Life here always seems to strikes both ends of the spectrum at the same time. I just had a great 2 hour session with our French tutor, but I walk away disheartened and challenged to find some projects that will accomplish some change.
Our French tutor is young, he is married, and they have a 4 year old son. He is the newest English teacher at Nkongsamba’s bilingual high school. Him and his family just moved here from the capitol, Yaounde, to take the job.
We started the session with him asking how Shaun’s first class teaching English went this morning…we then started talking about the differences between the American and Cameroonian education systems. I found out our tutor doesn’t get paid for his work as a teacher, and he hasn’t for the last 2 years. It is far too common to hear about teachers not being paid their salaries by the government. But, they stay in their jobs and work, because maybe one day the money will come and they will get paid. And, a maybe of getting paid is better than nothing.
It kills me to think of his family. While we were talking, it came up that his wife still has 3 more years of high school left. She hasn’t been able to go for the last few years because the school fees are so high and they don’t have money for it (how could there be money for it when your husband doesn’t get paid?!). He went on to say that when he does get paid, they are trying to decide who should go to school, her or their son.
I cannot even imagine. The beauty in it though, is that he was saying how happy they are in Nkongsamba. He says they laugh a lot more here.
I’m left wondering what to do. My canvas market bag is full of groceries, we have a house for 2 bigger than the room they rent for 3. But they don’t need a handout; Cameroon and Africa have had their fair share of handouts. I want to change the system — to make the government pay their school teachers, to reduce school fees so more people can attend, or to at least allocate school fees to pay teachers’ salaries. But, realistically, I cannot do any of that. I am left wondering how Shaun and I can be generous with our abundant resources without making our friends and community around us a charity case. Neither party wants that. So, what does sustainable generosity look like? What can we do in Nkongsamba to boost the community and quality of life around us? And, specifically, what can we do to help those we get to know well and know personally?
So, while I am left more disheartened with the Cameroonian school system, I am left with my mind rolling of the what ifs, what can we do, how can we make a change…? I am left with the motivation of an injustice, quite possibly one of the strongest motivators.