A Graduation Organised by the YAN fellows in Cameroon, Southwest Region 

“It was on Saturday the 1st of June, 2013 in Buea, precisely in the Buea Council Hall in Buea Town that the graduation of YAN students took place.  It started with the welcoming of guests and students after which we had some words of prayer from Sei Stella, a YAN student who schools in Government High School Buea Town.  Then we had an introduction from Miss Clara, our YAN teacher.  After that, Walters, the YAN coordinator in Cameroon gave us a speech, which was actually in the form of a video rather than directly.  Later on we had some speeches from Bessinula Emmanuel and Njie Derick who are YAN students.  Also, we had a word from Mr. Josh, our YAN teacher, after which we had the presentation of videos.  Actually, the videos were not full length because they were long and so we watched parts of each video.  Then there was the issuing of special awards for attendance, best interview, best videos, and many others accompanied by the issuing of diplomas to graduates.  First of all there was the presentation of diplomas for people who just graduated, after that those who had graduated with honours, and last of all those who graduated with highest honours.  Then we had refreshments at the closing.  We had some food and drinks and lastly there were performances from some students who danced.”  –Suh Ruth

Ruth is a graduate of the 2012-2013 YAN program, the recipient of the award for best interview, and one of 9 students chosen to participate in YAN’s pilot internship program.  She wrote this article as part of her first assignment from her internship supervisor at the Environmental and Rural Development Foundation (ERuDeF).   Congratulations, Ruth! More on the internship soon.

What Ruth did not mention in her succinct description of the final graduation event we held last Saturday was how the electricity flickered on and off all Saturday morning, and then resolutely disappeared at 2 pm, just 1 hour before our scheduled start time.   She also (kindly) left out our frantic (but ultimately successful) attempts to find a generator in town.  Amazingly, the generator worked smoothly after two naked wires were used to connect it to a power strip—our rented speakers and borrowed projector crackled quickly into life.  At 3 pm, we were ready to go.  At 4:15 pm, we finally decided we had enough people to start the event (only an hour late…miraculous in Cameroon!).   Conveniently, the power returned at this time, but we decided it was safer to continue running the electronics off the generator. 

You already know how the graduation proceeded, so I’ll fast-forward to just after the last diploma was presented.   Josh invited all of the parents, teachers, and other adult guests to proceed from their seats of honor in the front of the room to the tables waiting with giant coolers full of steaming rice, water fufu, eru, and stew and crates full of Fanta, Coke, Malta, and (because we were told adults would be offended if it was not offered), beer.  Remarkably quickly, the 100 plates we bought for the occasion were loaded up with food.  We sent a few students to buy 50 more plates, but those disappeared as well.  The drinks ran out next and so we hurried into town for a few more full crates. All the while, people talked, watched a slideshow of photos from YAN classes this past year, and used up our camera’s batteries shooting pictures of themselves with their diplomas in front of the meeting hall.

It was incredible to see so many of our students and their parents (in their finest outfits) at the event, some of whom had traveled over an hour to attend; we had been told repeatedly that parents simply don’t attend this kind of thing here.  Many of the community members that volunteered their expertise during student interviews were there too, as were several other friends from around town.  One woman approached me after the ceremony to inquire about involving her own children in the YAN program—“I’ll rush to the website right now,” she told me when I gave her the link.   Another guest—a man whose younger brother had participated in YAN in Limbe this past year—approached me and explained that he was a student at the University of Buea, and wanted to see if YAN could come and hold classes at the University. His reason, he explained, was that “my classes are not interesting or practical, but this program seems like it is both.”

The few students who were absent for the event have been stopping by our house over the last week to collect their diplomas and explain they’ve been busy studying for their Ordinary Level exams.  They are always eager to see the video compilation we shared during graduation, and often bring friends along to watch as well.   Even if they are not a part of YAN, students love seeing video footage of familiar places and people.  One non-YAN student sat riveted as she watched an interview conducted with the principal of her former school—she nodded her head in agreement when Principal Lois suggested the government should start a text-book support program for low-income students and considered with interest the idea of creating more government supported healthcare.