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From childhood, Arthur had a goal- to build machines which will help change lives. So he always aimed high and made sure that he was among the best students at school. However, like most of the kids in his community, he grew up surrounded by the daily struggles his family faced to earn a living. Arthur’s childhood dreams gradually drifted into fantasy as he witnessed those he held in high esteem drop out of school. For the most part, there were two reasons; either they could not pass a competitive entrance examination, or could not afford tertiary education. Did knowing what was destined for him right, or wrong, I can’t say. But this reality sharpened his survival instincts and made him plan on writing any competitive entrance examination, irrespective of his passion. Going with the flow was what they aimed for.

Flowing downstream was all he hoped for, until his encounter with Open Dreams– an NGO helping high achieving students from low-income families. Unlike most other students, Arthur was pumped up with motivation, and developed fantasies of studying someday in a world-class university. An illusion, that was all it was, then. To him, getting admitted into 2017 Open Dreams’ summer academy were the first steps of his journey to becoming a mechanical engineer. When it came time for the academy, Arthur would trek for two hours daily to reach the Open Dreams Center. This was the price he had to pay for the knowledge, skills and confidence, which Open Dreams endowed in him. Aside from his daily peregrinations, he would have to choose between attending classes at the academy, or joining other students at prep lessons for the various competitive entrance examinations in Cameroon.

By August 2017, the summer academy was drawing close to an end- and the prep classes as well. This was the period when results for the GCE Advanced level were to be released. Students were anxious about their grades, as it had been a terrible year for all of them. Their region was plagued with violence, but students who did not stop studying and had braved the crisis were hoping to smile this month. The day finally came when the results were to be published. And Arthur had made it through, but not with the grades he needed to pursue his dreams. “Convincing my parents to let me rewrite the A-Levels was difficult, but they got to agree at the end.”

Soon enough, he got a new uniform, it was a fresh year for him again. But this time, the community where he schooled was “safer”. At the end of this year, he emerged victorious. He didn’t only pass, he made it through excellently, and was now eligible to apply for scholarships.

Unlike the stereotypical Cameroonian high school graduate who prepares for competitive examinations during summer, Arthur began volunteering at city councils and engaging in student campaigns. A few months later, he had to leave the crisis-ridden region as the upheaval worsened with every tick of the clock. Beyond these circumstances, Arthur would still find time to apply for scholarship programs with resources from Open Dreams. After several rejections and several partial offers, Arthur finally landed full-ride Mastercard scholarship to the University of Cape Town- Africa’s number one university. “Being awarded this scholarship was proof that someone who grew up in conditions like mine could get a better life despite.”

“Motivating people, especially students, not to give up through odds such as the anglophone crisis and corona pandemic has become very important to me. through my experience, I realized that everything is all about believing in yourself and believing that success is the universe’s endorsement of one’s effort.” Arthur’s story teaches us to always rise when we fall. To look at our goals steadfastly, and not the inconveniences which characterizes the present.

His advice to students in hard times now

“Not having a comfortable environment for studies isn’t the loveliest thing, but it isn’t a deal-breaker either. While some students will have to work on their own for an exam, others will have to study online which they really aren’t used to. When such times are encountered, as it is now, I remember the number of times we were driven out of school with gunshots. The moments I had to risk my life just to get to school amidst the crisis, and I convince myself that it is possible. Having written the A-Levels in such conditions gave me the strength to stay positive despite odds and to always look at the long term goal and not the present difficulties.”

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