relentless efforts, mom and I were able to raise enough funds used to purchase another workshop at the central town market where she regained her activities. I also returned to school in September 2018. The 2 years out of school taught me that even in the face of adversity, I can find a purpose to change a situation.

- Krystie Makoubo'22

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