A letter from Leisa Wagstaff in Cameroon
Presbyterian Teacher Training College (PTTC)/
Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) Mbengwi
Box 36, Mbengwi, Northwest Region
Dear Partners in mission,
Greetings from Cameroon.
Most people take stock of a year’s activities at the end of the calendar year. In the mission boarding schools scattered throughout Africa, however, this time of reflection comes at the close of the academic year when the students have departed and the government-set exams results are announced. The Presbyterian Teacher Training College (PTTC)/Presbyterian Secondary School (PSS) in Mbengwi, where I live and work, is no exception.
Students enter PSS as young as 9 years of age; teachers trained at PTTC might be as mature as 55. When the seemingly never-ending tasks of teaching and parenting have ceased for the year and the campus is once again calm and quiet, one can begin evaluating in detail the year’s challenges, successes and shortcomings.
The challenges, though varied, are permanent fixtures: too much rain during the rainy season and dust upon dust in the dry season, a small teaching and support staff, making ends meet financially without government subsidy, the lack of a remedial program for students needing additional attention, unstable electricity and prolonged blackouts, supervising extended study hall till midnight and students and staff engaged in spiritual warfare in a culture where witchcraft and the principalities and powers of the underworld are very real.
Meeting the operating standards established by two very different administrative entities — the Presbyterian Church of Cameroon and the Cameroonian government — is a strenuous, though necessary, challenge if we are to provide the best education possible for future leaders. To top it off, there is the indescribable anxiety that PSS students suffer while awaiting the results of the General Certificate of Education (GCE) at the Ordinary Level and, for PTTC students, the Certificat D’Aptitude Pédagogique D’Instituteurs de L’Enseignement Maternel et Primaire (CAPIEMP) for the Teacher’s Grade One Certificate — exams that determine one’s failure or success.
Nonetheless, through God’s abundant love and supreme control we were and are strengthened and renewed afresh, for “we are more than conquerors through him who loves us” (Romans 8:37).
We give thanks that this year the cases of student and staff malaria were not as severe as in the past, with only a few cases of cerebral malaria.
In academics, the PTTC continued its tradition of scoring a 100 percent pass rate on the CAPIEMP. An even more amazing accomplishment was the success of PSS’s first class to take the GCE. Not only did all of the candidates pass but they also set qualitative records at the divisional, regional and national levels, thus securing the school’s reputation throughout Cameroon and setting high expectations for subsequent students.
A personal high point was being named Teacher of the Year at the school and divisional levels, upon the heels of receiving the Golden Jubilee Award given by the PCC in 2008.
The sweetest success outside of the academic arena, though, was the performance of the PTTC/PSS rhythmic gymnastics team. As the pioneer coach, tears sprang to my eyes and happiness surely tap danced in my heart as they repeatedly stepped forward to present their routine and accept individual and collective victories at local, regional and nationwide school sporting competitions. As a very young team, they showed great courage, discipline and pride despite having to compete against better-equipped athletes wearing sleek attire. It did not seem to matter to them that each was wearing third and fourth-hand, ill fitting, thrice-mended gymnastics attire; truly a lesson in humility and gratefulness that I discover repeatedly as I am blessed to be able to walk in fellowship with the Christian community in this wonderful place.
As always, you are making this experience possible through your encouragement, prayers and financial support. Doubt not that your expressions of faith are being felt in immeasurable and innumerable ways and help to make of these challenges stepping stones to opportunities to proclaim God’s wondrous power and providence. Thank you so very much and know that you are in my thoughts and prayers as well as those of your brothers, sisters and children here.
In His Service,
Leisa TonieAnn Wagstaff
PC(USA) Mission Co-worker