Two weeks ago, I delivered two letters to Principal Ayompe Haddassah in Limbe— the first was handwritten by one of our students, Nelson, and requested an appointment to interview her about education for his final video; the second was from Josh and me, reiterating Nelson’s request in type with the YAN logo stamped prominently in the upper right-hand corner.  We’ve finally figured out the power of an official looking letter...

Last week, Nelson and I walked into the principal’s air-conditioned office.  We stood by the door while she gave instructions to her assistant and finished conversing with a woman from the secretariat.   When these two left, I approached the desk hesitantly—Principal Ayompe always appears to be busy—and asked if she still had time to talk with Nelson.  “It will just be 5 minutes?”  she half asked, half stated.  I explained that Nelson had a lot of great questions, but we could stop whenever she needed to go.  She nodded.  At that, Nelson sat down across from her and I took my position with the video camera.

“Good afternoon, Madame.   My name is Nelson and I am a student here at Government High School Limbe…” Nelson went on to give a succinct and eloquent overview of YAN and of his project about improving education in Cameroon. He then asked the principal to define education.   Simple enough.  However, after a few warm-up questions, Nelson began digging deep.  “I have read that the dropout rate in Cameroon for girls is higher than it is for boys. Why is this?”  “Some of my peers say that they do not pass their examinations because the teachers are not preparing them adequately.  What would you respond to these complaints?”  

Nelson and Principal Ayompe talked for 20 minutes straight.  It was clear this was not a common scene in the principal’s office—and Nelson looked almost (but not quite) as happy with it as Principal Ayompe did.  When they were finished, Nelson politely thanked her for her time, and she in turn thanked him for being such an excellent student and then matter-of-factly told him: “We will put your video on the school website.”   It was awesome.   

Nelson and I debriefed quickly after his interview, talking about the tone of the discussion and the information covered.  When I asked him if there was anything else he wished the principal had mentioned, he said he had hoped she would encourage students to take advantage of the resources at school such as the computer lab.   We agreed he could put an encouraging statement of this manner in his video conclusion.  Before class was over, Principal Ayompe stopped in for a visit (a relatively rare occurrence).   “You know you are blessed,” she said to the students.

Similar scenes have been playing out all around Buea and Limbe as we bring groups to interview experts around the community. 


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