Cameroon: Social Pluralism and Development
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Students spend a total of five weeks in a homestay in Yaoundé, two weeks with a host family in the West Region of Cameroon (Dschang), and two weeks with a family in Kribi, in South Region. During the Independent Study Project period, students also stay with local families. These comparative homestay experiences give students a better understanding of the differences between urban and rural areas and facilitate immersion in Cameroonian host communities. Students often make long-lasting connections with their host families. The homestay experience is closely tied to the program's thematic seminar and allows students to deepen their understanding of the themes covered through the program’s coursework.
Most of the homestays in Yaoundé are with middle- to upper-class Cameroonians who have connections to, and an understanding of, life in the western world, having either traveled there themselves or having children and close relatives who live there. These connections have affected their way of thinking as well as their economic status in comparison to the average Cameroonian. As the focus of our study while in Yaoundé is to further understand the complexity of development and development aid as it relates to the country, living with these families allows students to exchange ideas, interrogate, and debrief their experiences with these host families who have had experiences that allow them to compare and contrast life inside and outside of Cameroon.
In Dschang, students are placed with Bamiléké families and experience the realities of Bamiléké culture and traditions firsthand. The focus of study in Dschang is to examine an ethnic group that still maintains strong ties to its culture and is striving to retain some of its important features in the face of globalization. Living with Bamiléké families allows students to observe and participate in their daily activities and to ask questions to further understand lectures and field visits.
In Kribi students live in homestays. Kribi is famously known for its fishing and tourist industries. The tourist industry has influenced the attitude, jobs, education level, and social skills of the population. The fishing industry has been affected by the Cameroon-Chad oil pipeline, which is believed to have decreased the amount of fish in the sea and resulted in frequent oil spills that end up on the beaches.
A little bit outside of Kribi, an autochthonous and indigenous population known as the Baka-Bagyeli live in the forest. Their way of life has been dramatically affected by foreign companies’ investment in the area and by the country’s modernization/westernization. While in Kribi, students will examine the interaction between the Baka-Bagyeli indigenous population and the people of Kribi who are Bantou. They will also learn about the impact that foreign companies have on the Baka-Bagyelis’ lives as well as the dynamics between traditions and modernity.
Also in Kribi, students will have the opportunity to meet with two development NGOs that the program has established a long-term partnership with: WOPA, which provides small loans and job training to women and young girls in order to boost their economic status and financial independence, and FAGAPE, the oldest NGO working to support the indigenous population in accessing state resources such as education and civil documents, and also helping with development projects.
Other accommodations during the program could include hostels, private homes, and small hotels.
Duration: 15 weeks
Program Base: Yaounde
Language Study: French, Fulfulde, Pidgin English
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