The school and water have been a real uniting feature for all the neighbouring communities around Nketisoh
This is the second part of our Building Schools for Africa blog. You can read the first part here, which details how Building Schools for Africa became our chosen charity and how we work with them to improve the lives of disadvantaged children and communities in one of the poorest areas of the world.
We believe that every child should be able to learn in a quality school, wherever they are in the world. In 2015, we partnered with the charity Building Schools for Africa, committing to fund the building of a school in Cameroon for every school we built in the UK.
In 2016, we were delighted to provide the charity with funding for a brand-new school in Cameroon. We were honoured to have the opportunity to provide a school that would genuinely change children’s lives for the better, providing a higher standard of facilities and a more pleasant learning environment.
The first school to be funded through this partnership in Cameroon is Nketisoh School in Bamenda, which is twinned with the Sunesis Keynes Cranfield Lower School in Bedfordshire.
SHUMAS (Strategic Humanitarian Services) is a not-for-profit development organization, who focus on integrated sustainable rural development. They are committed to improving the standard of life, reducing poverty and empowering people within some of the poorest areas of Cameroon. To date, they have funded, constructed and equipped more than 700 classrooms in rural communities. In collaboration with Building Schools for Africa, SHUMAS were integral in the identification of the schools that would most benefit from Sunesis funding.
Whilst assessing Nketisoh school, it became clear very quickly that the children’s education was suffering as a result of their current environment. Not only does an unsanitary and insufficiently equipped environment make it hard for children to concentrate, ultimately affecting their long-term learning experience, but the teachers were struggling to deliver the full curriculum. Among the issues were:
- Poor quality classrooms without a toilet block
- Insufficient equipment such as benches, teachers’ tables, and chairs
- Lack of water and electricity
The community are used to making the best of what they have available and Nketisoh did not have classrooms, in the conventional sense. Instead, the school had a makeshift frame, constructed with sticks and covered by a loosely thatched roof. Without walls, floors, doors or even window shutters, the school, its pupils and staff, did not have the safety or security that we have come to expect from more modern buildings.
Not only that, but the rooms being used as classrooms were not big enough to accommodate all the school’s pupils comfortably, leading to overcrowding and often teaching multiple classes within one hut. These cramped, uncomfortable conditions had an understandably detrimental effect on the pupils’ concentration, performance and overall learning experience.
Without floors in the school, there was no protection from the elements. During the rainy season, the school would experience regular flooding, with water running through the rooms. However, during the dry season the floors were dry but dusty, which led to the spread of diseases and parasites, causing staff and pupils to catch and spread infections easily.
Without toilet blocks in the school, the children were forced to use nearby bushes, which is unhygienic and inconvenient for them.
The roof was made of plant leaves, which by their nature are fragile and weak, offering little to no protection from the weather, which meant that the pupils often found themselves wet from the rain or sitting for hours under the blistering African sun. During the rainy seasons, classes had to stop as soon as rain started, to keep it from destroying the books used by teachers and students. The rain can last for several days, which forces the school to close temporarily. It is well known that learning can be improved through the use of a fixed schedule, and children in particular benefit from stability and routine in their lives, so interruptions to their learning such as this can be hugely detrimental long-term.
In western schools, we expect there to be tables, chairs or benches, but in Nketisoh, they did not have any of these. Students and teachers sat on sticks that had been pinned to the ground and crossed with a plank, to create makeshift chairs. The blackboards in the school were made of old plywood, and were in very bad condition, as well as not easily visible from all areas of the room. In order to see the board clearly, pupils had to move around during lessons, which caused frequent disruption during classes.
In light of these major issues and the negative impact they were having on the children’s education, it was agreed that this school would benefit greatly from our additional funding and that we could help to make a real difference to the lives of these children.
A new school
With the funding provided by Sunesis the new school was redeveloped, providing:
- Three brand new classrooms to accommodate a larger number of pupils in cleaner, safer and more comfortable surroundings.
- A head teacher’s office and storeroom.
- A toilet block with associated hand-washing facilities promoting a high standard of hygiene throughout the school.
- Equipment for classrooms including benches, teacher’s tables, chairs and blackboards.
As with many areas of Cameroon, Bamenda did not have convenient access to clean water. Children had to travel several kilometres each day on foot just to get to and from Nketisoh and without a nearby source of water, many carried water with them during that journey.
We helped to construct a secure well for the community, which the school can access in the morning, to ensure the pupils have access to a supply of clean water. Keeping the children hydrated throughout the day helps to improve their concentration and their enjoyment.
Marianne Johnson from Building Schools for Africa says “The school and water have been a real uniting feature for all the neighbouring communities around Nketisoh and has encouraged families outside the catchment to request permission to enrol at the school. The head teacher is being very welcoming to them and has allowed children who were registered at other mission schools that were totally closed to use Nketisoh to take their end of school exams. This project is a big success. Understatement!!!”
We are extremely proud to be a part of a project that has already had such a positive effect on the students in Cameroon. We are incredibly pleased it has been successful and are looking forward to receiving updates from the school in the years to come.