Earlier this year, we launched our eLearning course for social enterprises in January with a second installment in May. Social enterprises from across the globe – from places we didn’t even think we could reach – applied. So we began to wonder, who are these social enterprises? What are their models? What do they need most to reach the most marginalized populations? So I sat down with Charles Njemo Batumani and Arun Kumar Das, two social entrepreneurs who finished the first installment of our eLearning course in January to see what they’ve done, where they see their enterprises going and why eLearning was a way for them to improve their social enterprise. Charles is building affordable housing for low and middle income earners in Limbe, Cameroon while Arun is developing a natural plant product to combat malnutrition in Odisha, India.
Though free basic education policy adopted by the government of Cameroon in 2000, many children remain out of school or dropout mid-way into their training program due to financial constraints.
While more than 90% of school-age children enrolled are in primary school in 2009, less than half completed education and the problem persist to date.
After a year into implementation, Goodness and Mercy Missions is sponsoring the education of 313 needy children in Belo community through its project entitled “Children Education through Women Empowerment”
An innovative idea, surfaced at the 2011 Cameroon Development Marketplace competition, brought approximately 100 women together to embark on an income generating activity supporting the education of needy children in Belo community. These women sold 106 barrels of palm oil with a start-up budget of XAF 6,000,000 (US $12,000) and earned XAF 12,767,000 (US $25,534). With benefits made (XAF 3,881,000 - US $7762), women from the community are sponsoring the education of 313 needy children of Belo community for the academic year 2012/2013.
While it is assumed that the free education policy would stimulate greater demand for education at primary level, this is not always the case, especially for the girl child of poor family background living in rural areas. Financial constraints (such as PTA fees at primary level or tuition fees in secondary school, and high cost of textbooks, etc.) associated with education plague the success of this policy. Therefore, improving household’s income would have a great impact on enrollment rate in school especially for the girl child. How to do this remains a challenge.
Thousands of schoolchildren in the northwest region of Cameroon are benefiting from a co-investment schoolbook program established by Knowledge for Children (KFC), a Cameroon-Dutch based non-governmental organization (NGO).
-Despite high enrollment rates, one in two students in Cameroon leaves school without basic literacy skills, a metric that is significantly worse among students without access to textbooks
-In the northwest region of Cameroon, a local development project has made school books available to more than 27,000 children in rural primary schools, which provides the potential to hugely enhance a student’s academic performance
-Since 2005, the number of primary school students in the northwest region with access to books has increased from 15% to 25%
“if you think education is expensive, try ignorance” Manjong Sixtus, Delegate for Basic Education, Donga-Mantung
During the 2010 – 2011 academic year, 95 schools participated in the program that has made school books available to children in rural primary schools. But, thanks to a US$20,000 (XAF 10,470.900) grant awarded during the 2011 Development Marketplace competition in Cameroon, KFC has been able to extend the program to 15 new schools during the 2011-2012 academic year, bringing the total number of participating schools to 110 and reaching 27,500 children.
More often than not, “we” criticize the “system” for being corrupt; yet it is simply a reflection of what we make of it. For example, what would happen if “we” decided never to collect bribes from users in our health service system? Or if we implemented and respected the rule of ‘first come, first served’ instead of paying or collecting bribes for faster service delivery? What would happen when it is brought to our knowledge that there are irregular practices operating within our health centers?
These questions are for everyone, particularly for authorities in health centers. These kinds of questions are being answered by winners of the Cameroon 2011 Development Marketplace competition. Nowadays, advances in ICT tools and social media channels provide us with various ways to monitor and expose corrupt practices. When I first visited the website of I Paid a Bribe by the Janaagraha Centre for Citizenship and Democracy, I was amazed by the innovation, frightened by testimonies, and thankful to those who had the courage to report irregular practices. My next move while browsing the website was to check if Cameroon was amongst those countries participating on this platform. Unfortunately not!