A Journey to School: Yié

Yié is the only Baka girl attending her school.

Yié is a 13 teenage girl living in Mayos, a community of Baka pygmies in eastern Cameroon, West Africa. She is the only Baka girl among 800 students to attend her school, and she must stay outside her village in order to go to school.

“My name is Yie. I am 13 and I go to a secondary school 5 miles from my home. I love school and I am proud to go, but I am the only Baka girl there. I have friends and I am accepted, and when I come back to my village here, I feel proud. When I learn things I feel like my world gets bigger.

When I’m older, I want to be a minister or the president of Cameroon. If I were a women’s minister, I would fight against early marriage and for girls to be able to go to school. There are girls in this village that became pregnant at a young age and already have babies. Now they are unable to go to school.

Early marriage is not good. You’ll be insulted by your husband and you’ll have no future. To fight against early marriage and early pregnancy, girls must go to school and boys must be taught, too. If I were to go to parliament I’d say that they need to support and help the Baka – because we are people too. They need to send us to school and build us schools. I want to fight for Baka girls in the future.”

Yié’s mother, Natoume, campaigns for schooling for Baka children with Plan.

Yié's mother campaigns for education.

“It’s so important for Yié to go to school because at the moment, the Baka have a very low level of education. My daughter is the only Baka girl of 800 students at her school. It is so important to make sure more Baka girls have this opportunity. Boys need to go to school too. I went to primary school but then both of my parents died. I had no one to look after me and Plan had not yet arrived here to help. I stopped going to school and I got married at age 23. But for Yié, I have not even thought of marriage! It is not important – she must study first! If I hadn’t lost my parents, I wouldn’t have married that early.

But many Baka are not like us. There are uneducated families and we want to bring them up to a certain level of education. I am the leader of the Baka women’s association and part of the community development team in Mayos, and I try to campaign in other communities too. In the women’s association, we try to save for pens and books for the children to go to school.

Women are important in Baka communities – Baka women make decisions for the family. Even the houses we live in – us women build them. Men go hunting, but the women make sure the children eat, and they look after the household and make sure everything’s ok. We are strong, so it is important that they are educated, because they are the decision makers.”