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USDA Delegation Visits Food For Education Program

Dear friends of Nascent, we have recently completed a great visit to the FFE/ALIGN project. The USDA team of Alessandra S. McCormack and Rich Higgins II, both of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service were positively impressed with our progress; particularly since the school year in our region of implementation was partially interrupted by a teachers’ strike in November 2017.

The USDA team, supported by Dr. Derrin R. Smith, Deputy Chief of the Political-Economic Section,and Mihaela Biliovschi-Smith, Executive Assistant Media at the US Embassy in Yaounde, expressed great satisfaction at seeing that implementation continued apace during the strike period.

Parents showed off school gardens, thick with fresh fruit and vegetables that they had cultivated. Village leaders pointed to the water towers carrying clean fresh water from deep down in the earth,  brought about by the water component of the ALIGN project. Caritas Kumbo the partner responsible for this aspect of the program proudly demonstrated the innovative child friendly pedal that releases water to reduce infection through regular manipulation of the faucet.

Muslim horsemen turned out in their village of Vekovi to welcome the visiting delegation. At a time of global turmoil, it was a hopeful sign, to see rural school children waving American flags and Muslim men in flowing robes performing a horse fantasia to welcome American officials into their midst.

Alessandra, who has supervised several McGovern-Dole projects around the world, said she could not remember any other that achieved this level of implementation this quickly and with such deep community buy-in.

In traditional ceremonies organized by local chiefs and community leaders Derrin was received the rank of “Shufai” or a Lord in the Royal Palace. The highest title for men in Bui traditions. Alessandra was crowned “Yaah” or “Queen Mother”. Rich received the rank of “Nformi” or general. In his case a “General of Books,” in recognition of the literacy component of the MGDD/ALIGN project. Mihaela is made a “Yesum” or “Mother of the Farm,” acknowledging USDA’s help in introducing school gardens with  the MGD/ALIGN project.  These accolades represent the unanimous approbation of grateful people who can see a bright future for their  children because of the generosity of the American people.

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Parents & Communities Bring In School Garden Harvest For Their Children

Parents and Community gardeners have begun reaping the fruit of their labors, harvesting crops grown as part of the School Gardens component of the USDA funded McGovern-Dole Food For Education/ALIGN program. The harvest will bolster the nutrition of children in the environs of the 92 target schools. Even though a political crisis has disrupted many government services, parent engagement in the proper nutrition and education of their children has been undiminished and their participation and buy-in of the program has been heightened in the vacuum created by the current political crisis. All 92 Communities have remained engaged, continuing to receive take-home rations for their home-bound children, work the gardens and check out books as part of the mobile-reading initiative, devised to provide continuity for the children in a disrupted learning environment.

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Building Responsive and Responsible Leaders

Nascent programs promote participatory decision-making which cultivates ownership, ensures transparent and accountable management of resources and sustainability.  Parents, teachers, school administrators and government officials pull their thoughts together to devise strategies on how to properly nourish children so they can perform better in school.

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Helping HIV/AIDS Survivors Find Health & Independence

Mbaiyu Christopher is one of the beneficiaries of the International Food Relief Progam-Ngoketunjia sponsored by USAID, implemented by Nascent in Cameroon. “After being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in 2012, life became a nightmare for me. Battling with the illness and facing poverty/Hunger at the same time left me totally devastated with a continual perception of death.”


“Even with my love for gardening as a farmer, I was restricted by poor knowledge on improved gardening techniques and lack of improved seeds. My 10square meters garden with ‘waterleaf’ and tomato never yielded enough profit for my feeding and other basic needs” Christopher lives in Bamuka village of Ngohketunjia Division in the North West Region of Cameroon with high food insecurity and HIV prevalence rates of up to 6.3%. The Solution for Christopher was not to triple the size of his farm and plant more ‘water leaf’ and tomato, but to diversify his vegetable production to beet roots, carrots, green pepper, celery etc.

Through the 2015  IFRP in Ngohketunjia, Christopher alongside some 1200 PLWHIV received training on gardening, nutrition andseeds to start up their individual/family gardens. “Thanks to the gardening training and seeds i received, which enabled me to diversify my crop production, I am able to make at least 15,000 FCFA from my garden harvest every month. I hope to expand my cultivation in the future.” Christopher also joined a People Living With Aids group which  is coordinated as part of the program. This community has helped him cope and find purpose despite persisting social stigma.

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Creating A Culture Of Literacy With Mobile Reading

Ishatou Bongkongyuy is a 10 year old girl of class 03 in GS Chaw, one of the Nascent’s MGD/ALIGN project schools in Noni Subdivision in Cameroon’s Northwest Province. Chaw is a small peasant community; over half of the population are Wodaabe. Ishatou is the last of a family of six.  Her mother Delphine Keri lost her husband 10 years ago while pregnant with Ishatou.

 

 

Despite the lessons Ishatou received in school daily, she was not reading either for leisure or school texts at home because she could barely read. Ishatou had to repeat class 03 due to her poor performance. She recalls that “During the EGRA test in 2016, when I was in class 3 for the first time, I could only read 04 words from the text presented to me without really understanding what they meant”. “The mobile reading has given me so much interest in reading that I am fighting to improve my ability to read, and my sister who is in secondary school has been helping me too. I have read four books with the help of my sister since the program started.  Now, I am very happy that on my own, I was able to read and understand 44 words from the last book my mother signed out with me at our school library”. Ishatou is more and more confident in her reading skills and always willingly reads for her parents during by-weekly book-sign-out sessions.

 

Delphine Keri, Ishatou’s mother confirms that Ishatou can now read and retell stories she has read in just 2 months since the start of the mobile reading program in her school.  According to her mother “Ishatou is learning to read faster than other children around who sometimes come to read with her”.

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Transforming School Environments in Cameroon

As part of the McGovern Dole Food For Education Grant implementation our infrastructure teams have been constructing and rehabilitating classrooms, toilets, handwashing stations and digging and constructing water wells, to provide better sanitation options and clean drinking water to students who rank among the poorest internationally.

In December 2016 Nascent field workers inaugurated the revamping of IPS Tatum in Kumbo.

The teams installed handwashing stations, dug and developed a well(which is in its final stages of preparation), built a bathroom, kitchen, storehouse and installed a water tank, which will feed the school garden, the toilets and the handwashing station.

Access to clean water in rural outpost schools is a challenge. Large numbers of pupils regularly contract dysentery and other diseases of poor sanitation.

Nascent field workers are working through political upheaval to ensure that when the pupils return to school, they will return to better teachers, and a clean, conducive and sanitary environment.

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Nascent Celebrates Global Handwashing Day

Nascent Solutions joined the international community on October 15th in celebrating Global Handwashing day. Utilizing a sanitation-is-fun approach we have been educating pupils in rural schools in Bui Division in Cameroon to wash their hands regularly, particularly before eating and after bathroom breaks. These simple guidelines are often absent in poor communities where more immediate issues of finding food and survival dominate social consciousness.

However our education initiatives, paired with Nascent Solutions’ construction of handwashing stations as part of the McGovern-Dole Food For Education program’s implementation has yielded good results. Many children now regard handwashing at the hands-free handwashing stations as a fun activity and are eager to wash their hands before meals, after bathroom breaks and after various other youthful shenanigans.

Celebrating days like the Global Handwashing day helps deepen the entrenchment of good sanitary habits, and we found the pupils in our project schools eager commemorators this year.

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Literacy Day With E-readers

Nascent Solutions staff, together with traditional and civic authorities in Bui and the Tadu Community joined the rest of the world to celebrate the 50th International Literacy Day. The theme of this years’ celebrations was “Reading the past, writing the future”. The event was held at GS Tadu, where the e-reader program and distribution of supplies to schools were also officially launched.

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Overall attendance was about 800 people comprising of Pupils and teachers of GS Tadu, PTA Chairpersons, Head teachers and teachers of the four selected E-reader pilot schools (PS Roberta, CS Djottin, GS Ngashie and GS Tadu), Tadu community members, traditional authorities, the Divisional Delegate of Basic Education, Inspectors of Basic Education, agency heads, the Mayor of Kumbo Council and the Senior Divisional Officer for Bui.

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After an overview of the e-reader program, certificates were awarded to 04 head Teachers and 04 class two teachers of the four E-reader pilot schools for successfully taking part in the E-reader training. The PTA chairpersons of the 04 schools received 12 e-readers each for their respective schools, for which they also signed commitment forms.

The people of Tadu expressed gratitude and satisfaction through their massive participation in the event.

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Teacher Training in Kumbo

The Promotion of education is a core element of Nascent Solutions’ mission. Many rural and agrarian societies are falling victim to new challenges, such as climate change, presented by an increasingly interconnected world. It is therefore of the utmost importance that children growing up in this rapidly changing world be given the tools to succeed. Literacy is a vital and often overlooked fundamental element for thriving in the modern world.
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Therefore our implementation of the McGovern Dole Food For Education Program goes beyond providing meals, school gardens, and clean water. Through a partnership with Fantastic Phonics, Nascent Solutions hosted seminars in June 2016, for 107 teacher trainers, led by experts from Australia. The seminar attendees comprised at least one teacher from each MGD/ALIGN project school. This strategy puts our teacher trainers in ideal positions to educate their peers in the best practices for literacy training and thereby significantly improve the literacy of  our 52,000 target students.
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These seminars further provide Nascent Solutions’ trainers with a firm baseline from which to build future literacy initiatives and help bring our target communities into the lettered global family.

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Clean Water Project Underway

Dysentery and other diseases of unclean drinking water are the leading cause of death in children in Sub-Saharan Africa.  The Water Project leg of the USDA Nascent Solutions’ MGD/ ALIGN  program is underway in Cameroon’s Bui Division. The Water Project seeks to install water wells, hand-washing stations and water tanks in up to 42 needy schools in Bui Division in Cameroon.

The first school to be equipped with borehole, water tank and hand washing stations is GS Bamkikai, in Kumbo. Prior to the projects intervention pupils as young as 5 had to fill up a designated class bucket with water from a surface stream a ten minute walk from the school campus before classes daily. This class bucket with water exposed to animal and human wastes and pesticide runoff from nearby farms served as the source of drinking water for the classes. This situation is replicated in many rural communities contributing to high rates infant disease and death in impoverished communities.

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The Water Project’s robust approach to providing reliable long term clean water with deep water wells, will help stem the tide of sickness and death in rural children. The water from the wells will further be used to water school gardens and in hand washing stations further bracing the most vulnerable against hunger and sickness and providing them the necessary foundation for a sound education.
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