Patricia Ndikum of Caretakers Initiative, the ALIVE Associate in Cameroon, had informed ALIVE of some of the tremendous challenges facing people in her country and that she in particular has been encountering in trying to spread a message of values amongst youth. ALIVE was able to provide some support and after a prolonged process of planning the long-awaited workshop took place in August as Patricia reported as follows.
Our mission for the seminar was to reach out to youth and educate them on the importance of values as a way to guide their actions, judgments and attitude. Our aim was to help them become conscious of the values they possess and to discover the need for and importance of values in decision-making, living together and upholding standards. To realize this we have to train teachers and youth leaders on values-based education. Participants were informed that the methodology we would use – and that they could use in their work – would be Reflections, Visualizations, Discussions, Quiet Moments and Creative Activities. One activity we carried out was The Tree of Values; a large bare tree with about 4 to 5 branches and a few roots was drawn on flip chart paper. The roots represent the foundation or core values, the trunk represents the support and the branches are our activities in life. Participants were divided into groups and invited to draw a tree of their life and share it with others in the group. After this first exercise, participants were asked to draw a value tree for their school and then brainstorm on the values of Cameroon. Tellingly, participants refused to contribute, saying we don’t have values in Cameroon. After much effort, finally we came out with something.
Tree of Values
It was a similar slow journey in other activities but the knowledge and application of values by participants improved gradually as we progressed with the training. From the pre evaluation phase we knew that participants were not able to identify values by themselves. However, as the training continued we saw progress and they became able to appreciate values through creative activities. The spirit of interaction amongst participants increased as the workshop progressed. I saw how a family of values workers began to develop and grow by itself, with members starting to become one another’s keeper.
Some teachers confess they went into teaching not because of any passion for the profession but because of diverse reasons such as ‘to earn a living’, ‘fend for the family’, ‘fight for the future’, ‘I receive knowledge more than I give’, ‘just because I love the school’, ‘to build a working spirit and establish myself,’ or ‘I have no choice’. However some showed how much they love teaching, saying, ‘teaching adds more value to my life’, ‘I love children’, ‘it helps me grow’, ‘I feel satisfied bringing up children’. We also had participants who were negative about themselves, society and the country as a whole. When the topic of the government supporting teachers was brought up, the workshop nearly came to an end; teachers complained bitterly about the way they are poorly treated and about the poor salary they receive. But they also shared the problems they face with students and how they solve them. By the end of the workshop participants were able to ameliorate the way they were thinking and solving conflicts in class amongst students. They were also able to relate to qualities of a good teacher such as punctuality, discipline, resourcefulness, having a good character, being soft hearted, hardworking, a good listener, creative, knowledgeable, neat and honest.
In the same way during the evaluation they brought up a series of needs of a child. Generally they came to understand that we are all bound to live together as humans, despite our differences. The impact of the training was very significant in that by the end most of the participants were interested in working on values education, some saying they see themselves as having a new beginning, others saying they felt so satisfied. Other comments included: ‘I feel increased in values’, ‘now I know how to treat other people, ‘I have learned a lot of things’, ‘I have learnt to be creative, hardworking, patient, have a focus, tolerate others and have a sense of belonging and determination’. We also observed the changes in behaviour and a spirit of oneness and belonging that was shared by the participants. They created a WhatsApp group on the spot and are ready to take part in our activities.’