By Kulsoom Rizvi

50 teachers from the North Region of Cameroon were awarded prizes at this year’s 20th World Teacher’s Day ceremony for their continuous effort and commitment in providing quality education for children. Counterpart’s McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program, (FFE) funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s, provides annual awards to teachers from the program’s 150 supported schools spread over four divisions of the North Region in Cameroon.

“We were absolutely impressed with the excitement this initiative generated and the spirit it provoked in the teachers to want to do more,” Desire Yameogo Counterpart’s Country Director in Cameroon said. “The awards are incentives for the teachers of the region to implement improvements in instruction, maintain good attendance, develop and maintain good relationships with fellow teachers, administrators, students, parents and community members which will result in greater student achievement in literacy.”

This year’s theme “A Call for Teachers” echoed the dedication and motivation every teacher needs to excel and succeed in their classrooms and acknowledged the teachers strength and dedication in making an impact on their children’s education and well-being.

Counterpart organized a workshop with the Delegation of Basic Education and other local education partners to the set-up the criteria selection. The criteria included evaluating teacher’s impact on academic performance and participation of students, the promotion of quality teaching and the working relationship with students, colleagues and the education community.

“Teachers are encouraged to maintain and improve their teaching capacity and attendance, serving examples for other teachers in their schools and localities. We envisage through this, to have many more teachers present and effectively teaching in schools, so as to contribute to the attainment of improved literacy for school age children,” Yameogo said.

Path to Quality Education and Reducing Hunger

Over the past decade, Cameroon has made significant steps in making education more accessible to its children and in driving up its school enrollment rates. According to figures from UNICEF, the country’s net primary school enrollment rate is now at around 84 per cent, making it one of the highest ranking nations in West and Central Africa.

The North Region is one of the most enclave areas in the country with most schools located in remote villages. Children trek over relatively long distances to get to school sometimes as far as 10-15km from their homes. Due to the distance, most of the state employed teachers usually do not accept positions in remote areas, but even when they do, the attendance is low.

Through the FFE program, school enrollment for both boys and girls has bumped up from 81,103 in 2012 to 87,988 in 2013, making an increase of 8.49 percent.  Teacher attendance shot up at 70.82 per cent in 2013 where 90 per cent of teachers teaching at target schools of scheduled schools days. Moreover, the level of community participation among the Parent Teacher Associations, mothers association, and community leaders has been incredible with a 90 per cent increase in project activities participation.

The program seeks to not only increase literacy and primary education enrollment in Cameroon, but also improve food security and reduce hunger, Cameroon. The program delivers a unique approach in addressing food insecurity by not only increasing access to education and retention of children in schools in food insecure areas, but also providing daily school meals and supporting the infrastructural development of schools and health of the children.

Counterpart is providing daily school meals to 87,988 children, take home rations for 10,970 girls to encourage their regular attendance in school. The program has also supplied provision of de-worming medication to all students to reduce health related absences, and also has constructed 144 school stores, 144 libraries and 144 kitchens that will benefit all 150 schools.

“Counterpart provides more than just a meal for these children. By integrating education and nutrition, we create a path towards improving quality education and reducing hunger for these children to excel in school and live healthy lives,” Yameogo said.

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