cooking youth in a solar oven

Thursday was youth day in Maroua, indeed in all of Cameroon. A national holiday, this day celebrates the country’s vigour, vibrancy and hope for the future.

So, while fete-ing their vitality, why not also get them to cook?  Just one problem… the younger generations weren’t doing the cooking.  They were being cooked!

By the sun.

Parades are much loved by young and old in Cameroon.  No matter the weather or occasion, you are bound to find some sort of defilé.  Youth Day was no exception despite the blazing sun that sucked all moisture out of our bodies.

And we were just on the sidelines!

Children from every school in the area fielded their student marshals and goose-stepped them down the main avenue for the world to see.  In fine high-stepping soldierly fashion the early schoolgoers took about an hour to traverse the entire parade route.

However, traffic quickly backed up as at least 20,000 children waited their turn to strut their stuff before the municipal bandstand.  As they waited the heat intensified and sweat began to drip down their beaming faces.  Yet when it was their turn, all stepped out in style, belting out patriotic hymns extolling the virtues of youth as the future of Cameroon.  Many children’s sing-song voices proclaimed, “Jeunesse c’est l’espoir du pays! – The youth is the nation’s future!”

Singing, dancing and marching – plenty of marching – moved wave after wave of sweat-streaked young legionnaires.  Alongside their teachers/band-marshals, kept 40,000 feet, clad in ill-fitting shoes, stomping to the same tune.

At the periphery, where the crowds watched and waved, policemen with improvised whips (their belts) kept the masses under control.  No one dared step off the sidewalk to get a better look… or at least not until the policeman had passed!

All carried hand-painted signs proudly announcing each school – whether it was public, private, evangelical or Muslim.  Many others carried slogan-bearing banners…

Eduquer une fille c’est assurer l’avenir – Educating a girl ensures the future!

Ensemble barrons la route a la drogue et au SIDA.   Together we block the spread of drugs and AIDS.

My personal favourite though was the delegation from the “Official Youth of Cameroon for the re-election of President Paul Biya ” whose t-shirts declared ne touchez pas à mon président!Don’t touch my President!

So, after 3 hours of military manoeuvres, thousands of sun-baked children flooded the parade ground.  A few marching youth remained, but even the police had tired of controlling the crowd.

Eventually, the myriad of half-baked marchers braved the oven-like heat and headed off to lunch … proud grins painted every exhausted face.

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~ by Greg Spira on February 14, 2010.

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