A new school for Cameroon - part 2

This is the second part of our Cameroon blog. If you missed the first part you can read it here.

Day 1 – 12/11/18

The day had finally come. At 6:30am we embarked on our trip to Cameroon to finally see the impact we had made through the School for a School initiative.

I am embarrassed to say I was the last to arrive having broken the zip on my bag, which was clearly over packed and not from me packing far too many clothes and shoes. The main reason for my bag literally bursting at the seams was the amount of pens, pencils, note pads and football kits that our supply chain partners had so kindly donated for the children to use.

After a very short flight to Paris we were greeted with a six hour flight to Yaoundé.

When we finally arrived in Cameroon and collected our bags it really felt like our adventure had begun. Greeted with an array of smiles from people at the airport and the heat of an African evening, we battled through the crowds to find our guide Stephen and his colleagues from SHUMAS waiting to take us to the hotel.

The experience of travelling to the hotel was an eye opener in itself and the traffic in Yaoundé makes rush hour in London seem quiet. This however does not stop the drivers and from what we can tell if you want right of way then it is yours, and as long as you sound your horn this is all fine.

Day 2 – 13/11/2018

What a day this turned out to be. After meeting at 07:30 we were collected by one of our kind drivers Able and a taxi. If you thought Alton Towers had scary rides then you haven’t experienced anything compared to a taxi in Yaoundé during rush hour!

We met up at the office of the Prime Minister, Philemon Yang. Feeling rather apprehensive about what to expect and trying to remember the etiquette for meeting important people all added to the nerves. However these nerves were quickly quashed when we were invited in to meet him and he explained how grateful he was for the schools we were providing for some of the poorest areas of the country. He also shared some of his beliefs about the importance of education to help improve the world we live in. It was a great experience to meet him and it was clear that he is an intelligent man who cares for the people of Cameroon. He admitted the government cannot build schools with the efficiency and at the rate SHUMAS have, so he was grateful companies like SHUMAS, BSFA and Sunesis exist and give generously for his people.

Our busy agenda then took us out of the capital to find Bapes Mondial for the official school opening. The roads were great and the scenery out of the window was breath-taking. Cameroon is such a lush green place and as we passed through small villages we started to see more of what life must be like in rural Cameroon. The huts are small and generally in a bad state of repair, children and animals walk the streets unaccompanied. People look to make money to survive by selling fruit and other bits by the side of the road.

Before we could go to the school opening we needed to pay respect to the senior district officer for the region. We were invited to his office where he talked to us about his region and how pleased he was that we are helping his community and that we had taken the time to visit him.

Also whilst at his office we were very lucky to be introduced to the high commissioner. He has been in his role for about a year and is very impressed with the work SHUMAS and BSFA are doing and wanted to assist were he can. This was fantastic for SHUMAS to get this kind of support and great for us to know a charity we are supporting is also being assisted by the high commissioner.

After a short drive we were finally at Bapes Mondial. Instantly you got a sense of excitement as you could tell the community were all out to celebrate and share this special moment with us.

The dirt track road that took us down to the school was very bumpy with a lovely red colour soil. Our trucks followed the witch doctor who accompanies the Fon of Nkwen wherever he goes. He was in full dress and dancing in front of us the whole way.

When we drove through the entrance to the school we were greeted with singing and dancing from the locals. The whole area looked fantastic with gazebos erected to give us some shade and all the children lined up ready to sing the Cameroon National Anthem to us.

We received a speech from H.E Rowan James Laxton the high commissioner, followed by some entertainment from the children and then Stephen Ndzrem the Director General of SHUMAS who thanked BSFA and us for all our support.

After a short speech from Marianne from Building Schools for Africa it was our turn to be introduced and for me to attempt my speech in French. This was a moment that I was apprehensive about, although I was pleased to attempt as the community is French speaking so it was only right to at least try.

We were delighted to be joined by the head teacher from Nketisoh (our first “school for a school” in Cameroon) and the Fon of Nkwen who had driven for eight hours all the way down from Bamenda to meet us. The Fon was dressed in full traditional wear and surrounded by his people. We felt very honoured to meet him. He insisted that when things settle in Bamenda we must visit his community as he wants to put on a big celebration of the NKetisoh school with us.

Once all of the speeches were completed we walked through the old school, which was simply constructed with sticks, it was hard to believe that teaching ever took place in this building. In comparison the new school looked fantastic and perfect for what the children and teachers needed. We walked through and looked in the new classrooms, offices and toilets. The local community are so pleased with this school and thankful to us, it really hit home that what we are doing is truly helping some of the poorest communities in Africa and we must try even harder to make a difference for more school children.

There was an official plaque unveiling followed by lots of photos being taken before we waved goodbye to all the children as we drove away, everyone felt incredibly proud and emotional for what is being achieved.

Our next stop was Kalong, just a short drive away where SHUMAS had constructed a new school a few years ago. SHUMAS have since returned to construct a clean drinking water well, so the community gathered to celebrate this momentous occasion together. There was more singing, dancing and speeches. It was great to see this community still thriving after receiving their new school. It was comforting to know that the Bapes Mondial community is likely to see the same amount of progress.

This marked the end of a very exciting day and all that remained was a two and a half hour drive back to our hotel.

You can read the first part of the Cameroon blog here

Kevin Dundas - Supply Chain Manager
Willmott Dixon