The community of Besali has no doubt benefited from the construction of a new primary school. Prior to the new building, most children were being taught in a private home. Many were simply not attending due to the long travel distances and a lack of emphasis on schooling. Now, the new infrastructure has changed the community’s perspective on education. Although the average distance to school remains 1-2 km, attendance has boosted to 260 students. The school’s headmaster, Tayen Elias, explains:
“With the support from partners, there has been change in attitude among the community. In the past, access was an issue due to distance. With the new school, more children are attending. There has been a change in mentality… education is now viewed as an asset.’
|Number of Teachers||3 Gov’t, 3 PTA (2 ICA sponsored)|
|Number of Pupils||128 boys, 132 girls.|
|Graduation Rate in 2014||100%, 16/16|
Nkemas Ong Abraham Tangu, a parent of one of the students, agrees. He states that “the new building attracts children from other quarters [communities]… and has increased the children’s performance. The new classrooms have provided new space”. Like many Cameroonians in the Lebialem region, Abraham believes that education is the starting point for future development. He wants his children to complete their education, gain experience in the world and return to Besali to re-invest their skills. From this perspective, the full impact of ICA Canada’s investment in G.S. Besali will only be determined in the years and decades to come.
“I thank you for your continuous support to the school both financially and materially. During the last academic year the payment of two PTA teachers and the supply of workbooks made teaching and learning more effective. The school scored in official exams 96.5% in Government Common Entrance into Form 1 [grade 7, high school] and 100% in first school leaving certificate”– Headmaster Elias Tayem (February 17th, 2015)
Possibilities for continued development
Although the construction of G.S. Besali has positively influenced the community’s attitude towards education, the school still suffers from a number of setbacks. Firstly, the absentee rate is quite high due to illness. The closest source of water is a 30 minute walk from the school and it is unfiltered. Water-borne diseases are thus a major cause of absenteeism. Secondly, many families find it difficult to pay the annual school fees (approximately 6 CAD). Although the community assists with services, such as helping with construction and repairs, school fees and other supplies (personal pens and paper) remain a challenge. Thirdly, the school administration has identified the need for a teacher’s office, which includes a storage space for textbooks. Fourthly, many of the children recommend more benches. There are only 60 benches and 3 tables for 257 students. Many students have to share workspace or sit on the floor. Finally, the school is a victim of its own success, as the influx of students has created a need for more classrooms.
Despite ongoing challenges, ICA is pleased to report that the morale of students, teachers and parents remains extremely high. G.S. Besali is one of the most well constructed buildings in the area. It is a centerpiece and a source of pride for the Besali community.