The Government High School in Buea Town is a short walk from our house—after passing the burial ground (if you say cemetery, no one will understand you) and through the market (no okra just now, thank you Mami) we arrive at a hard packed soccer field and enter into the complex of cement classrooms and office buildings.  

On Tuesday morning, we were greeted not only by the usual rumbling of bulldozers working on the town water supply just outside the school premises, but also by a series of dull thuds interspersed with that wincing grind so particular to tearing metal.   It was not hard to identify the source of the new commotion—a man stood in front of an old car wielding an axe, methodically swinging it into the car’s slowly caving frame. 

Once past the scene of demolition, we were ushered by Mr. Usman (the enthusiastic and well dressed computer science teacher supporting YAN’s work) into the principal’s office to discuss the final details of launching YAN at GHS Buea Town for the first time.   As per usual, this meeting was very short—we showed the principal (three of the three schools we work are led by women) a draft of the letter parents will receive authorizing their children to stay after school for the YAN class, briefly reviewed a Memorandum of Understanding between YAN and GHS Buea Town, and confirmed our class time and size (Tuesdays and Thursdays, 20 students each day).   We now have 90 confirmed students for the year

Later that afternoon, we crammed together into the front seat of a small yellow taxi (this one with a dashboard sporting small crossed flags—U.S. and Manchester United—and plastic toucans with light-up beaks flashing yellow, white, red, blue in disjointed patterns) and made our way down to Mr. Akwanga’s house for dinner.  Mr. Akwanga was the director of the media lab at Lycee Molyko for many years and has been a dedicated supporter of YAN from its beginnings.  Recently, the government transferred him from his post in Buea to the small town of Mundemba, eight hours to the north over nearly impassible roads.  There, Mr. Akwanga is the director of a small school (~350 students) that is placed strategically in the middle of a large palm plantation.   According to his description, his new school has no electricity, an intermittent water supply, and is situated in one of the wettest parts of the country.  “If it only pours down rain for four hours during the day,” he told us, “the people say it has not rained at all.”  The school was created for the children of laborers on the palm plantation and is woefully under resourced.  Case in point: the parents came together last year to buy books for their children, and so a class of 90 students now has 5 English and 10 French textbooks to share between them.   Given that each book costs $10 and the average family makes $60 a month in the plantation, this is an incredible sacrifice for the literacy of the next generation.  “If only YAN could come to Mundemba,” Mr. Akwanga lamented.  “Most of my students have never seen a computer.”  

Dinner (prepared and served by his wife Katran) was delicious—buttery vegetables, savory rice and potatoes, grilled fish for the non-vegetarians at the table. Beer for dessert.   Katran laughed when I thanked her for all the work she had put into the meal—she’s a full time teacher, the mother of four children, and wife to a man who I don’t imagine spends much time in the kitchen.  “I’m used to it,” she told me graciously. 

The remainder of our week has been occupied with curriculum development, lesson planning, and teaching.   Here’s a shot from our class on Wednesday at Lycee Molyko.  Way to go, Josh!

Stay tuned for a description of next week’s classes, which will focus on how technology fuels activism and social justice around the world (think the Arab Spring, booming cellphone use in the developing world, the role of technology in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake, etc).


P.S.  Josh is in bed with a stomachache (from down the hall: “no I’m fine, I have a stomach of steel!”), so it’s just me for now.   Not to worry, he’s recovering nicely.  And he better be; we begin our 17 km walk around Buea Town with our crazy Saturday-morning exercise club at 6:00 a.m. tomorrow.