As part of a larger community outreach program, mason Divine Nfor of Himalayan Institute Cameroon’s (HIC) School of Carpentry & Construction has been teaching in the local Government Technical High School (GTHS) Kumbo .
His class, Construction Processes, is filled with civil engineering students in form seven, their final year of high school.
In their first class, Nfor grilled the students. “What’s the difference between a pre-tensioned piece of prestressed concrete and a post-tensioned piece of prestressed concrete? These are the kinds of questions they will ask you on the baccalaureate.”
He should know. Nfor came up through the same GTHS program in the mid-nineties. After 10 years of work on construction projects in every province of Cameroon, he returned to Kumbo to join the HIC team.
The Himalayan Institute first became involved with GTHS last spring, when HIC carpenter Marten Nyar volunteered to teach a two-week course, Project Estimates, to students in the school’s woodworking department. Since then, the administration has been anxious to have HIC back.
Nfor brings a lot of experience to the classroom, but his Civil Engineering students still face real challenges. Their teachers in Applied Mathematics, Estimates, and Drafting have all been promoted to fill government positions, and in many of their classes they show up ready to learn, minus an instructor. They won’t be given any slack when they write their baccalaureate exams next June. They’ll be scored equally against government school students from all around the country.
Their scores on the baccalaureate will be a deciding factor as they look for jobs or attempt to enter higher education in Yaoundé. Those who don’t pass will be entitled only to a transcript for their seven years in secondary school.
When Nfor told his own story, the students sat riveted. “The first time I wrote the baccalaureate,” he said, “I failed. Afterwards, I left Kumbo to go and work on the roads in Limbe, and I told myself I was done with school. But the time came next year and something made me decide to retake it, and I passed. And that was really one of the best decisions of my life.”