Unblind Tibbin can still picture arriving for his first day at the high school where he spent his volunteer placement. Just north of Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon, a three-storey building rises from the forest. The first thing he noticed when he arrived was youth in crisp white shirts, red ties and navy uniforms playing a spirited game of basketball.
Young people in Cameroon face many obstacles to their success. Unemployment rates are three times higher than in Canada and a lack of education and employable skills still stands in the way of too many. The need to make change is urgent as young people make up the single largest group of people in Cameroon. The future of the country rests on the shoulders of these youth. Education has been proven to reduce inequality and alleviate poverty. But first, students need to be motivated to succeed. This is where Unblind Tibbin comes in as a Cuso International volunteer.
At the school where Unblind volunteered, teachers and administrators had reported a lack of student engagement and high levels of student stress. It was Unblind’s job to come to the table with some fresh new ideas for how they might address these barriers to student achievement.
Unblind began by providing alternative programs to supplement the students’ regular classes. One of the subjects he covered was African history in order to instill in them a sense of pride in their heritage. Unblind recently published these teachings in his new book African Ancestral Manuscript.
As an African-Canadian of Sierra Leonean descent, he strongly believes that countering the stereotypes of Africa is key to helping young Africans flourish. He feels that if he’d had more positive images around him when he was growing up, he would have been more engaged in school from a younger age.
That’s why he prioritized introducing more Afro-centric texts into the school curriculum.
He also worked with teachers to enhance their abilities to deliver curriculum in line with African positive realities.
One of his students, 14-year-old Christina Eboa, told him how much these classes influenced her and helped her realize that anything was possible.
Soon they began offering career orientation sessions. Unblind also saw how something as basic as offering extra language classes or Spelling Bee exercises can transform youth in significant ways.
Nké Olinga was one of the many inspiring students Unblind had the privilege of teaching. He was one of the younger students at the school but he was so enthusiastic. He was thirsty for knowledge and came to every single class Unblind offered. Nké was very bright and had a real drive to do well.
With Unblind’s help, Nké’s horizons have been broadened and he has been empowered with the leadership skills he will need to succeed. There’s no doubt he will make his dreams of becoming a journalist come true and Unblind is so proud to have played a role in supporting his efforts to stay in school.
This would not have been possible without our donors. Their support helped Unblind reach students with relevant classes and curricula that inspires them to stay in school and motivates them to do well. Young Cameroonians were given the training and skills they need to be bilingual, active citizens and future leaders with the entrepreneurial drive to succeed.
Unblind’s co-teacher, Serge Nkomo, says it best: “The future leaders of Cameroon will be this group of young people. They need the right background knowledge in order to lead their country.”
Our investment in these students’ futures is an investment in the future of Cameroon and in a world free from poverty and inequality.
Unblind describes the experience as a win/win/win.
His life is changed. He believes he is a better person because of his volunteer experience in Cameroon. It was very empowering and he’ll carry these experiences with him in his community development work with youth at risk back in Toronto. He also appreciated the strategy to encourage people like him who are part of the African diaspora to bring their skills back to Africa.
Local teachers at the school have expanded their professional skill sets, gained a broader global perspective and built a solid curriculum that will allow Cameroonian youth to flourish.
Most important of all, the seeds of inspiration and hope have been planted for the students at the school.
Together, we built a solid foundation to allow the youth of Cameroon to become great leaders and to understand global strategies that can allow for their empowerment and the empowerment of their community and country.