School Bench Project 2016 (Samuel S. Diony)


This report is a narrative of how the Oroko-USA Association managed to launch the Classroom Bench Project in Cameroon. The project should be considered to be the first phase of how Oroko-USA can help improve the dilapidated conditions of our Oroko primary schools; especially with regards to the falling classroom standards . In honesty, many critics may not see the gift of ten (10) benches to a school as a big deal, the kind of criticism I already faced in Cameroon . Their take is that an association such as ours ought to donate between 100-200 benches per school, as ten (10) benches mean nothing to schools with full enrollments. In as much as this sounded very challenging, I laughingly responded by stating that to get to a higher level, one must start from the bottom or from the scratch. The main objective was to see that the project successfully takes-off before my return to the States. For that reason and probably other reasons, I endeavored to see that “many hands were on deck”, especially the involvement of some distinguished elites. The apparent way of doing this was through meetings which at the end I satisfyingly came to a conclusion that they were a better path to take. Arrived in Cameroon on 02/03/16 and without waste of time, contacted chief Miller Bokako of Douala on 02/05/16 to notify him that I was in the country. He told me of perfect timing because there was an upcoming meeting at Big Bekondo on Saturday, Feb 5, 2016. I did not attend the meeting due to jet-lag. Chief Miller told me that there was going to be a meeting on Sunday, Feb 6, 2016 at Vianello Hotel to welcome me and to update me on the deliberations at the Big Bekondo meeting. Sunday, Feb 6, 2016 Meeting. The meeting took place at Vianello Hotel in Kumba at 3:00pm. Four (4) people were in attendance: 1. Tata Samuel S. Diony, 2. Chief Miller Bokako of Douala, 3. Chief Obie Moleke Mathias of Mundemba and 4. Rev. Chief Ekole Edward Sona of Ekombe Bonji. They presented to me a list of the people in attendance at the Big Bekondo meeting and the issues discussed; bench project being a center piece of their discussion.

Monday, Feb 7, 2016 Meeting.

This meeting was held at the same location and started at 9:00am. The following were in attendance:

1. Tata Samuel S. Diony 2. Chief Milla Bokako 3. Chief Obie Moleke Mathias 4. Rev. Chief Ekole Edward Sona 5. Chief Dr. Blessed Okole of Big Bekondo 6. Tata Mosongo Mathias 7. H.R.H. Chief Frederick Mutanga of Bofo 8. Tata ltoe Harrison of Maromba Boa 9. Peter Diba (our Oroko man private carpenter in Kumba).

This was a unique meeting in that besides increase in attendance, a wide range of topics was covered. – How to expedite the desk project before the coming rains, considering the project to be a charitable project by involving Gov’t Technical Schools so that many of our Oroko students in the schools can be involved in the production process, looking into the cost per bench and transportation to the designated sites other related topics.

Carpenter Peter Diba who was invited to the meeting for this purpose helped give us prize analysis. He began by stating that a finished bench could cost between 17,000 francs CFA to 20,000 francs CFA. He stated that the quotes did not include transportation of the finished product to the delivery sites; adding that production cost per bench is expensive due to scarcity of planks, especially in local markets. For the purpose of getting an overall estimate per bench, I insisted that he gives us a break-down of prizes per bench. The carpenter’s break down of cost per bench was as follows: – 1plank = 8,000 francs, multiplied by 2 = 16,000 frs. He multiplied the price by 2 because it takes 2 planks to complete a single bench. – Plaining = 600 francs X 2 = 1,200 francs – Grooving =2,000 X 2 = 4,000 francs – Seizing = 100 francs X 2 = 200 francs – Nails per kilo = 1,000frs X the number of kilos needed to complete 260 benches Labor per bench= 5,000frcs X 260 = 1,300,000 francs CFA * * It must be noted that transportation & coupling costs at the site of recipient schools were not included. Besides, the idea of one carpenter to handle this bulk of production did not sit well with me and some other members. We decided to move forward with the comparable quotes.

From this point on, it became very imperative that we focus on dealing with Government Technical Schools, not only to negotiate for a better deal, but also to ensure that the bulk of the project is efficiently handled. Monday; Feb. 14, 2016 Meeting . This was a four-man meeting between Tata Samuel S. Diony, Chief Milla Bokako, Mr. Ekwoge Narcusse Ajebe – Principal of Government Technical High School Kumba and his Production Manager, Mr. Nkwelle Andreas. We deliberated on the production of 260 benches as they itemized the following: 7,000 francs per bench X 260 = 1,820,000 Francs CFA Nails per bench = SOOfrcs X 260 = 130,000 francs Sand Paper per bench = SOOfrcs X 260 = 130,000francs Labor per bench = 1,SOOfrcs X 260 = 390,000francs, CFA Total cost = 2,470,000 francs CFA ** Again, the above total cost did not include transportation and coupling costs to the recipient schools. I did not jum p into conclusion to accept this offer as I looked forward to see what other Technical Schools may offer, including coupling and transportation factors.

Wednesday, Feb 17, 2016 Meeting .

Tata Samuel S. Diony and Chief Milla Bokako travelled to Bombe Bakundu for a meeting with Mr. Abunaw Casmira, principal of Gov’t. Technical School, Bombe. Not much was achieved in this meeting because Mr. Abunaw told us that he could not help us due to the age of his school; barely two (2) years old with no equipment to engage into such a big project. However, he recommended a private carpenter who he believed was efficient to do the job. He assured us that he and the recommended carpenter were going to attend the meeting of 02/27/16 so that the carpenter could do his presentation. Unfortunately, neither Mr. Abunaw nor the carpenter showed up in the meeting. Since my objective was to involve and work with many elites as possible, I got some phone #s and contacted the following dignitaries to attend the 02/27/16 meeting at Vianello hotel in Kumba: H/M Dr. Ofonda Esoh ltoh of Ekondo Titi Chief Efemba Emmanuel of Mundamba Chief John Orume of Mundamba Chief Mbile of Batanga and Chief Charles Mekanya of Bakoko.

Chief John Orume and Chief Mbile were apologetic for their failure to attend the meeting as they were engaged with other serious matters. Both praised Oroko-USA for the effort to put the bench project together and pledged to give their support for the success of the project. H/M Dr. Ofonda Esoh ltoh gave me his word to attend the meeting. It was such an honor to see him in the meeting. Saturday, Feb 27, 2016 Meeting. Start time of this meeting was 9:00am with the following in attendance: Chief Obie Moleke Mathias of Mundemba Rev. Chief Ekole Edward Sona of Ekombe Benji Mr. Nyando Valentine Asikoro, Supervisor of Primary schoo ls, Ekondo Titi H/M Dr. Ofonda Esoh ltoh of Ekondo Titi Chief Milla Bokako of Douala Tata Samuel Diony and Mr. Mukwelle Andreas, Production Manager of Government Techn ical High School, Kumba. Discussion was based on issues such as: Decentralization of distribution centers, Production cost, Formation of financial committee, etc. Decentralization of distribution centers was taken into consideration in order to reduce transportation cost and proximity to the recipient schools. That in mind, the following decentralized centers were created: Kumba, EkondoTiti and Mundemba.

The following recipient villages fell under Kumba Center: ljowe Big Bekondo Ekama Village Boa Bakundu Ebobe Esukutan Ediki Mbonge lbemi Banga Bekele Bombangi Bombele Matondo2 Konye Dikome Ekombe Benji.

** Fifteen (15) villages for One hundred and fifty {150} benches. The following recipient villages fell under Ekondo Titi Center: Boa Balondo, Bafaka llor, Mbonge Maromba ** Four {4) villages for 40 benches. The following recipient villages fell under Mundemba Center: Toko P/S Mundemba Meka Ngolo Ngenye Beoko Ngolo Lipenja 2 Ndian Town ** Seven (7) villages for 70 benches. **Total No. of benches for the 3 centers equal: 150+40+70 = 260 benches. Production cost per center: 1. Kumba Center: 150 benches for 1,695,000 francs CFA, including materials, labor transportation and coupling at the site. 2. Mundemba Center: 70 benches for 980,000 francs CFA, including transportation labor and coupling at the site. 3. EkondoTiti Center : 40 benches for 560,000 francs CFA ,including transportation labor and coupling at the site. Total amount of production cost for the Three (3) centers = 1,695,000 francs + 980,000 francs CFA + 560,000 francs CFA = 3,235,000 francs CFA.

Advance payments made to the Center Heads: 1. Kumba Center = 800,000 francs; Balance = 1,695,000 minus 800,000 francs =895,000 francs CFA. 2. Mundemba Center = 500,000 francs; balance = 980,000 minus 500,000 = 480,000 frs 3. Ekondo Titi Center = 300,000 francs; balance = 560,000 minus 300.000 =260,000 frs Total outstanding payments when project is completed = 895,000 + 480,000 + 260,000 = 1,635,000 francs CFA . ** It must be noted that the disbursement of advance payments was a decision made by the Financia l Committee which comprised of the following members: Chief Obie Moleke, M r. Valentine Nyando and Barrister Verine Ekole, chair of the committee. To enhance the supervision of the project and expedite the accomplishment in a timely manner, members agreed to put aside the sum of Three hundred and twenty {320,000} francs CFA to cover travelling costs, feeding, etc. for the volunteer coordinators to the sites.

In Summary, on 02/28/16, Barrister Verine Ekole, chairman of the financial committee , received from the treasurer the sum of Two Million CFA (2,000,000 CFA) for advance payments and traveling expenses. A receipt was issued to the treasurer for the amount withdrawn from her coffers. In conclusion,the statistical figures in this report are subject to correction,just in case there are erroneous calculations. Second, it’s with some dismay to point out that to undertake a project in our homeland, we should not take things for granted; everyone has his/her interest. It’s just the norm of the day; “Nothing goes for nothing”. On the other hand, Ihave to admit, there was much cooperation and enthusiasm for the project as a whole. Schools can’t wait to receive their benches. Note: Attached is a handwritten document reflecting the signatures of Barrister Varine Ekole for the monies he was responsible to give out.

Report By : Tata Samuel S. Diony

National Vice President. OROKO-USA.