As we come to the close of 2016, Better Breed Cameroon’s team takes stock of the past year. 2016 was a ground breaking year in many ways. Our association finally received its legal registration number in the early months of this year. We experienced a growth in members, successfully met our target of holding a youth development project for every quarter of the year including our inaugural Campus Career Day and kept you al updated and informed via monthly blogposts!
This month’s post will share highlights of the year’s activities as well as tidbits of what you have to look forward to from BBCam team.
Sama Randy Youth Write Essay Contest- 2016
This was the first project of the year launched with in December 2015 with the deadline for submission of essays set for 31st January 2016. The 2016 edition challenged respondents to answer the topic question: Can we entrepreneur our way out to a better Cameroon? Why and Why not? We received a record high with thirty-six (36) entries which the three member jury whittled down to the best three (3) candidates. The winners were awarded prizes as follows:
With winners awarded in Buea and Bamenda. Read more here
1st prize (100,000FCFA) – Thursie Abanjoh
2nd prize (75,000FCFA) – Awanto Margaret
3rd prize (50,000FCFA) – Mbah Angwah Furt
Read more about the Youth Essay competition HERE. Also note that we are currently receiving submissions for the 2017 edition of this contes
Campus Career Day
In partnership with the University of Buea, and with the partial sponsorship of MTN Cameroon, Better Breed Cameroon realized its 2nd project of the year on 1st April 2016. As per the press release was communicated on 23rd February, the event was held to provide university students with an opportunity to receive pragmatic guidance on career prospects from young professional, potential employers and institution of further learning. Despite being an inaugural edition, the Campus Career Day had great organizational and participant turnout. Over 500 students were directly impacted by the event. The following opportunities arose in relation to this event:
ACCA announced a reduction of course fees for University of Buea students.
Bonie Fon of Bonaventures & Co pledged a million francs CFA to set up an investment club for the students of the University of Buea.
Belle & Glam offered two gift vouchers to the top two student entrepreneurs.
The United Bank for Africa, British High Commission and other panelist announced internship opportunities and shared contacts of professionals which students could use to find out more on questions they asked.
Dr. Joyce Ashuntantang pledged to mentor three female students randomly selected from the registry as of June 2016 which she did. See a report on her mentoring experience HERE: empower-me-program-with-dr-joyce-ashuntantang.
Web Empowerment Workshop
The first Web Empowerment Workshop ever held by Better Breed Cameroon was organized in Buea targeting students of institutions of higher learning in December 2015. The 2016 edition took place in Bamenda on 23rd July 2016. The project was launched on June 23rd and the deadline for show of interest was 20th July. 16 applications were received and 10 persons attended the event. It was an interactive workshop with participants receiving help creating LinkedIn Profiles, being introduced to blogging as a means of self- expression and marketing etc.
Better Breed Cameroon teamed up with young entrepreneurs like Cedric of Blogvisa.com, Etienne Ndagah of AfroTechnology and as always Churchill Mambe Nanje of Njorku.com
Better Hope Bursaries
As is tradition the last project of the year is the Better Hope Bursary launched towards the beginning of a new academic year. The bursary this year targeted schools that cater to students with disabilities. The following schools were suggested:
- Buea School for the Deaf- Buea
- Treasure Centre (school for children with Mental disabilities) Mendankwe- Bamenda
- Morning Star School ( Students with hearing and speech impairments) – Bamenda
- Ephata ( School for Children with hearing disabilities) – Kumba
Unfortunately due to the inability of our members to raise sufficient funds the association could visit only one school- Buea School for the Deaf. It was agreed that we will provide food/provisions to the schools we choose in order that it benefits the whole school and not just a single individual, particular considering that awarding bursaries based on academic excellence would be difficult given students’ disabilities.
What to look forward to in 2015?
Aside from our four main projects here is what you can expect from us in 2017
- We’re buying our own WordPress site new website! We plan to provide our readers and aspiring Better Breeders with more content, regularly updated opportunities for Cameroonians (scholarships, conferences, trainings, calls for submissions etc. which Cameroonians are eligible for), resources for being more informed/conscious citizens and spotlighting ordinary young heroes and heroines who exemplify the Better Breed creed to ‘Be the change you want to see’.
- We’re launching operation 1000 members! Better Breed Cameroon aspires to remain self-funded by its members, keeping to its vision of Cameroonians saving themselves and illustrating the power of African youth philanthropy. By making a call for more members we hope build a large enough network to sustain our activities without any foreign support. Email us for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org
- More teaming up with other social development ventures
- More content on our Youtube Channel! In the meantime, checkout what’s there already and subscribe!
Thanks for believing in our vision of a Better Breed and a Better Cameroon!
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 16-11-16
2017 SAMA RANDY YOUTH WRITE CONTEST
Better Breed Cameroon a youth-led, youth-focused philanthropic initiative is relaunching its annual youth essay competition against 2017. Taking previous feedback into consideration, the association has decided to launch the contest earlier to give contestants two months to work on a prize winning essay.
This annual essay competition named in memory of pioneer Better Breed member Sama Randy challenges undergraduate students of all higher institutions in Cameroon to ponder and write on socio-economic and political issues trending in the country in a bid to encourage critical consciousness in young people. This edition’s question reads:
‘In Your Opinion, What Is The Greatest Threat To Peace And Security In Cameroon? How Can It Be Averted?’
Thus inviting respondents to forward original ideas and solutions to addressing what is now a pressing issue faced by our nation.
As always, the competition requires essay responses to be a minimum of 1000 words (roughly two pages) and a maximum of 1500 words in English. All submissions should be made by emailed attachments to the association’s email address: email@example.com. The subject of the email should read: ‘Sama Randy Youth Write Contest Submission 2017’ and the email body needs to outline the name, contact number, age, degree program and higher institution to which the respondent belongs.
This year’s competitors stand to win one of three prizes; 1st, 2nd, and 3rd prize of 100.000, 75.000 and 50.000 francs respectively. The submissions will be graded based on content and presentation of arguments, spelling, grammar and compliance with rules of submission.
The deadline for submission has been set for the 11th of January 2017. Winners will be contacted in the first week of February 2017 and awarded on 11th February 2017- the National Youth Day.For more information on the essay contest, please contact Better Breed Cameroon using their email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or send them a message on their Facebook page Better Breed Cameroon.
October is back to school month for university students in Cameroon. Better Breed Cameroon, though a youth development association targeting young people in all institutions has university students as primary target for most of its projects. So we thought why not give our regular target population a message to start the year off right?
One of the sub-themes of this year’s Forum of Students in Cameroonian Universities (FETUC) held at the University of Dschang was, ‘Student Contribution in the Emergence of Cameroon’. Now if you’ve been listening to teachers, the media, and your parents etc. you would know by now that our nation has a ‘vision’ and supposedly a plan to emerge by the year 2035. This means in less than two decades, we’re supposed to be a budding developed country and of course you as young people, as products of higher education are to assist in the achievement of this.How though?
Let’s be honest, no young person was on board when the year 2035 was selected and none of those who sat at the table to choose that year will be alive/active at that time. So how did they decide on that year? What will determine that we are emerging, what indicators are we to look for come 2035 to decide we’ve achieved our ‘emergence’. What’s the plan/road-map to this emergence? Do the young people who will be leaders at that time know the original plan? Should the people who began this pass away or become inactive, does the plan and any progress made freeze? And if young people are not engaged in planning for a year when they would be the ones in charge, how can they positively contribute to this development? Well one way is by developing themselves and their locales.
While we find ourselves in the context where young people are limited in avenues of national leadership and legal mediums through which they may make their voices heard, these limits and barriers are broken down if and when they equip themselves and act with what is available to them. As you being yet another academic year we hope you keep in mind that YOU are the change and this development we all speak of is not some abstract end point of the whole country, but rather development is each of us reaching some level of fulfillment of personal purpose and civic duty. Thus consider developing yourself and acting with what you have available to make a difference towards the whole. How can you do this as a university student?
1- Raise your level of consciousness. It is your civic duty to know -irrespective of what you’re studying- the structure of your government, our policies, our laws, our leaders. Do not rely on heresy, watch the news, read and think critically about what is presented to you. Raising your level of consciousness will ensure you act more upright, become more able to recognize abuse of rights and take legal action. You need to know what is wrong to be able to fix it and you need to be conscious to be able to use what little opportunity you may be offered to voice your thoughts effectively. We’ll surely emerge quicker if the majority o the population loses its ignorance and bias. We encourage you to read Bernard Fonlon’s The Genuine Intellectual a timeless work decrying the need for universities to produce.
2- As a student you can equally develop yourself and your community by volunteering. If you haven’t noticed by now, Better Breed Cameroon is a big advocate for volunteering. By volunteering you will be garnering pragmatic skills to enable you back up your academic journey in the university. Your volunteer experience need not be in some office of prestige, you can volunteer on the ground in numerous ways helping to develop your local community in the process. Same volunteering experience would undoubtedly equip you towards increased employability upon graduation. By developing yourself in this way therefore you have helped not only the area where/people to whom you have offered free services to, but you would have equally addressed on of the countries pertinent problems- unemployment- ensuring you are more ready for the job market.
3- Yet another way students can develop themselves and contribute towards vision 2035 is by using alternative mediums now available with information technology. While students may face restrictions in terms of opportunities to develop themselves in a field of choice, voice their opinion on government policies, and having their views considered and needs met, the internet and modern tech apps provide a wide array of resources for self-development, a catalog of opportunities available to young people internationally and an endless source of information ready to be tapped. Students of this generation are more fortunate than any other for their access to the internet and applications ready to be used for self-development and a medium for them to develop their own. For instance, sex education being inadequate and lacking comprehensiveness in Cameroon, a young sexual health advocate Mallah Tabot designed an app called Ndolo 360 which young people can use to have straight-forward, necessary information about all things sex related. Innovative creations made accessible with use of the information technology such as this app offer young Cameroonians what the nation at the moment does not. This app offers young people much need knowledge enabling them make informed sexual choices and there are a bevy of other such resources existing online and as cell applications. How are you using what available to you today to grow and contribute to your country’s growth?
We shall end here for now, suffice it to say your time as a student should be used with purpose. The theme of FETUC 2016 outlined above got it right when they highlighted the role of students in achieving the countries current vision. Though our young people were not involved in the conception of this vision initially and have yet to be truly involved in the planning, you all have it in you (and have the duty) to ready yourselves to act for national development and a Better Cameroon tomorrow.
This academic year, we challenge you to be the #BetterBreed
It was a bright sunny morning in Buea. In fact the sun was so bright that it melted away the clouds and Mount Fako was clearly visible in all its majestic splendor. This day was special. Excitement filled the air as we all stood clad in our solemn academic robes, ready to mount the podium and collect that piece of paper which would pave the way for us into an anticipated bright future like the weather that day.
And so we stood, excited to be leaving the campus after four years of a rigors double majors program. It was time for us to go out there and scout around, ready and ever so eager to put all the knowledge acquired those four years to push ourselves, families and country forward. Dreams of jobs practically materializing on platters of gold passed through our minds. After all, we are graduates and the corporate world had better get ready to hire and assimilate us.
Dreams!! Everyone has them I think so we all freshly graduated novices into the job market just had to dream big. And so, we excitedly looked forward to the award ceremony so we could be able to launch our ship and set sail into the waters of the job market.
Reality check! At least in my case! With all those dreams and passion to work, the years steadily began to add. At first I was not very worried. I still had youth to my advantage. One year, two years, three years despite writing applications to every possible place I could think of, the doors were permanently closed. It was as if someone locked all the doors to the job market where I was concerned and threw away the keys.
Four years and no jobs forthcoming. The tensions began. What would I do? There was no pressure from my family thankfully, but how long was I supposed to stay with family? What was the need of going to school all these years to come back to the family? I dropped applications and thought of what I could do to keep myself busy. I searched for schools abroad but everywhere was a dead end. I decided to try ENAM and my hands at apprenticing… tailoring, hair dressing but had to abandon half way. I now decided to put my culinary skills to work and started baking cakes to sell. That too was abandoned after some months. I just felt it wasn’t worth it having just at most two regular customers despite doing all I could to notify people.
Five years and I have made it to assistant CEO of Chomecam. There was just no way I could continue like this. With schools abroad refusing my applications and applying for a Masters Program in UB which list never materialized, I went back to school after five years of rigorous job hunting this time to PAID-WA Buea where I read Development Studies and Human Resources Management.
After one year of rigorous studies, I again entered the job market. I was hopeful that I would pick one easy this time after all; I just finished a top professional program. Well, my health had other plans so for one and the half years; I had to suspend any attempts at job hunting as I had a hospital marathon to run.
At this stage, I have steadily climbed the rank of sub inspector of Chomecam. I mean what else could I say? The years were piling up and I was still moving ‘up and down’ with files looking for work both offline and online. Maybe my approach was wrong but one thing remained for sure, the jobs were not coming.
Ten years and I am still in Chomecam. I am finally the CEO of Chomecam! That is how I spent ten years of my life job hunting. During these years, I felt frustrated especially with all the road blocks I encountered. And the fact that I was now getting older was not helping matters. I could have folded my hands and blamed the powers that be for my plight. I could have equally blamed my family for not using whatever positions they have to get me a job all these years after all; it is the policy of man know man which holds sway in the job market in Cameroon. I could have also blamed that uncle or aunt in the village who had decided to tie my progress with witchcraft. I could have even blamed God for refusing to answer my prayers.
In all these years, even with the frustrations I felt, I didn’t grow bitter. Despite the many road blocks, I didn’t give up fighting. And after every good cry, I picked myself up and tried to figure out what to do. What talents and skills do I have? This is where my writing came in handy. I have always loved writing so just to while away the time while hoping for some doors in the job market to open, I got an exercise book and pen and just started scribbling away and before I realized it, I had a first person narrative of my life as best as I could remember during those turbulent years before me. A good friend helped me edit and found a publisher and that is how I got my first book published and unbeknownst to my friend, it was the perfect boost I needed that trying moment to keep facing life.
Youth unemployment is a nightmare that has plagued many ambitious and brilliant youths into the pits of depression and frustration. The ten years I spent looking for a job didn’t by any chance enrich me financially. Yet, it taught me patience, perseverance and empathy. It helped me discover a unique talent that is proving very helpful today and opening doors for me. It also taught me that in the battle for survival, we should get out there and get our hands dirty and stop blaming the people around us. Reach inside and discover strengths we couldn’t know we possess if we had everything delivered to us in a gold platter. Unemployment is not going away anytime soon but we can do better than wallow if we are ready to rediscover ourselves and take bold calculated risks.
*This testimony is brought to you by Ms. Arrey Echi a passionate Better Breed Cameroon member
On the 11th of February Better Breed Cameroon awarded the winners of the 2016 Sama Randy Youth Write Essay Competition. The prize winning essays will be shared one after the other begging from the 3rd Prize winning essay of Mbah Angwah Furt of Saint Monica University below:
“CAN CAMEROONIANS ENTREPRENEUR THEIR WAY TO A BRIGHTER FUTURE? WHY AND WHY NOT?”
As the Cameroonian economy continues to integrate due to globalization and as formally closed economies such as China and India move towards total liberalization, entrepreneurship is on the increase. Therefore, it is the objective of this paper to critically analyze the probable reasons why entrepreneurs could boost Cameroon to a brighter future.
Individuals often result to entrepreneurship in Cameroon for one of the following reasons; they find a market niche and have a way to profit from such a niche; they have been unable to find a suitable employment or suitable means of income and therefore have resulted to using their creativity to generate an income for themselves. Irrespective of which of the above led an individual to become an entrepreneur, it is clear that innovation and creativity are the driving factors and therefore, it can be stated that the biggest impact of entrepreneurs in Cameroon would be the innovative contribution that they make. Entrepreneurs often create new technologies, develop new products or innovations, and open up new markets. There are many examples of radical innovations introduced by entrepreneurs such as Pierre Omidyar (eBay), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google) Bill Gates (Microsoft), Steve Jobs (Apple) and Larry Ellison (Oracle), just to name a few.
Radical innovations often lead to economic growth. Entrepreneurs who bring innovations to the market offer a key value-generating contribution to economic progress. Compared to incumbent firms, new firms invest more in searching new ideas because of the fear of being swallowed up by superior firms.
By establishing new businesses, entrepreneurs intensify competition for existing markets with already established businesses; this will cause players in the market to re-evaluate their operational capabilities. Thus costumers benefit from the resulting lower prices and greater product variety. And one of the greatest advantages of increased competition to the economy would be that individuals and firms will continue to find methods that can better improve their operations, use resources more efficiently, and reduce costs while adding value. All this will result to an increase in productivity, and an increase in the gross domestic product (GDP) of the nation. This will indeed benefit the economy.
Competition in the market can cause saturation and as a result many entrepreneurs maybe driven to seek new markets for their products, which will be considered as a positive impact to our economy. As integration of economies continues due to globalization, entrepreneurs will tend to look for markets that are outside their domestic spheres, thus generating foreign revenue there by increasing the prosperity of the economy as a whole.
As stated earlier, one of the main reasons that individuals become entrepreneurs is because they are unable to find suitable jobs. As a result, by being enterprising, creative and finding a market niche, not only are they able to generate an income for themselves, but they are also able to employ other individuals in their business operations. Therefore, one of the most positive impacts that entrepreneurs can make on the Cameroonian economy is job creation and the reduction of unemployment levels. In developed countries, we see that almost 40 – 50% of the workforce is employed in small and medium scale business size enterprises that were started by enterprising individuals.
While this might be a very simplistic explanation of the why and how Cameroonians can entrepreneur their way to a brighter future, it is also safe to say that; the employment generation, increased competition, market expansion, market penetration and sourcing new markets would all result in income generation that ultimately can help our economy to become more prosperous drawing millions out of poverty and generating funds for social welfare activities that ultimately will uplift the living standards of its citizens.
But all the reasons mentioned above why Cameroonians can entrepreneur their way to a better future are not guaranteed, thus it is also arguable that this very promising future which can be brought by entrepreneurs is almost a mirage which can almost not be met. As we see in our country today, only few people have the drive, skills and funds to become entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs share certain traits such as creativity and high tolerance that comes with the uncertainty that comes with developing a new business. Four personality characteristics are particularly important for succeeding as an entrepreneur: willingness to take risks, openness to experience, belief in their own ability to control their own future an extroversion, and very few persons have all or most of such characteristics in our society.
More so, a substantial risk of failure accompanies entrepreneurship. Failure rates are high within the first five years of starting a business, and there are several reasons why many new businesses fail and close. Not everybody has the right character traits to become a successful entrepreneur. Other impediments to success are restricted access to capital, lack of customers, and discouraging regulatory hurdles, including unfriendly entry regulations and difficult and time consuming requirements for registering property and obtaining extending licenses or permits which may discourage entrepreneurship. Over-regulation of commerce prevents entrepreneurship from flourishing because it increases the costs of starting a business and decreases flexibility and the ability to react quickly to opportunities as they arise. Also, frequently changing complex unclear or opaque regulations and corruption in Cameroon make it hard to understand the legal environment for entrepreneurial activity. Thus if intellectual property rights are not adequately enforced, this adds to uncertainty which can build up to prohibitively high levels that discourage any potential innovator. Corruption may make entrepreneurs unwilling to trust the institutions that are necessary to protect intellectual property rights.
Sometimes, over-regulation can even make entrepreneurship impossible by restricting or prohibiting entry into certain sectors of the economy through strict control of licenses. Permits and licenses can act as noncompetition agreements. Over-regulated markets turn potentially productive entrepreneurs towards unproductive non-wealth-creating activity. Due to the fact that there are many potential markets for high-tech innovations all over the world, innovative business deterred by over-regulation in one market can go elsewhere.
It has also been observed that some businesses fail because of poor understanding of the market and sometimes lack of management skills. This is most common with younger entrepreneurs. Besides lower educational attainments, these include less work experience among young entrepreneurs than adults and fewer links with professional networks. Interestingly, though young entrepreneurs in Cameroon sometimes underestimate the lack of business skills as a barrier to entrepreneurship,, while- less surprisingly – they recognize the lack of finance as the key impediment, thus when they have the necessary finances, they venture into businesses with very large chances of failure. But there is also a big fear for the plundering of resources which can have disastrous effects on the environment in the long run.
Based on everything discussed above, it is seen that Cameroonian entrepreneurs can ensure Cameroon a brighter future, but there are some shortcomings which might hinder, or slow down the growth of entrepreneurship and the benefits that will go along with it; thus realizing these advantages that come along with entrepreneurship will require institutions which can encourage entrepreneurs
The government needs to regulate the administrative burdens that come along with establishing a business; this includes the time to register a business, the number of bureaucratic steps, and the number of regulations, fees, and reporting requirements. This will allow entrepreneurs to operate flexibly, and their entrepreneurship activities will be able to respond easily to the market. It is also important that these laws are implemented fairly and evenly
Start-up subsidies should be considered to foster entrepreneurial activities, as well as training programs for potential entrepreneurs which will focus on technical, managerial and financial literacy. These can reduce the risk of early business failure.
If regulatory burdens are reduced and corruption eliminated, Cameroon will encourage and retain their own entrepreneurs and even attract investors from other countries. Thus, it can be concluded that Cameroonians can entrepreneur their way to a better future, if and only if the policies can adjust a regulatory environment in favor of entrepreneurship.
Mbah Angwah Furt is aged 19 and currently enrolled for a B.Sc in Petroleum Engineering at the International Institute of Petroleum Studies (IIPS) of Saint Monica University Buea in the Southwest Region of Cameroon.
He had this to say upon receiving his prize:
Most National Days originate from the country’s Independence Day; America’s 4th July, Ghana’s sixth of March, Namibia’s 21st of March and so on. In Cameroon, this is not the case. We rather celebrate a “National Unity Day”. The question on everyone lips, however is “Are we really united?”
So let’s take a look at what we’re celebrating. Cameroon doesn’t have a single independence day, because of the division in colonialism, the French three-fifths of the country gained independence (January 1st 1960) a year before the English two-fifth (1st October 1961). However considering that the English two-fifth voted in a Plebiscite to join their French brothers on 11th of February 1961 and that the country finally divided by a picot line became one on the 1st of October 1961 you would think that either of those dates would be the National Day right? Wrong.
On the 20th of May 1972 a referendum held out of fear that ideas of secession may spread from Nigeria down to Cameroon tricked the Anglophones out of the federal republic they initially signed up for. It has been recorded that some voting polls had this question similar to:
Would you want a build a strong indivisible nation or not?
And Yes or Oui as alternative answers.
Of course there was a “landslide victory” for “unification”, and decades later we celebrate this day by marching across fields and not going to work/school etc.
However, while all areas of our country has issues of insufficiency, poor governance and generally stagnant development, it is an indisputable fact that the Anglophone areas and the Anglophone minority have it harder than their counterparts. No matter what side of the invisible Picot line we are on the police man addressing you does so in French, the National social welfare intuitions (CNPS) to where the majority regular stipends and from where they will eventually receive pensions is so French even the announcements are in French, and this is the English-speaking region.
You see we may want to celebrate our unity rather than our independence, but we’re going about it wrong. We have to first acknowledge the disunity. Acknowledge how different we are because of our colonial history, different cultures, language. After acknowledging this we can find out how to complement each other. Only then can we truly celebrate unity.
As youth of a Better Breed, do you recognize inequality between the regions, what do you think of it and how do you feel we should strive after unity. Do not celebrate another 20th May without thinking on what it would take for us to be truly united as Cameroonians. We need to undo the mistakes in the tapestry of our past before we can truly move forward.
Not so long ago, a friend and I were talking and the topic of African philanthropy comes up. She argued that Africans, Cameroonians in particular, don’t give like Westerners do. For one, you don’t see them supporting each other causes from donating to funds for a cancer patient they know or even buying tickets to a fellow an aspiring artist’s show.
This is not the first time I have heard this argument and I confess I have agreed at times. I have agreed in arguments on how African parents raise us to calculate input and output in a very funny way. For instance I have seen parents refuse to contribute towards a nephew or niece in need only to remove lavish amounts at weddings. Some won’t help their relatives to achieve their dreams calling them flimsy but somehow find the eventual funeral a good sturdy place to invest large sums of money.
I am not implying that weddings or funerals don’t deserve proper celebration, not at all. But I have caught a trend of African philanthropy needing to be seen before done. You know, the way fundraising in church raises more when they usher the giver to the front then follow him with a slice of the fundraising cake after he’s dropped his envelope into the basket? Perhaps most cultures give with ulterior motive. Americans have been accused of giving for the reduction of their taxes. Our philanthropy generally needs reason.
But of recent I do not agree with the stance that Africans do not give as much as the West does. We give a lot more. To make a comparison we must look at the context. The westerner making a donation to a charity has taken care of their nuclear family. They know their two or three kids will get jobs while in high-school, they are sure of their retirement pensions. They trust their insurance company, more importantly they trust the organization they are giving the money to will actually do something of value. Most African’s are not in a similar situation. There is no nuclear family, you are responsible to your mother’s second cousin as well as your own, and the funeral of a clan member in the village requires your input as well as that of a colleague in the office. We are not sure of our kids finding jobs even after university, in fact there are probably some unemployed graduates amongst our dependents at the moment. We are neither sure of our pensions nor the plethora of NGO’s with young nor old “hungry” coordinators. We don’t have the luxury of trust when everyone is hustling for themselves. You see comparing the western and African philanthropist is akin to the biblical tale of the Widows’ Mite
Still, the widow gave. We cannot continue comparing ourselves to the west then criticizing the ways they give to us. I think most Africans and Cameroonians particularly are fed up with the image of being beggars depending on foreign help. Our relatives, African citizens in the Diaspora remit more money – some $52 billion each year – than all other donors combined. Yet that is within family, within closed circles that we limit ourselves to for certain things. Yet as easily as we form njangi groups, as easily as we boast of giving our tithes to the church and joining other groups that some siphon money in lavish events, couldn’t we cut a percentage regularly for work in our communities? To give to those who are not related to us and will in no way pay it back but forward? Find a problem you are passionate about, and think of a way to address it. As to the issue of trusting those you contribute to, I’m sure if you if you have the will, you will find a way to assure that what you’re giving gets to the needy and not the greedy.
As a Better Breed, for a better tomorrow, we need to take control of who gives us what, we need to feed ourselves, help our own. If each of us gave a percentage back to our community (wisely) the way some Christians give tithe regularly, we would solve our problems eventually, one community at a time. That is not to say, there will be no poor amongst us. The poor are everywhere even in the countries giving us aid, but there should be no wide gap if we all did a bit more to lift those on the floor up.
Members of Better Breed recently decided to change the organizations path. Rather than an NGO we registered as a common initiative group (CIG). We concluded we are simply a group aspiring to advocate for and contribute particularly towards youth development in our various communities whether in cash or kind. Join the Better Breed movement do what you can, where you can, with what you have.
A few months back the coordinator of Better Breed Cameroon was awarded a Chevening Scholarship to study in the UK for a Masters degree in Education, Gender and International Development at the Institute of Education, University of London. Since then she has been receiving a lot of inquires as to how she got it. The way most of the queries are posed has been disturbing. A lot of those who asked were more interested with traveling out of the country than with the programs or they felt it was something which had a five step formula to achieving. Most did not know exactly what they wanted to study and had not settled on a country, much less a school. Then there were those who asked the “Who did you know?” question.
In a bid to clarify what some think of as “the magic of getting a scholarship” this blogpost seeks to outline what those who hope to be awarded a scholarship need to take into consideration.
First off, know what you want. Like they say, if you don’t know where you are going. You won’t know when you arrive there. A lot of people are rejected for scholarships and visas because they are applying for what is already existing in Cameroon. While we would all agree that (sadly) a degree from out of the country is valued more, one has to know if what we are looking for is here already to sufficiently explain why they would want to travel abroad for the same thing. When you tell someone you need a scholarship you need to be able to explain why. That explanation only make sense if, for instance, you know: what you want to study, why you are interested in studying it, where you want to study it and how studying it could possibly impact you. The answers to this question will mostly make up the content of your motivational letter or supporting statement. Knowing exactly what you want is truly important as it proves your credibility and genuine need. You can’t be genuinely in need of something you don’t know much about. When someone asks you what you plan to do with the degree you want a scholarship to study for and you hesitate and stutter thinking up an answer it shows you are uncertain and not serious.
Next, change your mindset. You don’t need to get a scholarship, you need to DESERVE a scholarship. Stop thinking of it as a gift which someone just decided to give you or a lottery which you win if you have the lucky numbers. Scholarships are mostly granted on merit, look yourself over and ask yourself what makes you merit it? How well have you done in school, how active have you been out of school, how can you prove you have the potential to do greater if given the scholarship? Each scholarship has its own criteria. To deserve it you need to fulfill the majority of the criteria which makes you eligible and more. You need to fulfill all doubts that you not only need the financial support, but that what you would be receiving- the knowledge and experience- with that financial support is vital to your doing more than you have done already. You have to have done something already, they are meeting you half way. To deserve it you need to prove your ability to make optimum use of it if given.
Know what you are applying for. Scholarships are not one size fits all. This relates to criteria mentioned above. The fact that your friend got a particular scholarship doesn’t mean the same one is for you. Research the scholarship, look up past winners and note that different scholarships target or prefer certain groups. There are scholarships targeted at women, at workers, at potential leaders, at minority groups, at people in a particular field of study etc. Look for a scholarship which targets you and for which you would be a shoe in.
Start NOW. Deserving a scholarship does not begin when you find out about it, it begins way before that. The magic of winning the scholarship of your dreams is being ready for it before the opportunity arises. What are you doing now, or what have you been doing that qualifies you? Potential scholars are expected to prove they performed well in school, distinguished themselves with extracurricular activities, held leadership roles in and out of school. Every little deed counts ultimately when you have to build a resume or write a supporting statement demonstrating your merit of the scholarship. So if you want a scholarship in future? Start volunteering today, start participating in extracurricular activities, develop a skill a hobby, fraternize with others in your field, READ widely! Why? Because you will be asked in an interview for that scholarship “Who is your role model in this field?” “What have been the latest innovations in this field” You will need to have people refer you, both from academics and from a professional experience. And if you have been unemployed and never volunteered, you won’t be able to get a good reference. You will need to know how to write, how to speak convincingly when you will be asked “How did your passion for this field of study develop?” And if you had not run away from that class delegate position you may have developed orator skills. Most of us are short sighted. We don’t see that what we do today or not do has long lasting impact. If you want someone to pay millions to support you in future, you have to become the sort of person that would appeal to them. You can’t become anything in just a day. So start now!
Be original. There is no one else like you. You have gone through unique experiences, have developed your own voices and have favored words in your vocabulary. When you attempt to copy a past winners motivational letter, or use multi-syllabic words which you can barely define properly you sound fake and risk being called out for plagiarism. Supporting statement templates online are not to be copied!!!! Use them to inspire you not to dictate you.
Be self-driven. In most things which involve your progress you are going to have to do it all yourself. Even if you have help, you are going to have to find that help, and maintain the relationship with the helper on your own. No one is going to be on your neck saying “deadline is coming up” Or give you tips as to editing your essay. If you are used to being told what to do and how, this is where you will fail. You have to think for yourself, take the initiative to go the extra mile beyond what is asked by the scholarship board sometimes.
Finally, be informed! A lot of people ask, who connected you? Who told you of this opportunity? Those questions sounds a bit stupid in this age of technology. The opportunities are literally flying all over the web. If you care to look you will find. The problem is you haven’t made it your priority you have liked Nollywood Stars page, Wiz Khaliffa’s Facebook page, you follow E! Online fervently but cannot imagine that similar pages exist for career development, job opportunities for fellowships and scholarships and conferences. And still, it is not enough to be informed of the scholarships themselves; you need to be informed on the school you aim to study at. You need to be able to back why that particular school in that particular country interests you. And saying “Because my aunty lives in America in that state” will not do. The truth is those who go after scholarships just because they feel they need to continue school or leave the country hardly ever get it. The determination needed to endure the process of applications, interviewing, testing and waiting (which could be up to a year or more) can only be found in those who know what they want and really have invested themselves in achieving their dreams.
To conclude, here are a few websites which offer regular information on scholarships for Africans in general. Subscribe to them all and get updates to your email on opportunities you can apply to.
Like their Facebook pages and while you are at it, like Better Breed Cameroon on Facebook as well. We select the opportunities which Cameroonians in particular are eligible for and share on the page. This scholarship season, be informed, very informed.
It’s that time of year again. After roughly three months of long holidays with kids home from school, parents are anxious both positively (Yay! They’ll be out of my hair now) and negatively (Weh! How will I make it to payday after this rentree scolaire) as the kids return to school.
Given that very few Cameroonian students of primary/ secondary/ high-school age are going to be reading post, we’re targeting parents like you. What are you are you doing during this back to school period apart from shouting at the kids to put their things in order and going out of your mind as you tally the cost of uniforms, books, fees and other needs for your child? Have you sat them down for a back to school message to talk to them one on one, prepare them mentally, spiritually and emotionally for the year ahead? If not we advise you to.
Start the year by sitting your child down and giving the first lesson. The parent is always the first teacher, the one who sets the foundation for everything else the child goes out to learn. We’ve put together some points you may want to include in your message; we hope these direct you as you seek to influence your child positively for the year ahead.
1. Know the purpose
Does your child know why he or she is going to school? When asked, most of them would respond “to get an education”, “because that is what we are supposed to do” or another of such correct yet unsatisfactory answers. The reason we do things often determines how well we do them. The child may not have had much of a choice in being enrolled in nursery school, or even primary, but if that child is older (particularly in that I-hate-school stage) it would be wise to let your child know how going to school plays in their own plans for their life. And not just to fulfill parental obligation.
2. Begin as you mean to continue
You may have done this already, but if not, it is wise to tell your children that school does not begin with the first sequence/tests but rather with the first lessons. And explain again the pressure they put on themselves by accumulating work till last-minute – forget the fact that as adults we may need this lessons ourselves, tell them anyways.
3. Learning is fun, don’t let anyone fool you otherwise
Our educational system is flawed all over world. You see we are more concerned with the score the child has than whether they actually mastered the topic, or whether they can use that knowledge practically, if at all the knowledge is useful. But we know that real learning isn’t just about memorization and grades. Real learning is fun. It is the joy we felt at discovering the how day and night came about or the impressive awe in finding out about the water cycle. If done right, education and learning is more fun than any Playstation can offer. Convince your child of this, help them go to school with the mindset that will help them learn and not just memorize or “cram”. Help them save a bit of their curiosity and ingenuity
4. School is more than a place for education, it is one of the bloodiest social battlefields
As adults we’ve passed this stage so we sometimes forget that there is often a lot more than lessons taking place in the classroom. Yes children learn something every day in school, but not always related to academics.
“What is the most important thing one learns in school?
Self-esteem, support, and friendship.”
– Terry Tempest Williams
To add to the above quote, children also learn lessons on failure, betrayal, independence and interdependence etc. So as you counsel them on their academics don’t forget to talk to them about interrelation with other students, the social part of school definitely affects the academic performance of the student. And pretending the relationships don’t matter or don’t exist doesn’t make the problem go away.
5. Failing doesn’t make you a failure
No parent wants to see their child fail. And in truth no child wants to fail (some just don’t want to work to want to pass). However it is necessary to let children know that if they do fail, it is not the end of the world, it does not mean, they cannot pass and it definitely doesn’t mean they are stupid. Remind them early that failing is a part of the learning process much like falling was when they first tried to walk. Many parents put demands for “first place” on their children and avoid the topic of failure until it comes. By broaching the topic of failure you are not encouraging failure, you are encouraging self acceptance. Ask them to try their best and remember that everyone’s best is not the same.
All in all as your child goes into school ensure that you are sending them not only with enough provisions, or with their fees fully paid, they should also be leaving home with enough drive, ambition, courage, kindness, hope and self-esteem to weather what will surely come.
“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”
– Oscar Wilde
Better Breed Cameroon is over a year old now with several minor youth projects to its repertoire. But in the beginning, all there was to it was a young lady with a dream, a mentor who pushed her and a cash award which made the dream all the more possible.
Have you ever thought about problems, vices and ills prevalent in our society? From AIDS to strikes, from corruption to unemployment… whatever the social issue, Cameroonians tend to blame it on those in power. They are corrupt, they embezzle, they give the jobs to relatives and friends, bypassing those who are qualified, they are bias in favor of certain tribes etc. It is always “they” and never “we”.
Better Breed was founded on the premise that this blaming/grumbling cycle will get us nowhere. And fighting those in power is useless if we don’t have better people to replace them with.
We need a new kind of Cameroonian. One who is not willing to give bribes to the police along the road, one who knows how many ministries there are in the country, one who isn’t after the “American Dream” but is willing to fantasize about something uniquely Cameroonian and make it a reality.
We need a new breed. And so we’re going to rear just that. It is much easier to build a whole child than to fix a broken adult. So we are solving the problem from the roots. We are all about investing in the development and empowerment of the young people.
Give them the knowledge they need to stand up for what is right, help them fulfill themselves here so they need not seek it elsewhere. Encourage them to dream, empower them with the ability and confidence to pursue those dreams.
Join the movement. This is the beginning of a new breed. Better Breed Cameroon