Joshua, myself and Phil were invited to the ceremony which was held at the Patron’s house in an area high above Belo. We arrived on time but in true Cameroonian style most people didn’t! There were more than 200 people in their best clothes there to witness the boys’ big day. There was music, speeches and prayers and it was interesting to be the only “visitors” once again. Many other trades people attend graduations and those graduating distribute small amounts of money amongst them. They are demonstrating that they are men now and that they are ready for work.
The boys were given certificates and sprinkled with water by their Patron. This symbolises that they have learnt from him and passed through his care, the patron is cleaning their eyes so they can see the correct path to take and to encourage that they should follow his example.
As part of the graduation ‘fee’ the families of the boys have to provide drinks and food which are then given to the “important” guests. We were invited by Marcel’s family to eat with them in a nearby house and the traditional Cameroonian meal was delicious, although we did have to eat with a rather large audience and they had reserved enough food for 6 people especially for us and expected us to eat it all! The hospitality of people here is fantastic and it was a great experience to be welcomed so warmly. The ride back down the mountain was fun, 4 on a motorbike that really belonged on the scrapheap, on a potholed, steep, stone strewn, dirt track..all part of the adventure!
One big problem here is when young people graduate, whether as welders, tailors or carpenters, they often can’t afford the basic tools they need to start a business and jobs are scarce and hard to come by. Most patrons like having apprentices because they don’t have to pay any wages. There were several young men at Marcel’s graduation that completed their apprenticeship last year but are still unable to work because of these reasons. It is a real struggle for young people to get on to the work ladder.
This morning he came with his aunts, uncle and cousin to receive the tools. They were extremely happy. The uncle made a moving speech about the value of RUDEC in Marcel’s life so far and how these tools represent more than just tools. They will provide for him as long as he continues to work hard and they are what will enable Marcel to have a home, family and wife in the future.