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To kick-off the project, pre-test our data collection instruments, and generate interest and support from both partners and participants, we supported a written-student essay competition. Young adults from around the Yaoundé capital region were invited to write on 12 security-related topics, including terrorism, school-based violence, insecurity, risk-taking among youth. We solicited over 800 entries and worked with local teachers and principals to rank and rate the essays. We collaborated with a prominent newspaper, Mutations, to advertise the competition and serve as a publication platform for the 12 winning essays. We also received logistical support from the Yaoundé capital region school district, including head of the district, Mr. Fidelice Mvogo Ebanda. The pieces from each winning entry were featured in a full page write-up in Mutations, with an additional article about the winner (see appendix A for each entry). Essays were published between May 9th and May 23rd, 2017, and on June 9th we held a ceremony where the first, second, and third place winner for each topic was given a certificate and small award. Certificates were distributed by our project team as well as invited guests, including a National Parliamentarian from the north of Cameroon, a region particularly impacted by security challenges.

Not only were these essays useful for generating enthusiasm among students for the broader survey effort that will launch in the fall, but they also helped us build trust and support from the local school district where the survey and interventions will be conducted. The interest in this project “on-the-ground,” among students, education officials, and political actors, has exceeded our expectations. Moreover, the insights from the written student essay competition into the survey, have proved fruitful as we refine our survey instruments.


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