Over 45,000 children line up every two weeks to receive books and reading assignments from one of Nascent’s mobile libraries set up across the Bui division of the North-West region of Cameroon—a number that has increased exponentially over the past four years. As violence surrounding the Anglophone crisis persists, more than two-thirds of schools in the region have remained closed. Nascent teams have had to adjust interventions to accommodate volatile circumstances, and students, who would otherwise be benefitting from Nascent’s food and education program in the classroom setting, have had to adapt to a new way of learning.
Crisis Prevents Children from Attending School
In November 2016, political protests and teacher strikes in Cameroon’s Anglophone region forced all schools to close indefinitely. The complex sociopolitical crisis led to tensions between armed insurgents and the government, and violence throughout the area continues to prevent children and teachers from returning to school. Nascent’s program, which is supported by the United States Department of Agriculture, targets 92 schools in the affected region. Currently, only 35 of those schools are operational.
The closure of schools initially left over 21,000 children without a viable option for education. This had a devastating impact on a region where most kids are reading below grade level. For example, less than 15 percent of kids in grade two can read and understand English at grade level. In addition, hungry children have difficulty concentrating on their lessons. Thus, a critical component of the education program was to provide cooked meals to students in the classroom. With schools shut down, our teams could no longer provide these essential meals.
A Community Steps Up to Provide Education During Conflict
In the face of unpredictable change, Nascent teams rallied the community together to adapt its program and ensure children living in the affected region continued to have access to education. In March 2017, Nascent launched its Mobile Reading Program (MRP), which targeted students previously enrolled in the project schools. The program involved setting up mobile libraries within safe walking distances from children’s homes where students can rent books. Our teams worked with the local government and partners to procure grade-level reading materials in English to furnish the libraries and trained volunteer parents and community members to serve as library assistants. Now, the program has 435 libraries set up across the Bui division, where library assistants can provide reading assignments and one-on-one lessons to approximately 130 students per assistant.