PROGRAMS

YOUTH AND SECURITY ESSAY COMPETITION, 2017

To kick-off the project, pre-test our data collection instruments, and generate interest and support from both partners and participants, we supported a written-student essay competition. Young adults from around the Yaoundé capital region were invited to write on 12 security-related topics, including terrorism, school-based violence, insecurity, risk-taking among youth. We solicited over 800 entries and worked with local teachers and principals to rank and rate the essays. We collaborated with a prominent newspaper, Mutations, to advertise the competition and serve as a publication platform for the 12 winning essays. We also received logistical support from the Yaoundé capital region school district, including head of the district, Mr. Fidelice Mvogo Ebanda. The pieces from each winning entry were featured in a full page write-up in Mutations, with an additional article about the winner (see appendix A for each entry). Essays were published between May 9th and May 23rd, 2017, and on June 9th we held a ceremony where the first, second, and third place winner for each topic was given a certificate and small award. Certificates were distributed by our project team as well as invited guests, including a National Parliamentarian from the north of Cameroon, a region particularly impacted by security challenges.

Not only were these essays useful for generating enthusiasm among students for the broader survey effort that will launch in the fall, but they also helped us build trust and support from the local school district where the survey and interventions will be conducted. The interest in this project “on-the-ground,” among students, education officials, and political actors, has exceeded our expectations. Moreover, the insights from the written student essay competition into the survey, have proved fruitful as we refine our survey instruments.

BASELINE SURVEY

Our baseline sample is drawn from high-school seniors, from 20 schools in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s capital. The schools will be randomly drawn from the full roster of the city’s 120 secondary schools, after stratification by school quality (as indicated by tuition rate) and between public and private institutions. Within each school, we will randomly select 4 to 8 classes, focusing of terminal year students. This sampling strategy (), will provide us with ~5000 students and allow for robust data analysis.

POLICY EXPERIMENTS

Beyond simply following the 5,000 high school seniors to take stock of the challenges youth face as they transition into adulthood and the world of work, we also want to understand how these experiences can be mitigated by carefully-designed policy interventions. Our randomized policy experiments cover a range of interventions that can foster resilience and socioeconomic integration. A recent Lancet study (2016) found that “building the assets and skills of adolescents can result in both immediate and long-term positive effects on the mental and physical health, economic development, and overall well-being of adolescents, their families, and communities.” Specifically, we are interested in cultivating skills related to:

  • Goal setting

  • Agency & resilience

  • Social networks

  • Avoiding risky behaviors

While many robust randomized control trails to evaluate the effectiveness of “soft skill” have been conducted in developed countries, the evidence is sparse in most developing country contexts. Our “soft skill” development interventions include (1) motivational messaging, (2) in school guest speakers from civil society and law enforcement institutions and (3) four different life-planning and resilience building programs. This range of interventions is scaled from easily deployable, very low cost programming (i.e. daily motivational text messages) to logistically most complex and costly programs (i.e. afterschool clubs). The details of each intervention are described below.

Voices of the Future

As part of our program we supported a written-student essay competition. Young adults from around the Yaoundé capital region were invited to write on 12 security-related topics, including terrorism, school-based violence, insecurity, risk-taking among youth.
The response to this competition resulted in great enthusiasm and the insights from the written student essay competition into the survey, have proved fruitful as we refine our survey instruments.

PROJECT OVERVIEW

Our Mission is to Inspire and Motivate

Knowledge earned through experience.
You cannot change the past but you can learn from it. What went well, what went wrong, what would you do different next time?


Don’t obsess over the past, don’t expect to get it back, don’t expect to receive a do-over. But don’t ignore it either.
The value of experience is in what you’re able to learn. From massive success, from heartbreaking failure, from everything in between, there’s a lot of great, useful information.
You won’t come across the same exact situation again. Yet you will face very similar challenges.


Knowing what works and what doesn’t work, enables you to move successfully through those challenges. Knowing you’ve done it before, regardless of the prior outcome, is a confidence booster with no equal.
Look back occasionally, realize and pay attention to what you’ve learned. Apply the knowledge you’ve earned through experience, and be more effective than ever before.”

-Ralph Marston

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