The Salaam School Initiative
This is a youth-led project launched in 2018 that seeks to support the re-education of children affected by violent conflict who have now become orphans or forcefully displaced in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Through the provision of free formal and non-formal education activities, this initiative is currently supporting 150 children with a safe space for learning and to heal from the trauma and has successfully reintegrated 20 into formal schooling with a full scholarship and mental health support.
This initiative is providing access to quality education and livelihood through the salaam school to provide a safe space for learning, psycho-social healing for children, build resilience and provide life skills and hope to serve as an alternative to violence. watch this short video of the program
The Mora community now hosts over 50,000 displaced children and victims of Boko Haram most of whom have lost their parents and spend their time as beggars on the streets. Since 2019 the initiative is supporting 120 of these children from this community who have been displaced by the conflict, rendered orphans and homeless. UNICEF’s report on The Impact of Boko Haram and Armed Conflict on Schooling in Cameroon’s Far North in 2015 shows that; 120 schools were forced to close in 10 districts of the Far North for the school year (2014-2015); direct threats from Boko Haram towards school directors and community members were cited as a primary reason for school closures. 33,163 children (43% of girls) were out of school or have been forced to seek access to schooling outside of their native communities as a result of school closures. Unfortunately, this situation is getting worse by the day as schools remain the target.
As a result of these attacks on schools, children and families have fled to more secure places. Unfortunately, these displaced young boys and girls in host communities become more vulnerable to radicalization into violent extremist groups, and lack access to a safe space for learning, with some being exposed to inhumane treatment and sexual exploitation making them lose hope in life and filled with the desire to revenge.
What we do at the Salaam school
With the high rate of poverty within the region and the patriarchal nature of the society, the initiative collaborates with religious and cultural institutions. Building on the context of the region the initiative focuses on 4 main pillars;
1) Providing free schooling and safe space for learning/re-education (Elementary, primary secondary)
2) Psycho-social, Mental Health, and Well-being (Through recreational activities and counselling. Providing Identification(Birth certificates), Food, shelter and basic amenities.)
3) Building skills for socio-economic empowerment (parents of the children) and personality development.
4) Reintegrate successful students into formal education.
Success so far
For over one year that we have been implementing this initiative, we have recorded amazing success, which includes;
1. 120 children enrolled and engaged. 60 of them are benefiting from formal education (20 girls and 40 boys) and 60 benefiting from psycho-social support and recreational activities
2) Reshaping the perspective of the community and local authorities on alternative educational mechanisms. 80% of community members and local authorities have demonstrated their desire to support the initiative (the hut classroom was built with the support of the community).
3) The 120 children who are befitting from the initiative have experienced an improvement in reading, writing, and acquisition of new skills and are on the path to trauma healing.
- 40% of children ( aged 4 to 10) can now read and write making them ready for formal
- 60% Reject violence and revenge;
- 20% have found their passion in different recreational activities.
- 100% of children denounce violence and terrorism.
- Unlike before when most of the children expressed the desire to join the military as their career ( influenced by the desire to avenge the death of their parents and family members) there has been a drastic change in the career choice of the children, as a result of counseling activities with them expressing wishes to become teachers, doctors, lawyers and many more.
4) At the start of the academic year 2020/2021, 20 of the children have been reintegrated to formal school with a full scholarship.
Unfortunately, as this initiative is growing, the need for material and financial resources is increasing. Most importantly as we plan to construct a facility, we are in need of;
- Support to construct an adequate shelter
- Books and other learning aids
- Food, potable water source, and related supplies
- Clothes and other basic necessities
- School supplies and first-aid
- Toys, sports material and games ( this helps them with Psycho-social, Mental Health and Well-being )
We are also considering raising money to construct an inclusive learning centre. The local community made a donation of a piece of land for the construction of the school.
We are currently considering piloting the same initiative through some context-specific adaptations in some communities in the North West and South-West regions which are currently experiencing violent conflict.
About The Organisation
Local Youth Corner Cameroon is a national, non-profit, non-governmental and youth-led organisation created in 2002 with a focus on working with youths between the ages of 15 to 35 and facilitating the transition of children into youth. Our work focuses on youth and children empowerment in the domain of peacebuilding, Preventing and countering violent extremism. We were created as a response to the increase in socio-political and economic challenges facing young people which have pushed them into conflict with the law and made them vulnerable to violence such as unemployment, bad governance, gender-based violence, lack of quality education, poverty, corruption, the poor social justice system and exclusion in the decision making processes.
Our youth-led approach is focused on providing innovative solutions to these problems, as a way to provide a violence-free society, sustainable peace and development, and prevent and counter violent extremism. As of 2018, we had worked with over 1 million young people and executed over 600 youth development projects in collaboration with 100 national NGOs, government and international organisations.
LOYOC seeks to promote youth empowerment and participation in peacebuilding, prevent violent extremism and advance sustainable development to ensure a violent free community where youths are ambassadors of peace.
To create a peaceful and violence-free society where young people have the opportunity to explore their full potential, engage effectively in community development and work for a common good.
About the National Coordinator of the organisation
Achaleke Christian Leke, 30, is the National Coordinator of Local Corner Cameroon and is visiting his parents who live in Westminster MD this month. He is seeking donations of school supplies, soccer cleats, balls, and used laptops for a container that will be sent back to Cameroon to support children and youth back in his program and school. See a video of Achaleke here. Achaleke was selected as one of the 100 Most Influential Young Africans for the years 2020, 2017 and 2016. In 2016 he was the recipient of the Commonwealth Youth of the Year. He is also the 2018 recipient of the Luxembourg Peace Prize.