Our main mission is to improve the living conditions of our people through community development that is participatory and inclusive, based on the education and training of all, without discrimination, and respecting the natural environment. The development of our commune as a learning city comforts us in the realization of this mission and is proof that we are moving forward on the right track.
ABBA, Mayor of the Commune of Mayo-Baléo
Building a learning city
In the Cameroonian commune of Mayo-Baléo, learners have access to a variety of formal and non-formal education centres that specialize in training illiterate adults. In recent years, the commune of around 30,000 inhabitants has successfully improved its learning environment and involved a greater number of citizens in the municipality’s decision-making processes.
Mayo-Baléo’s communal development plan supports an ongoing dialogue between the local government and the public. Local groups, such as cooperatives and women’s organizations, serve as representatives for the community.
The municipality has also increased the number of available classrooms and approved the construction of a new Centre for the Promotion of Women and the Family. In addition, Mayo-Baléo advocated for better mobile infrastructure, which enables people to learn outside a traditional classroom setting, and increased support for disadvantaged groups.
For Mayo-Baléo, building a learning city calls for community involvement. To encourage active participation in public life, the commune enlisted local representatives to help devise its communal development plan. A strong commitment to the city’s development and an open dialogue with the government led to the creation of local groups, notably youth and women’s associations. Regular meetings between these groups and the city allows key actors to share information with the larger community.
The second component of Mayo-Baléo’s learning city strategy is to improve its education facilities by increasing the number of classrooms in schools and learning centres. In partnership with the National Programme of Participatory Development, the municipality is currently funding the construction of the Centre for the Promotion of Women and the Family in Mayo-Baléo to train women, girls and young people in running a small businesses and to offer them a range of other courses (languages, sewing, computer courses, catering, etc.). The municipality has also developed a financing project to build a Centre for Community Education and Action, which will maximize learning opportunities for young people and adults in agriculture, livestock farming and community development. Finances are still sought for the centre. There are also eight centres of formal learning and eight centres of non-formal learning in the area. The commune distributes mobility aids to people with disabilities to enable them to access learning centres more easily.
Finally, in order to encourage citizens’ desire to learn, the municipality constantly looks for ways to improve public services in the area. It has, for example, increased access to health facilities and invested in renewable energy systems.
2. Developing a plan
Mayo-Baléo faces challenges related to poverty, available educational facilities, health and sanitary infrastructure, as well as basic infrastructure to support the local economy. Its learning city strategy is directed at improving these conditions and empowering citizens by creating an environment conducive to the participation of individuals and communities in local development processes.
To reach these goals, Mayo-Baléo launched a communal development plan in 2009 setting out its objectives and key action points. The revised plan in 2016 followed consultation with local communities and resulted in three key priority areas.
The first concerns environmental issues and public health, and in particular the improvement of access to health facilities and to drinking water. It also encourages the construction of renewable energy facilities and infrastructure likely to further develop the economy and to effectively combat poverty.
The second set of priorities seeks to increase the number of classrooms in schools as well as to make full use of existing educational materials, while also developing new ones for students and staff. Upgrading the local infrastructure is also part of this goal. As noted above, there are eight formal adult education centres and eight non-formal learning centres spread across the commune, which need to be appropriately maintained and equipped. Ensuring easy access to the centres is essential in increasing levels of literacy and education.
A third key objective is to motivate citizens to participate in local government decision-making processes by bringing together the municipality, communities and association representatives.
To facilitate people’s involvement in development activities, the construction of any infrastructure in the above mentioned areas is carried out with their active participation. The municipality encourages them to define their needs, and leads strategic reflection on priorities in light of the means available. Decisions regarding the projects, such as place of realization and engagement of local residents, are made consensually. Therefore, the projects require several meetings and talks, which represent frameworks for learning in community development activities.
3. Creating a coordinated structure involving all stakeholders
The planning and organization of projects or initiatives related to Mayo-Baléo’s learning city strategy is taken on by local government representatives, who work in close collaboration with key stakeholders from the public and private sectors. These stakeholders include entrepreneurs and cooperatives’ representatives. The municipality also works with citizens’ associations, decentralized state services in the region, and consultation committees from surrounding villages.
Various stakeholders, including individuals and associations, are also encouraged to participate in planning meetings, discuss local issues, and present their needs and progress. The Federation of Communes of the Department of Faro-et-Déo and the United Communes and Cities of Cameroon also support the implementation of training programmes for municipal employees and allow the city to exchange best practice and to promote itself at local, regional and national levels.
4. Mobilizing and utilizing resources
Most of the projects related to Mayo-Baléo’s learning city initiative are paid for using the municipal budget. The Cameroonian Government assists Mayo-Baléo through public investment and decentralization budgets, as well as through grants from the National Programme for Participative Development. The commune is also in partnership with the Cameroon Bank of Communes’ Special Fund for Equipment and Intercommunal Intervention, which provides technical and financial assistance for the development of decentralized communities and the funding of special equipment. At local level, the development committees in the cantons contribute equally to the financing of projects and are encouraged by the commune to take the initiative in project implementation. Mayo-Baléo also invests subsidies given by NGOs and international organizations in learning programmes for its citizens through decentralized cooperation.
This financing mechanism creates an equitable division of responsibilities and a sense of shared vision for Mayo-Baléo’s learning city development.
5. Making learning accessible to all
Mayo-Baléo is committed to guaranteeing access to education for all its citizens. The dialogue between the community and the city enables the commune to understand the needs of its inhabitants.
Furthermore, an increase in the number and quality of formal education facilities, from primary to higher education, enables better access to education for younger people. Youth representatives are also encouraged to have their say on municipal projects.
To respond to the needs of all learners, the municipality also provides the necessary tools for people with disabilities to enable them to access learning facilities throughout the city. Meetings between state representatives, traditional community leaders, worker representatives and individuals further ensure an increase in common understanding and participation.
6. Organizing celebratory events
In January 2016, the city organized a celebration during which educational material was given to primary and secondary schools. To advocate the importance of learning for all citizens and to give the most vulnerable the tools to be independent, the municipality also distributed mobility aids during the event.
Annual events provide more opportunities to celebrate culture, learning and acceptance of one another. Mayo-Baléo actively promotes core values such as peace, fraternity, development and social cohesion at all community events.
International Youth Day, which takes place in February and includes parades and evening entertainment, also provides a sense of social cohesion. International Women’s Week in March, meanwhile, brings together representatives from local women’s groups. A broad range of events, such as talks on education, traditional dancing, cultural celebrations, sport events and a parade, are organized in cooperation with schools, youth associations and community leaders.
7. Monitoring and evaluation
The city assesses its achievements based on its communal development plan, which includes specific indicators for monitoring progress such as access to quality education and availability of facilities such as schools and sports areas. The promotion of traditional communal culture and support for women and vulnerable families are other defined goals related to education that are assessed as part of the development plan.
Mayo-Baléo evaluates its learning city development at regular committee meetings. These are organized by the municipality and include representatives from different project committees and associations. Through dialogue with key actors from civil society, Mayo-Baléo collects feedback and comments. These exchanges also provide an opportunity to acknowledge citizens’ progress. Project stakeholders and associations also report on community involvement in local development.
In practice, to facilitate progress in building a learning city in Mayo-Baléo, the commune has set up a committee which monitors the development plan. This committee meets and evaluates progress against the forecasts of the municipal development plan.
8. Achievements and the way forward
Developing Mayo-Baléo’s communal development plan led the city to achieve one of its main goals: demonstrating to the community that it plays a key role in the city’s development. By opening up dialogue and encouraging citizens to take part in the municipality’s decision-making processes, Mayo-Baléo inspired community participation. Youth associations, women’s groups and community leaders now exchange extensively on numerous topics, including education and learning.
In addition, Mayo-Baléo, which is located in a savanna area where the vegetation is threatened, engages in activities to raise citizens’ awareness of the importance of their environment and wildlife conservation.
Building on these achievements, Mayo-Baléo continues to work towards creating a successful learning city. On a social level, the commune promotes a culture of national integration and social cohesion as well as securing basic public infrastructure. With regard to environmental development, the municipality continues to pursue sustainable energy solutions, fight against poaching and support reforestation. On a cultural level, it seeks to encourage tourism to the area by promoting local culture. To boost economic development, the city endeavours to attract tourists and entrepreneurs, and aims to engage citizens in Mayo-Baléo’s economy.