This afternoon, an avocado fell on Josh’s head.  The avocado wasn’t immediately visible as it had rolled off into the dust, but the thud and subsequent shriek of surprise were hard to miss.   Josh’s lenses popped right out of his glasses, but he was otherwise unharmed. It was an unripe avocado, so it may be a few days before we can slice it up for lunch.

Avocado encounters aside, our week went according to plan (as much is this is possible in Cameroon).  Our students created websites using the WordPress platform, and then added multiple pages on which they will post information, videos, and photos about their research topic in the weeks and months to come.  They had fun designing their own webpages (partially, perhaps, because they practiced their “design” skills with a paper airplane contest at the beginning of class).  We are excited to support them in the coming weeks as they build their websites into robust repositories of multi-media driven information on their selected research questions.   As their websites develop, we’ll post the links for our readers to see (one favorite project blurb already in the making: Did you know that the number one cause of Cholera is IGNORANCE?).

Our successes this week in class were interrupted by several Internet tangles that we are quickly growing accustomed to here.  In order to create and activate a WordPress webpage, one must first enter a valid e-mail address.  This quickly separated our students into three groups: (1) those who can no longer remember the passwords to their newly-minted e-mail addresses, (2) those who were inexplicably blocked from their Yahoo accounts despite having correct username and password information, and (3) those lucky students who did not fall into category 1 or 2.

Another Cameroonian challenge we encountered this week occurred on Thursday as we walked towards our class in Buea Town and we met one of our students leaving school and heading home. “Good Afternoon!” We greeted her. “Will we see you in class today?” “No” she replied. “There is no YAN this week. We have a test to study for.” We asked a few more questions, and found out that students in Form 5 (equivalent to 10th grade in the US) have been instructed to take a practice GCE O-Level exam, a high-stakes test that students across Anglophone Cameroon (as well as in England) must take to move on to the upper secondary school classes. The real exam will occupy 2 weeks of our students’ time in June, but this practice test will evidently last for the next two weeks, and students have been excused from all classes so that they can focus entirely on their practice exam. High-stakes testing is common in schools across Cameroon, as are irregularities in class schedules (for example, if a teacher is absent—and they frequently are—their classes are cancelled as well, sometimes for a week at a time).   Given that about half of our students in Buea Town are in Form 5, our classes were significantly depleted Thursday afternoon. We ran an adapted lesson with the 9 students that came, and are restructuring our lessons for the coming week so that all of our students will complete the requisite activities to be successful at website design this year.  It is frustrating, however, knowing that our classes at Buea Town over the coming week will be half-full.

On the plus side, almost all our students handed in their homework, even if they could not make it to class.   We had a lot of fun reading over this particular assignment as it included blurbs describing themselves and their interest in YAN. These, alongside a photo, will grace an “About Us” webpage that they will create for their research project website. All of our student’s blurbs sound great so far, but we thought we’d excerpt a few of our favorites to share here.F

  • From a student in Buea Town researching Cholera: “I am a young, passionate student hoping to become a great scientist in the future.  I love YAN because it helps to build up my knowledge on information technologies and also on the Internet.  Another reason is because it has given me the opportunity to do research in my community and look for possible solutions to problems.”
  • From a student in Lycee Molyko researching governmental corruption: “I like singing and solving maths during any free time. I like YAN because it makes you know so many things happening in the outside world, things that are good and bad.”
  • From a student in Limbe also researching governmental corruption: “I am a very inquisitive child by nature and as such, would want to know about everything if possible.  Being the inquisitive person that I am, I obviously like being a part of the YAN project, which exposes me to new ideas and discoveries."
  • From a student in Limbe researching education and high failure rates on GCE tests in Cameroon: “During my free time, I usually like playing football but at times I like to write poems.  I love YAN a lot.  I love the teachers and the activities, especially the advocacy part of it.  I hope to become an advocate in the future.  I will advocate for peace, love and unity. “

Pretty great, right?

PS: The picture below features two of our Buea Town students, who are researching computer technology implementation in Cameroon. Our students’ research was supposed to be done entirely online, so we can only imagine what these kids are learning by investigating this errant motherboard that they found floating around the classroom. However, the photo opportunity was too perfect to pass up! (And don't worry; we showed these kids the picture we took, and then redirected them back to what they were supposed to be doing).