School of Business Helps Break Down Educational Barriers in Rural Cameroon
The College of Charleston School of Business has — once again — given students full reign to plan an educational service trip to Cameroon, Africa through the Kick it Forward campaign. Now in its third year, the students have one goal in mind: empower Cameroonians through increased access to schooling and business learning opportunities.
This spring, five business students, two other Kick it Forward student ambassadors and CofC education professor William Veal will travel to rural Cameroon to fulfill that mission.
According to research conducted by World Bank, a family lives on $1.90 a day. And while education is free, a child’s eligibility for school depends on his or her parents’ ability to afford mandatory supplies such as stationary, composition books, pens and pencils. To purchase the necessary items, parents must spend upwards of $5 per child — money that many simply do not have.
For those lucky enough to receive an education — a luxury that is afforded more often to boys than girls — many are faced with the added challenge of finding the resources, funding and support to put their education into practice.
Frustrated by these financial barriers to education, College of Charleston School of Business associate professor of global commerce and entrepreneurship David Desplaces rallied his business students to take action. Desplaces and his students created Kick it Forward in 2011 with help from Enactus, a campus organization focused on the power of entrepreneurship.
In its first year, Kick it Forward organizers collected enough school supplies to provide thousands of underprivileged Cameroonians with the tools they needed to attend class. These items were shipped to the western African nation in advance of the trip, where Desplaces’ students distributed the resources in person.
In 2013, students organized a business pitch competition for Cameroonian women who were interested in starting and running their own enterprises. The winners of the competition were each given a microloan to start and grow their respective businesses.
After assessing the effectiveness of previous Kick it Forward activities, this year’s student ambassadors came to two realizations: One, the children weren’t being incentivized to stay in school once they got there. And two, the women who received the microloans after the competition didn’t have the skills they needed to grow or maintain their businesses.
Ensuring Sustainable Practices
Determined to increase the children’s desire to attend school, Kick it Forward ambassadors looked to a beloved Cameroonian pastime for help: soccer. This year’s initiative called for the donation of new and used soccer balls as well as school supplies to distribute in classrooms across the country. The hope: if the children knew they could play soccer during recess or after school, they would be more likely to attend.
In partnership with the School of Education, School of Health and Human Performance, and with the help of the Honors College, Enactus and Dean’s Student Forum, as well as the Porter Gaud School, Possibilities Without Borders and Boy Scouts of America’s Coastal Carolina Council, Kick it Forward was able to collect enough school supplies for 3,021 educational care packages and 156 soccer balls.
In addition to these efforts, Kick it Forward business students plan to meet with the microloan recipients from 2013 to discuss the roadblocks they’re currently facing as business owners. Students will then host a lecture series, teaching the fundamentals of running a business, including bookkeeping, invoicing and profitability to assist the women in building and sustaining their enterprises.
Desplaces praises the team’s desire and ability to plan every aspect of Kick it Forward 2017: From analyzing the issue, brainstorming the solution, marketing the campaign, raising the supplies, rallying the media, leading a packing assembly line, and coordinating supplies shipments. They are now planning their trip, including scheduling on-site visits to schools, testing and eventually implementing effective strategies for sustainable education.
“Everything they did was about long-lasting impact,” he says. “It allowed them to step outside of the classroom to get real world learning experience while changing lives in the process. That’s what’s at the heart of Kick it Forward. That’s what it is all about.”