MY STORY, MY LIFE DETERMINATION LEADS TO SUCCESS My journey in life growing up in a peasant rural community from a polygamous family was not an easy ride. My father had three wives. My mother, abandoned by my father had to raise the six of us alone. I, being the last of the six was the most vulnerable to survive this hardship. My mother could barely fend for our daily bread; talk less of sending us to school. Education especially to young girls of my peer was a luxury that only few rich parents could afford. At the age of five, I had to leave my mother to live with my elder sister who was serving some missionaries in a neighboring village where I had the privilege of attaining primary school. My elder sister, who too vowed that at least one of her siblings should go to school, reserved her stipend to see me through primary school. In primary school, I was very bright and always amongst the first three in class. Motivated by my performance, my elder sister was encouraged to sponsor me further to secondary school but with her merger stipend, she was unable to do so. Faced with this puzzle, she had to solicit the assistance of my eldest brother who shoved her away, saying ‘‘our junior sister is not my responsibility. She has a father and a mother. Let them send her to school. My responsibility is to send my own children to school”. Faced with this new challenge, my elder sister had no option but to enroll me into a Girls vocational school to study Home Economics and bore the burden alone. Burning with that desire for secondary education, I, willfully and happily, grasped this opportunity. To prove to my sister how grateful I was, I made sure I studied hard and succeeded in my studies. I majored first in my class in performance. Yet the financial burden was still very much heavy for her to bear alone. To disentangle myself from the web, I had to adopt a nomadic lifestyle, struggling from one aunt’s house to the other in order to lobby for assistance. The maltreatment and insults I received from my aunts’ houses was enough fuel to rekindle my insatiable desire to acquire knowledge and succeed in life. At the third year of my secondary school studies, I was faced with yet another obstacle to my ambition. The missionary sisters that my sister had been serving had come to the end of their missionary work and were called back to their country [Italy]. My sister and I were left with this big puzzle. How do we raise my school fees for the forth and final year studies? How do we raise money for the end of course certificate exams, the General Certificate of Education ‘GCE’ exams? It’s often said ‘when one door is closed many more are opened’. And as God will have it, the American Embassy in Cameroon launched a scholarship program to sponsor young girls in communities. As the best student in my class, I was fortunate to be selected as one of the beneficiaries. The problem of school fees for that year being settled, the next question now was how to raise the registration fee for the end of course GCE examinations. It’s worth nothing here that the scholarship did not include registration for the certificate exams. Faced with this challenge, my elder sister assured me that ‘we cannot cross the bridge and fall back into the river at the verge’. It’s often said too that necessity is the mother of invention. I had no option but to improvise and innovate. With the little knowledge of home economics already acquired in school. I set up a small puff-puff and accra banana business. My elder sister had to fry the puff-puff and accra banana, a blend of ground cassava and ripe bananas fried in small round balls. While my elder sister concentrated on the frying, I did the selling. I carried it on my head around the neighborhood in the early morning and took the rest to school where I sold to fellow school mates. While my sister and i were battling out for survival here, my brothers too on the other hand were each struggling to learn a trade. For lack of capital to setup their own workshops, they had to migrate to cities to do odd jobs. With the assistance of my elder brother, the fourth on the line and the only one who was willing to lend a helping hand, I succeeded to register the General Certificate of Education GCE ordinary level and thank God, when the results were released, I succeeded in flying colours . My success brought a lot of joy and happiness to my family, my mother was so proud of me and my elder sister for bringing laughter into the family. My brothers were so happy that at least they have a sibling that has gone through secondary school and obtained a GCE O\L certificate. I, though being the last of my mother’s children, have now become the center of attraction in the family. I was equally very happy for myself though this happiness was quickly dampened by the fear that i will not have the means to continue with my studies further to the High school. My elder sister is no longer working, none of my elder brothers own a workshop of their own talk less of being employed anywhere even as a labourer. My two years scholarship has come to an end. All hopes for me to go to High school are lost. This fear came to past as the next academic school year started and I was still not able to raise the required money for tuition fees into High school. During the three months holiday, I made sure I sold puff-puff and accra banana on full time based. Yet the amount of money we raised from this business was not enough to enroll me into a High school and pay the tuition. Left with no option, I had to devote the whole academic year on full time puff-puff and accra banana business. Each time I met my class mates coming back from school and happened to spot me with a tray of accra banana and puff-puff on my head, I felt disturbed though not discouraged but motivated to work more harder and serve enough money to enroll into to High school come next academic year. The next academic year soon came. The money my sister and I had raised was not still enough to pay my tuition and acquire some other school needs for the high school studies. Enrolling in to high school means a lot, higher level of studies, and bigger amount of money. Bigger problems obviously require bigger solutions. My elder brother, seeing my efforts, determination and ambition was motivated to lend a helping hand. This time around, he too had further immigrated to the capital city for greener pastures. Even with this, I still could not enroll into the lone Girls vocational high school available. The tuition was so high that my poor family cannot afford even if we should sell all our assets. Faced with this new challenge, I had no choice than to switch from vocational studies to embrace general education which was the only option relatively cheaper in cost and closer to my village. When I went for admission, i was initially denied admission that coming from a vocational school, I will not cope with general education advance level studies. But for my brilliant results in the ordinary level, I was given a benefit of doubt. I was admitted on conditions that should I not pass in the first term exams in lower sixth, I shall be demoted or sent packing. In the first term exams, I proved them wrong. With determination and hard work, nothing can be impossible to achieve. I emerged first in the first term examinations. A position I maintained unchallenged to upper sixth. In upper sixth, because of my brilliant performance, I was made the assistant school prefect [since the position of the school prefect is always reserved for male]. During my two years study in the high school, I had a hideous task to unravel my greatest problem POVERTY. This nightmare still lingered on and entangled me to utmost suffocation. Not only did I have to face the problem of tuition fees, I also had to unravel the problem of rents and other daily needs since I had moved from my village to a neighbouring village. I was sent out of class on many occasions for not paying my tuition. I can’t remember on how many occasions I had to leave school and rush back home to look for money for my tuition. I can remember vividly that while in upper sixth, the final exams were fast approaching and again I had no registration fees. I immediately informed my elder brother, the only one who had promised and had been assisting in sponsoring me. He acted promptly, sent money for the registration through the eldest brother, the one who initially refused to assist me on the pretext that I’m not his responsibility. To my greatest consternation and unbelief, when I left school to collect my registration fee from him as instructed, he once more boldly told me that he has used the money to sponsor his own children to school and that as a girl child, I should better go and get married rather than pesting people around for registration fees. Confused, frustrated and disappointed, I could not hold myself together and for the first time in my life I had to talk back disrespectfully and rude to a senior brother. As if that was not enough and not being remorseful, he pushed me out of his house and told me never to return even to the house he built for my mother. I went back to school frustrated and bewildered, yet I did not lose hope as i couldn’t see myself not writing the Advanced level certificate examinations after all my years of struggle. Few days to the dateline for registration and still no sign of hope. I had no option but to get back to my elder brother in Yaounde to inform him that the money he sent had not reached me. Thank God, he did not hesitate but sent me yet another sum of money for my examination fee. The problem of registration solved, I had to go in more determined than ever for a bigger victory. My principal at the time Rev. Dr Aki Aloysius advised me to register five subjects in the Advanced level and further pledged that should I succeed in the 5 advance level papers, he will personally pay my tuition for the first year in the University of my Choice. Nothing can be more motivating than this pledge. I took it as challenge and behold when the results of the GCE advanced level came out that year, I emerged successful and outstanding. The first student ever to have five advanced level papers from the school, a record which is still to be challenged. Like the proverbial Lizard that fell from the Kolanut tree, I nodded and said to myself , hard work pays and only hard work does. Challenges in life at times offer you windows of opportunities that you can exploit to achieve your ambition. I had never dreamt of going to the university neither did my sister who took that challenge to send me to the primary school ever imagined I shall one day get to this level. To her, she merely wanted to give me a basic education ‘that which can help me in future’. Little did she know that her efforts shall be blessed with such a tremendous success. University education in Cameroon is reserved only for the children of the rich or the elite class. It is only by the special design of God that a child from a peasant home like the one I came from can find her way to the university. Many are those who would really desire for and wish to attain university education but can not make it to that level for lack of means and opportunities. My experience in life taught me that the stones that are thrown on you at times are stepping stones to enable you spring to your goal. Here I am in the university, a poor little girl from a peasant home in the highest institution of leaning in the world. It’s unbelievable yet it’s achievable. After haven enrolled into the university, another apparent fear soon gripped me. Can I make it, yes I can, i assured myself. I know where I am coming from and I know where I am going to. I only have to focus on the way that will lead me through. With the scholarship of 50,000frs paid to me by my high school principal, my first year tuition was already secured. What I needed now was house rents, personal needs, and some little money for handouts. The rest was to be luxury which is not part of my vocabulary. With this in mind, I didn’t go for the student hostel nor luxurious mini cite in residential areas. I rather looked for a make sheet plank room KARABUTS as they are popularly known and called in local parlance. Here, rents are relatively cheaper and affordable to students from a poor back ground like me. Very few students can accept to live in a” karabut” house. They were considered to be low class, substandard and reserved for the poor and underprivileged in society. True to type, the only furniture in my room was a little plank bed my brother bought for me. It served as a bed and a reading table. For my welfare I had a small kerosene stove, two small aluminum pots, some few plates and spoons. My elder brother, who had singlehandedly taken up the responsibility of sponsoring me, regularly sent me money for my l rents and upkeep. My elder sister on her own part, who is now married and has a family of her own still ensured that she sent me regular supply of food stuff from the village. I had to go back to the puff-puff business in order to supplement my needs. This time around I did not only fry puff-puff, but I expanded the business to include fried groundnut, doughnuts and chin chin that I bottled and sold to fellow students for their snacks. While in the secondary school, I was a good athlete, I played handball and basket ball. I later on discovered that this talent besides raising the flag of the university, it can also be financially awarding to me. I immediately joined the basket ball Girl squad and during university games, we were awarded some financial motivation. My talent and participation with the university basket ball team took me to many other university towns and cities and above all ameliorated my financial situation. With these financial motivations, I was able to augment the furniture in my room with a wool carpet, a gas bottle and plate. With the constant assistant from my brother to whom I owe a lot of gratitude, I was also lucky to win another girls scholarship which enabled me to make it to the final year of my university studies. After leaving the university, I thought my problems were over. I knew I will soon get a job, better up my life and that of my poor mother back in the village. Little did I know that having a degree was not a panacea to securing a job in my country. Cameroon was going through years of Economic crises. Unemployment was at its peak. This was the reality that soon confronted me in the job market. As I went round looking for a job, I met girls who too like me had graduated from the university and without jobs, had resorted to do callbox businesses for a living. Meanwhile the boys on their own part had engaged in the motor bike transportation business. I soon found myself face to face with the bitter reality of life. Everyday I had to move from one office to another in search of a job. I dropped applications for employment from one organization to another. All I got was ‘you don’t have working experience. Who has recommended you’ There is no vacancy. Not giving up, I tried my hand in competitive exams into professional schools like ENS four good times but could not succeed. Just like the university studies, entrance into professional schools was reserved for the rich and political elite. If you don’t belong to this class or is related to one, you will hardly be given the chance, no matter how intelligent and qualified you are, but how much you have and to which network you are connected to. As luck did not shine on me I had to volunteer with some NGOs. Time was also no longer on my side. I was fortunate to meet a husband. He encouraged me to start again from scratch. I registered into Government Teachers Training College as a grade one teacher. It’s here that I received most and the greatest of stones in my life. ‘A frustrated and jobless graduate who is working slavery in somebody’s house in the name of marriage’ were some of the insults I received. 'Your classmates are in ENS, ENAM and you are here doing grade one' etc but as usual I gathered all those stones and built a big bridge on which I crossed over to success. Few years of volunteering as a teacher in a private secondary school, luck smiled on me. I once more attempted and succeeded in the entrance to the Higher Technical Teacher Training College Kumba where I graduated after 2 years as a guidance counselor. To my fellow girls, do not be discouraged or give up when things do not move smoothly. There will always be obstacles in life. The way you handle them determine your future. When people throw stones at you, use them to build huge mansions. Determination truly they say leads to success. With hard work and determination, you can always achieve the goals you have set for yourself in life. Never surrender to fate.