Save the Future
On the occasion of the 2020 International Day of Education, the Open Dreams scholars took part in interactive sessions with James Akaba of Open Dreams and a special guest speaker, Nguedia N. Edith Eliette . The discussions cut across the importance of education in human-development efforts and building a peaceful world, access to education as a fundamental right even in a conflict situation to avoid losing a generation, professional development, entrepreneurship, innovation, the respect of human rights and the rule of law, selflessness etc.
Guest Speaker, Edith Eliette presenting
In the first lesson lead by James, from Nelson Mandela to Malala Yousafzai to the state of education in Syria, Iraq, Somalia and other conflict-ridden areas, together we watched videos of teachers and students risking it all in caves for Education, which is the best investment to bequeath the next generation - #EducationFirst. We also discussed the very high cost of education in conflict zones. Countries with fragility, conflict or in a war situation represent the biggest challenges to achieving the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals of ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning for all - #SDG4. Thus, building capacities, resilience, strengthening services in contexts of fragility are great steps in enabling access to education to those in critical environments. Keeping children in education during wars and other emergencies is a future-saving priority. #SaveTheFuture.
#EducationFirst above all else for those in the North (NW) and South West (SW) Regions of Cameroon . #SavetheFuture
Education helps children to sustain hope and to keep some sense of normality in otherwise stressful circumstances, and improves the prospects for recovery and longer-term well-being. It helps the children to dream and to hold to their dreams and working consistently on achieving them #OpenDreams. It unlocks their potential and makes them ready for the opportunities and challenges life offers. For the young are the future and the health of education translates to the health of the nation. The absence of formal education breeds endemic poverty, violence, exclusion etc and takes even a bigger toll on women and girls as they bear the family burden at the end of the day. A formal education vacuum creates a generational problem that takes decades and many actors to address - it is costly and it is a humanitarian disaster. All these discussions were in the context of the situation in the North and South West Regions of Cameroon, formally the epicenter of Education in Cameroon where thousands of young people have been out of school for 3 years and counting and many school buildings lie in ruin and are fast dilapidation. A generational humanitarian disaster is building up before our watchful eyes and the very essence of life is losing meaning. Armed-conflicts and wars transforms countless children into orphans disrupting the priceless family support chain. Worst still, the livelihood and life-time investment of citizens in the N/SWR of Cameroon are being destroyed. Hence, young people take delight in joining the armed struggle, marrying young and/or being exposed to sexual abuse, given the non-existence of a sustainable survival economic mechanism or some form of economic empowerment. Quoting Josephine Bourne, Chief of Education for UNICEF (2017), “At no time is education more important than in times of war. Without education, how will children reach their full potential and contribute to the future and stability of their families, communities and economies?”
Now our guest speaker, “I am Edith Eliette and I am aged below 30.” After the amusing introductions which all followed this pattern, Edith went on to share her professional parkour with us, which is very rich locally and internationally. She mentioned having experienced conflict in the Northern part of Cameroon and in the nation of Haiti where she served under the United Nations, which left many people miserable and prevented many from schooling. Her actions as a Human Rights Advocate in this area fueled up her community spirit and thus the desire to work hard for the good of others. She also talked of her experience monitoring trials within the military and other courts in Cameroon to assess the degree to which human rights are respected.
The depiction of her amazing volunteering experiences in advocacy on human rights under different local organizations brought us in an atmosphere of inspiration and amazement. From helping people affected by the Boko Haram crisis to assisting IDPs from the crisis-hit regions of Cameroon, Edith demonstrated volunteering opportunities to selflessly be of help to those in very desperate situations and who need it most. Through this, one builds a profile for visibility; for in providing humanitarian solutions, many other opportunities emerge. Volunteering efforts often take long to attract benefits but ultimately they do, in addition to the satisfaction derived therefrom.
Edith at the 2019 One Young World gathering in London
Amazed by her different experiences, we asked Edith how she got to the level she was and she recounted to us her One Young World Experience, where she got more inspiration, great experience and motivation to fuel her dreams and future impact to help Cameroonians from different backgrounds and hence partnering with local organizations to do so. One Young World is a leadership program which empowers the young to create impact around them and Open Dreams is proudly a nominating partner for one Young World Programs.
“If the youth are dormant, what’s the future for us?” These words from Edith caused us to reflect as she explained to us the importance of acting now by utilizing the knowledge we get from school without neglecting our passions or playing the victim.
“The person who needs your help is generally by your side; just look around.” With these other triggers, we were edified on the place of education and the application of knowledge, skills and selflessness to better our community.
Many thrive to get knowledge to earn a living, others get knowledge and complain they can't find what to make of it, but the successful ones are those who look just around them for opportunities to be of service and that's where most of the problems are found. Every man is a solution to one problem or another and education orientates each person towards being that solution.
Edith inspired us by sharing her volunteering experiences as a radio news presenter in her days at the universities of Buea and Dschang and a Human Rights Advocate locally and internationally, to let us know the importance of starting small whether we are recognized or not. We should not only scramble for government jobs but instead, find our passion and make it our profession; that is essentially carving out a niche of your own, putting in your best and ultimately making a difference which attracts greater attention and rewards.
In comparison with Haiti and beyond, Edith spoke so elaborately on the many benefits students enjoy in Cameroon from basic education to the universities in public schools, where the cost of education is heavily subsidized by the state to increase access to it for all and sundry and the very rich content of the curriculum and the rigorous work the teachers, lecturers and the students all do and how the international system (UN inclusive) believes in and places our educational system and certificates ensuing from it at a very high ranking. #EducationForAll
The day ended with sport dance and keep-fit exercises
From these few hours, I carry much home. Firstly, education is important but responsibility and success are not solely dependent on grades but on our ability to use knowledge to produce impact around us, no matter the nature of the resources present. And like Edith says, "Take advantage of what you have. You might not have the best but you can use what you have. We may have an imperfect system but that’s not a reason to fail.”
By Alosius Akonteh, Open Dreams Scholar, with contributions from James Akaba of the Open Dreams Team.
2020 International Day of Education.