Back-To-School Outreach project
Five years ago, the minds of most Cameroonians pictured the North West and the South West Regions of Cameroon whenever the term, “Education” was mentioned. These two regions were generally known as the country’s main hub of studies. Unfortunately, the narrative changed when the current socio-political crisis "Anglophone crisis", plagued these two regions, inflicting deadly wounds and leaving scars on all sectors of these communities. Gunshots, kidnappings, killings, lock-downs, burning of houses have become persistent occurrences since the onset of this crisis in these once very peaceful regions of Cameroon. It is very appalling to know that one of the biggest casualties was and is still the educational sector. A plethora of young people (especially those in the rural areas) dropped out of school due to the atmosphere of insecurity, that led to many schools being burnt down with teachers and students haunted when exercising their official duty. Some students/pupils had the zeal to go to school despite the situation, but lost their sponsors or guardians to the crisis and could not push through. Approximately 855,000 young people were out of school in these two regions due to the Anglophone crises, according to a 2019 UNICEF Report.
Currently, many educational institutions in the capital cities of these regions are gradually functioning. However many young people find it extremely difficult to enroll in school, primarily, because they lack the finances to afford school fees as well as basic school needs. With this situation, the frequently asked question has been what could be done from our end to assist those students who have been greatly affected by the anglophone crisis but yet are passionate about studies and cannot afford school?
This question kept ringing in the mind of Nformi Melvis Nyaah the founder of Providence Action and an Open Dreams Scholar who decided to take action in providing a solution to this problem in the way she could.
On 22/06/2021, Melvis expressed her interest in sponsoring one or two students who were affected by the anglophone crisis in the North West Region of Cameroon. Open Dreams scholar, Callis Villiah Vishiti expressed her passion and interest in joining the project. Together they came up with a project where more than 2 students could be sponsored. Under the umbrella of Providence Action (an initiative aim at meeting the educational and health-related needs of underprivileged young people), the Back-to-school Outreach project commenced. The project was aimed at sponsoring at least 5 secondary school students who are passionate about education but were affected by the anglophone crises in one way or another and hence could not afford access to education.
Callis and Melvis at the Open Dream Center in Yaounde, after a long day of hard work on the project.
As time unfolded, more people expressed their interest and became part of the team. A team of 8 individuals worked in a union to come up with strategies to realize the project. Through a myriad of in-person and online planning meetings with team members accompanied by support from some individuals via donations, all the goals were reached within their allocated time frames..
The team made up of Melvis Nformi, Chancelyne Wulseh, Mickey, Courage, Callis Vishiti, Akwese Majolie, planning on the project via multiple zoom meetings, google meet etc.
Two weeks to the implementation of the project, Melvis traveled to Bamenda (North West Region) to ensure that the chosen benefactors suited the criteria of the project. After her work with the team on the ground, a total of seven benefactors were selected amongst many. This was the maximum number of individuals who could be supported based on the fund we had at hand. After so much effort put in by the team, a total sum of $861 was raised via the Gofundme platform, a contribution from some team members and other individuals.
During the selection process, the team utilized a lot of empathy in choosing and supporting the benefactors.They understood that some families had been chronically affected by the crisis and decided to go the extra mile of covering the cost of production of vital documents (birth certificates) that some benefactors lost as a result of the crisis. As was a vital document for their admissions into form one.
Nformi Melvis, two benefactors (in gowns) and their guardian (in blue skirt), and at the Bamenda 3 Council for the making of their birth certificates.
On 31/08/2021, four members of the team converged in Bamenda and moved to all 6 secondary schools with each benefactor to get their complete fees and registration paid. It was a fun-filled experience as they happily visited all the institutions while having discussions with the beneficiaries and their guardians. An uncountable number of “THANK YOUs” were constantly re-echoed by the benefactors alongside smiles which portrayed a clear expression of hope. With tears in their eyes, most parents kept saying that Providence Action had lifted a huge burden that constantly weighed them down.
Team Providence Action and beneficiaries at their schools finalizing their enrollment
The 02/09/2021 marked the last phase of the implementation of the project. A meeting aimed at distributing school and writing materials was organized by the Providence Action team and all the beneficiaries and their guardians were invited. This took place at the Open Dream Center in Bamenda. The program started at 10:00 am and lasted for about 2 hours. During the brief meeting, Nformi Melvis provided the invitees with details on what Providence Action is all about and what they had done in the past. A lot of individuals were marveled at the words that left her mouth as she expressed her passion for reaching out to the underprivileged especially those affected by the anglophone crises. A lot of guardians could not help themselves but verbally express their gratitude for all she and her team have been able to do.
Nformi Melvis giving a talk about Providence Action
Callis Vishiti later took the floor where she explicitly expressed her passion for education. She used herself as an example of someone who had firsthand experience with gunshots and violence but remained focused and encouraged the beneficiaries to follow her example and do even more..
Callis Vishiti speaking during the implementation meeting
This was immediately followed by words of thanks from almost all guardians. The atmosphere was saturated with joy which could be felt through the words that left the lips of the parents. Most of them continually mentioned the fact they had no words to express their joy. One of the parents was moved to the extent that he shared his story. His words read, “I lost my father in class 3. After that, I had to struggle with my mom to pay my school fees and cater for my school needs. Three years later, I lost my mother. I had no option but to start doing odd jobs to survive until I had my first school leaving certificate. I had no sponsor, I wish such an association existed back then. Never would I have been a security guard”. With these words, both the beneficiaries, parents and project team were greatly encouraged.
Another parent was so touched that she suggested that the beneficiaries pledge they will do their best academically, morally, and in every other aspect of which they all did.
Some beneficiaries saying their pledge
The pledge was followed by words of encouragement from other member of the project team
Team members encouraging beneficiaries
The day ended with the distribution of school and writing materials to the children. These students were all set for the 2021/2022 academic year, ready to achieve their dreams despite their challenges resulting from the Anglophone crisis.
This marked the end of the implementation phase of the back-to-school project of Providence Action for the academic year 2021/2022.
Is this the end? Definitely not! There are many other young people in the North West Region of Cameroon who need such opportunities. Providence Action plans on continuing with this initiative so that more youths in this region and beyond can be supported to attain school. We believe in education and will do our best to see that more Cameroonians go to school!
Written by Nformi Melvis (founder of Providence Action, Open Dreams Scholar) & Callis Villiah Vishiti (Open Dream Scholar, Ashinaga Scholar)