IGS University of Twente
Research group CSTM

Website Report - Simone Baalhuis

Website Report – Simone Baalhuis

Cameroon

SimoneBaalhuis4.JPGI did an internship compulsory for the minor “Sustainable Development in a North-South Perspective” with a NGO called “United Action for Children” (UAC). This organization tries to help children get to live in a caring society by providing them with good education (Jamadianle nursery and primary school) and by doing projects in the surrounding villages of the school for raising awareness of education among parents. During my internship I was doing an evaluative research about the program School on Wheels. With this program the organization was providing an opportunity for the children to do homework and have extra education in their home villages. With a school bus, UAC was taking teachers, volunteers, pedagogical materials and materials to play to the villages to provide out of school classes. The children had to learn from 4 pm until 5.30 pm and afterwards they had the opportunity to play outside with each other and the volunteers. Because I did not spend all day on working on my research I asked the organization where they needed more help. It turned out that one of the teachers from class 5 left for a study leave and so three classes where transformed in two classes. So I took the job of class assistant which meant that I was teaching English and mathematics from time to time and that I was doing remedial classes for English and mathematics as well, for the children who needed it.
The first week I decided to just take a look and see what happens in the classroom in Cameroon. Immediately I could see the differences between the two teachers from class 5. The one teacher was a good teacher and was able to keep the children under control and quiet. The other teachers still had some difficulties with the aspect of keeping the children under control and quiet. The children were screaming from one side to the other, beating each other and they didn’t show any respect for the teacher. This teacher thought that it would help to beat the children, but he actually wasn’t allowed to beat them. To see teachers beat the children was difficult to digest and I couldn’t get used to it, so after a few weeks I tried to talk with the teacher and tried to provide alternative punishments. This was a really difficult conversation, because in Cameroon their used to beating.

SimoneBaalhuis1.JPGIn the afternoons I was working on my research on School on Wheels. Besides the primary and nursery, School on Wheels is one of the most important projects for UAC. This fact made it that my supervisor within the organization was really eager to help me arranging everything that I needed to do my research. Because my supervisor was so eager to help me, I was able to finish a draft of my report already in Cameroon. I felt the obligation to have it done, because I wanted to discuss the outcomes with my supervisor, this will increase the change of it being implemented.


Live in Cameroon
It took me a few weeks to get settled in my new life in Cameroon. The organization provided housing for me and the meals were served at the host family. The house was pretty okay for Cameroonian standards, but that didn’t mean that the water supply was better than in the neighbours’ house. But on the other hand electricity was pretty stable and the organization even provided wireless internet connection to the house.

SimoneBaalhuis5.JPGBesides working for UAC and doing my own research on School on Wheels I had enough time to look around in Buéa and to do some trips to different sites of Cameroon. I was able to do a Mountain Trip. This was three day trip to climb mount Cameroon all the way to the summit and the craters. I also took a three day trip to Bamenda to see the city and the chiefdoms near the city. The organization was really flexible in giving time off to see more of Cameroon. That was really a good thing, because travelling in Cameroon brings some difficulties. For instance, when we went to the rainforest (Korup national park) it was quite difficult to get there, because we only had one very old car for 7 people and a driver, beside the problem of 8 people in one car there was the problem of the road being in a very bad condition. This is only one example, but there are too much to mention and often we had ‘little’ discussions with the drivers.

SimoneBaalhuis2.JPGBefore I left to Cameroon I had to prepare for many things. Before I was allowed to go from the university I had to pass all my exams and reports from the minor. It took a lot of time to finish the report and to study for the exams. Besides the minor I still had some other courses to finish for my bachelor educational science. And to top all of that I also had to take practical preparations for my fieldtrip. Of course I had to find an organization first. For me this wasn’t that big of a problem, because the first organizations I applied to also responded positive. So I made my pick for United Action for Children and had to discuss with them what I wanted to do when I arrived in Cameroon. I choose to do a research on the school on wheels project and I got a description of the other jobs I could do. I didn’t need to arrange housing for myself, because the organization told me they had two volunteer houses available. So I needed to arrange everything else before I could leave to Cameroon. I made an appointment with my doctor to get vaccinated, I went to the Cameroonian embassy to apply for a visa and of course I had to cancel my sports and other associations.

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Although it takes some preparation, I am really glad that I went abroad to do this kind of internship. Like everyone is saying, it really is a big experience and probably you have the time of your life!