Helped to Build a School in Cameroon

One thing led to another, and I funded construction of a new primary school in Cameroon. The school is built & working now. Yay!

What? How? Why?

It started out in a fairly unusual way, around September 2016. US election thing was nearing completion, and the guy who founded Oculus funded some shitposting campaign related to it. Cliff Harris wrote a blogpost about it:

The thing is, its really very EASY to do good things when you have a lot of spare money. I built a school in Africa for £18,000. Thats $23,000. I tried to work out what that was as a percentage of 700 million but my calculator goes into exponential results. Its fucking trivial. By the way, it involves zero effort just an email and then a bank transfer. You don’t get to have “a real jolly good time”, but you help people in the developing world get an education.

And that made me go “what? you can build a school?! that sounds interesting…”

For about a month I had this thought in the background, occasionally reading about various similar things. And then, because I’m generally a very unimaginative person with no original ideas, I just wrote an email to the same Building Schools for Africa (BSFA) organization that Cliff has built his school with.

Why? Because it sounded like a good thing to do, and my understanding is that more accessible primary education & clean water are fairly effective ways of help.

The Process

By middle of November 2016 I’ve agreed with BSFA that I’m willing to fund construction of a new primary school, and they with their Cameroon partner SHUMAS will start researching for possible locations & evaluating things.

However at end of 2016 a crisis between Anglophone and Francophone parts of Cameroon has emerged, including a teachers strike and an internet ban, and the school finding process has dragged out a bit.

A proposal for a school site, including feasibility analysis & budgeting, was done by February 2017. The proposed location is in Meyomessala village, Dja et Lobo division of the South region of Cameroon. Somewhere here is my guess. The village is home to some 7500 people.

A bilingual primary school has already existed in the village since 2009. Currently about 200 children attend it. However it never had any classrooms or equipment (!), borrowing temporary space from another nearby French school instead.

So the proposal was:

  • Construction of 3 new classrooms and an office.
  • Construction of a toilet block with associated hand-washing facilities.
  • Equipment of these classrooms with benches, tables and chairs.
  • Water provision for the school through the construction of a water borehole.

The total cost of funding was about 25 thousand Euros. This isn’t a trivial amount of money, but on the other hand, it’s basically as much as a new fairly non-remarkable car. So YMMV.

By April a 40 meter water borehole got constructed (funding for it was provided by someone else; not part of my budget):

During June-August most of the school construction was happening:

And then the school was almost done!

The Result

By November the school was operating, and the formal handover to BSFA happened on their Cameroon trip in December.

I will get updates on how the school is doing from BSFA after 1 and 2 years, will be interesting to see.

Thanks BSFA and SHUMAS for doing the actual work of school construction, and Cliff for being an inspiration.