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Fueling Education: USDA’s McGovern-Dole Food For Education’s Impact

Across many villages and schools in rural Cameroon a new paradigm is emerging. Young girls who would otherwise be working the fields to help their families eke out a subsistence are going to school regularly. When they do, they are not listless and hungry and inattentive as the prevailing material poverty would command. They are paying attention and learning to read and write and get their wings as scholars. In predominantly muslim IPS Njombo and christian Bamkikai, the effectiveness of the US Department of Agriculture’s McGovern-Dole Food For Education Program implemented by Nascent in Bui Division is transforming the well-being and education outcomes of children, and most importantly, communal attitudes towards education, particularly the education of girl children.

3 years in, Nascent’s broad community outreach and sensitization has inspired enthusiastic support and buy-in for all  facets of the USDA flagship. PTA’s and community members have tilled, tended and harvested the school gardens. Volunteers have cooked and served USDA donated rice, beans and locally grown supplemental vegetables and foods. And through social disruption of schools, parents queued up in long lines to sign out books and receive take-home rations, for the Mobile Reading and Take-Home Rations crises adaptations of the program. Local and national government officials have supported and helped facilitate coordination and execution of the program in government schools in the region.

Nascent’s construction of new classrooms, libraries, clean water wells, water tanks, hand-washing stations, bathrooms and kitchens in over 45 schools and the establishment of school gardens in 92 schools has gone a long way to establishing a foundation for the demonstrated  and united commitment to education to take root in healthy, sanitary, learning conducive environments and sow the seeds of future social progress.

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Rural Children Adopt the E-reader

Access to quality educational and literary materials is still a huge challenge in rural areas in Cameroon, where parents often have to choose between feeding the child and buying them a book.  With support from the USDA, Nascent has acquired and shipped books for the over 20,000 school age children in the 92 schools benefiting from the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition program.  However, the need is still enormous, given that almost every parent in every school in our target areas needs help. Books remain a scarce commodity in most household as most parents struggle to buy just the basic school textbooks.

In its search for sustainable solutions, Nascent is leveraging mobile technologies to pilot an e-reader option with 3rd grade students in ten program schools. The solar-powered e-readers each contain one hundred grade appropriate titles, assigned to about 3 children per e-reader in classes of 20-30 students.

The teachers who have been trained to use the e-readers to teach literacy are as fascinated with the device as are the students, who carry a smile on their faces as they manipulate the tools and engage in interactive exercises such as the drag-and-drop or filling in the blanks, which they were very reluctant to perform with pencil and paper. The children actually seem to master the intricacies of the technology faster than their teachers and their reading skills are growing much more quickly.

After witnessing the amazing results of the E-Reader, we would love to put the E-Reader in the hands of even more children across the country.  If you share this dream, you can help make it real by sending us your donation.

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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 pool their thoughts together to devise strategies on how to properly nourish children so they can perform better in school.

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Transforming The Learning Environment In Cameroon

As part of the McGovern Dole Food for Education and child nutrition program implementation, our infrastructure teams have been constructing and rehabilitating classrooms, toilets, handwashing stations as well as digging and constructing boreholes to provide better sanitation options and clean drinking water to students who rank among the poorest in the world.

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

The teams installed handwashing stations, dug and developed a borehole, 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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Good Governance Training To Sustain Literacy & Nutrition

In order to sustain the transformative impact of the USDA funded McGovern-Dole program in North West Cameroon, Nascent/MGD workers have engaged community leaders, local officials and school staff in Good Governance training workshops to promote, cement and sustain the gains of two critical components of the program. These are:

  • Improving the literacy of school age children (through improving the literacy teaching skills of teachers and making reading materials more available to students)
  • Sustaining good health in pupils by continuing the school meals program, with community contributions in school kitchens, school gardens and broad governance sensitization on prioritizing the nutritional needs of students in local and community governance policy.

The workshops were well attended. Attendees were especially attracted to the Participatory Management Model for Basic Education which, even in the context of decentralized government, or reduced funding in poor countries, can sustain high standards for  literacy and nutrition in school age children.

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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 Nascent’s MGD/ALIGN project schools in Noni Subdivision in Cameroon’s Northwest Region. 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 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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Mobile Reading Pilot In Cameroon

Students in the North-West Region of Cameroon queued up with their parents throughout Bui Division to receive books from Nascent/McGovern Dole Mobile Libraries in late March. The students who otherwise would be benefiting from the USDA sponsored McGovern/Dole (MGD) program in their classrooms, have had to adapt to socio-political turmoil that has shuttered their schools.

With the help of local Nascent/MGD teams that are committed to not leaving them behind, they have continued to have access to literacy and study materials. Starting on March 25th, Nascent/MGD staff throughout the region established mobile libraries with literacy house-call follow-ups, working with parents to ensure that pupils in the affected areas continue to learn and acquire the essentials to be competitive in a changing world.

These endeavors are consistent with our commitment to work towards   literate, sustainable and independent communities. Of particular note was the high participation of girls in this program, with the assistance of their parents, as social barriers to the education of women continue to be broken down, despite political uncertainty.

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E-reader Pilot Initiative A Success.

Africa’s rural children are being increasing left behind in a rapidly industrializing world. Most young scholars and their teachers are cutoff from the learning and teaching opportunities offered by internet apps and networking tools. The result is a widening gap in literacy, general aptitude and ultimately opportunity. To break this bleak trend Nascent Solutions recently pioneered e-reader training, as part of its implementation of the USDA funded MGD Food For Education program in Cameroon. Mary Wong, the Nascent field coordinator in Bui Division, reported that this first ever e-reader training exercise in Primary School Roberta was a success.

“All the 4 head teachers and 4 class 2 teachers of the pilot schools were present and participated fully. In fact I have never seen a more motivated and engaged group of learners. It was with keen interest and zeal that together we went through the training manual, discovering the marvels of technology in teaching. They cannot wait to begin the training with their pupils, and are very positive in their expectations.”

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This segment of the greater Food For Education Program’s implementation seeks to directly expand and invite teachers and students from Africa’s marginalized and forgotten corners into the robust teaching and learning opportunities afforded by modern learning tools, such as the e-reader.

Nascent Solutions is currently accepting donations of working e-readers. Please visit our contact page to mail one in, or visit our donations page to contribute and make a difference.

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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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