’It’s all interlinked’ – LWF Cameroon supports livelihoods and education for CAR refugees

Painter and consulting artist Dogari Samson teaches children how to make drawings as a way to share messages of peace. All photos: LWF/Albin Hillert
Painter and consulting artist Dogari Samson teaches children how to make drawings as a way to share messages of peace. All photos: LWF/Albin Hillert

Education for peace and social cohesion 

(LWI) - With the influx of more than 12,000 refugees from the Central African Republic (CAR), Borgop – a village of less than 1,000 native inhabitants in the Adamaoua region of Cameroon – is under stress. 

Located some 60 kilometres from the border to CAR, the village has become host of a continuous stream of refugees, with new arrivals still ongoing. 

The Borgop camp is currently home to some 12,300 refugees from the Central African Republic.
The Borgop camp is currently home to some 12,300 refugees from the Central African Republic.

Since 2015, the Lutheran World Federation’s World Service program works to support both refugees and host communities in the area, as they grapple with dwindling livelihoods and limited capacity in public infrastructure – for example in the form of schools. 

Access to education a multilayered challenge

Today, the two ‘Ecoles Publiques de Borgop’ (Public Schools of Borgop) host 2,366 primary school children across four groups. Close to half of school-age refugee children are attending school.

Yaya Ibrahim, Chief of Office for General Affairs in Inspection of Basic Education at the municipality of Djohong, tells the story of a school that has been largely transformed by the arrival of the refugees. 

“One challenge is the issue of social cohesion. When the refugees came, it was not easy at first. And the infrastructure was not sufficient, even for the host community itself. Living together was not easy,” Ibrahim says.

But he also notes that many children today are also not regular in school, for a variety of reasons. “Particularly the older children, we find that they go out to try to get something for themselves, instead of coming to school,” he says.

Finding ways forward, letting children teach ways to peace

Today, the LWF has helped establish two so-called ‘listening clubs’ in the Borgop school. 

Through monthly sessions, children are trained in hearing messages of peace, and communicating them to their classmates. 

Dogari Samson, painter and consulting artist is part of a specific eight-day intervention to teach the children how to make drawings with images and messages of peace.

Children participate in a listening club session led by Dogari Samson.
Children participate in a listening club session led by Dogari Samson.

“I have learned to see how the children live together in school, and how there is discrimination among them, because of religion, ethnic group, and how there are conflicts there,” reflects Samson.

“We must do a lot to help them avoid these conflicts. And for this, the listening club is like the locomotive of a train. It is there to take the lead, for messages of peace in the school and in the community,” he says. 

 And efforts seem to be bearing fruit. 

“This is Ali and Moussa,” says 14-year-old Baene Teophil. “They are students, and Ali is lending Moussa his book. Even if we are not from the same village, we must do like them,” he says. 

Mariamou, also 14, describes an image of two children playing football together. “Even if we are from different blocks, we should play together. We must do like them,” she says.

Fourteen-year-old Mariamou leads an exercise with the other children in the listening club.
Fourteen-year-old Mariamou leads an exercise with the other children in the listening club.

Sensitizing on the importance of access to education

 “The LWF does a lot of work on sensitizing the community about the importance of education,” says Morikang Philomena, LWF supervisor in education, peace and community services in Adamaoua region and the Garoua-Boulai sub-division. 

“In the home country CAR, less than 10% of these refugee children have been going to school. So there is a huge barrier in showing the parents the importance of education,” she reflects. 

In view of this, the LWF currently supports 29,500 school children across the North, East, and Adamaoua regions.

In Borgop as in other camps, we follow up to make sure children go to school each day,” Philomena says. 

But, she explains, the issue of access to education is not an isolated one. And the real issue is often poverty. 

From livelihoods comes education comes peace 

In Borgop, the LWF provides refugees with vocational training, and make interventions to support income-generating activities.

Behind the efforts are two projects: the PRM-sponsored "Strengthened Livelihoods and Social Cohesion for Central African Republic refugees and host communities in Cameroon," and “Assistance en Moyens de Subsistance, Services Communautaires et Education en faveur de réfugiés Centrafricains dans les regions de l’Est, de l’Adamaoua et du Nord,” sponsored by UNHCR. 

Through a cash-based intervention in 2016, Mousa Usmanou has been able to establish a farmstead, where today he hosts as many as 97 sheep, allowing him to make a regular and steady income.

I used to have sheep in CAR as well, Mousa Usmanou says, but only 10 of them. Here, I have been able to make them grow, and I have also started now with poultry production.
I used to have sheep in CAR as well, Mousa Usmanou says, but only 10 of them. Here, I have been able to make them grow, and I have also started now with poultry production.

And at Kaltoumi Chehou’s embroidery workshop, students are given an opportunity to pick up from her skills of the craft. 

Honeisatou Hamadou is one of five trainees learning embroidery from Kaltoumi Chehou in Borgop.
Honeisatou Hamadou is one of five trainees learning embroidery from Kaltoumi Chehou in Borgop.

“Today, I am making an embroidered blanket,” says 17-year-old Honeisatou Hamadou, originally from Botoga in CAR. 

“Making a blanket usually takes from early morning until two o’clock in the afternoon. This is my second blanket. The first one I sold already,” she says. 

While prices vary from 15,000-18,000 XAF, the new source of income is already making a difference.
While prices vary from 15,000-18,000 XAF, the new source of income is already making a difference.

“I like this work very much. It can give money so I can help my family, and then I can also buy clothes and other things,” Hamadou reflects. 

Morikang Philomena notes, “in Borgop, our vocational training targets particularly those youth who are not going to school, so that they can have a future.” 

But, she adds, “there is a link between livelihood and education: with an empty stomach, a child cannot concentrate in school. So when the parents do not have a means of subsistence, a livelihood, they are unable to send their children to school. When parents have food, when they have good livelihoods, we will be sure to have all children in school,” Philomena says.

Written by Albin Hillert.