The YouthMADE Festival is a global celebration of youth creativity and innovation that invites students, educators, and advocates to showcase youth-led work. Leading up to the 2024 YouthMADE Festival, we are sharing a series of stories highlighting youth creators and changemakers around the world who are putting their hands, hearts, and minds toward projects and causes they care about.
Our first story highlights Kinlo Ephriam Tangiri, a second-year college student studying computer science at Constructor University in Bremen, Germany. Kinlo created KET Academy to improve students’ access to education in his home country of Cameroon. In this Q&A interview, Kinlo shares the story behind KET Academy, what he’s learned through creating this initiative, and his advice for educators and students working on youth-led projects.
I am a second-year computer science student at Constructor University, formerly known as Jacobs University. I am passionate about science, technology, and education. Since childhood, I have had a strong enthusiasm for education, which was influenced by both of my parents, who are teachers. As I grew up, I turned to the internet as my best friend—a place where I learned new skills, conducted tests, and research on topics that interested me, especially computer science, content creation, and more. This was particularly important because I did not have a solid foundation in areas like coding and programming when I was growing up.
I come from the English-speaking region of my country, Cameroon, which constitutes 20 percent of the total population. In 2016, this region experienced a socio-political crisis known as the Anglophone crisis, which significantly disrupted education. This crisis resulted in school lockdowns, the destruction of public properties, and more. I lost an academic year due to these circumstances. Fortunately, I was able to relocate to the capital city, Yaoundé, to continue my high school education at English High School (EHS).
While still in high school, I decided to find a way to help my fellow students and friends back home who couldn’t move to conflict-free zones to continue their education. I began by writing a mathematics textbook titled “Basic Mathematics Companion” for junior students. After graduating from high school in 2019, the world was hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant that my country faced both the crisis and the pandemic simultaneously. This realization prompted me to expand my initiative beyond the book to a YouTube channel called KET Academy, aiming to virtually reach more students.
My e-learning platform, KET Academy, which falls under the umbrella of my organization, the KET Foundation, is dedicated to revolutionizing education by harnessing technology, the internet, and the potential of young people. Our goal is to enhance access to free, high-quality educational resources. This initiative holds particular significance for me because I have personally experienced what it means to be out of school for two years, and from my perspective, it’s far from an ideal situation.
In Cameroon alone, there are over 900,000 school dropouts, according to UN statistics, and millions more students across the entire African continent are leaving school each year. Currently, my primary focus is on Cameroonian youths, especially those affected by the Anglophone crisis. I aspire to utilize this platform to provide them with all the necessary resources to excel in their national exams at the secondary and high school levels, as well as in their university studies.
After working alone for the first year, the impact of my efforts became evident as many students reached out with testimonials, and the demand for my services grew. However, being alone, I couldn’t manage everything by myself. This led me to introduce an ambassadorial system in 2021 and reach out to other passionate youths interested in transforming education in Cameroon and Africa as a whole.
In 2022, I formed a team of four members to work with, and together, we launched a call for ambassadors. We outlined our expectations and explained the purpose of our initiative. Surprisingly, we received a total of 65 applicants and selected 25 youths to collaborate with throughout 2022, which turned out to be equally successful.
Now, in 2023, I’ve assembled a larger team consisting of core members, the Executive Committee (Exco), Heads of Departments (HODs), and ambassadors. Our first stage, which involved the application process for ambassadors in 2023, has been completed. Astonishingly, we have received an overwhelming response with 190 applicants expressing their interest in joining the KET Academy program.
From this pool of applicants, we will diligently review the submissions and select between 25 and 35 youths. These selected individuals will undergo an intensive two-week training program focusing on educational technology skills. These skills will not only benefit them personally but also enable them to assist the KET Academy students effectively.
Additionally, we recently registered in Cameroon as a foundation, with three sub-branches: KET Academy, Experience Uni, and KET CELs (Charity/Community Engagement, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership Skills). The third branch hopes to create awareness about the benefits of entrepreneurial, community engagement, problem-solving, and leadership skills as well as helping students with some training to gain some of these necessary skills.
Working on this initiative over the past few years, I have developed a plethora of skills, including communication, teamwork, leadership, emotional intelligence, pitching, and many more.
Currently studying abroad and managing this project remotely, I am honing my remote leadership skills and learning how to use team management software to effectively delegate tasks to my team back home.
Throughout this journey, we have encountered several challenges. First, we faced difficulties while building our new platform due to our limited knowledge, as we were teaching ourselves how to complete the project. Secondly, during the training phase of our program, we struggled to find experts in the fields of interest to help us train the youths interested in volunteering at the academy. Additionally, we faced a lack of funds to support activities like national competitions, motivation for our ambassadors who dedicate hundreds of hours to mentoring, and providing resources to students.
Through these challenges, I have learned a lot about myself. I have become better at managing my anxiety when working with a team because things don’t always go as planned. I have also realized the importance of effective delegation, as initially, I had trouble trusting my team with certain aspects of our project. Lastly, I have become more patient.
Recently, I thought about how far KET Academy has come—which [I] started [when I was] in high school—and how it has positively impacted hundreds of students. Because of this, introducing students to these entrepreneurial, community engagement, problem-solving, and leadership skills at a very early stage of their secondary and high school levels, either through seminars, workshops, or in their curriculum, will be a great plus for similar and even more advanced solutions like this.
My general advice to anyone working on a similar project is to understand that it won’t be easy, and there may not always be clarity about your path. However, with consistency, your ideas will become clearer, the community will begin to recognize your efforts, and the right support will come at the most needed times. Most importantly, never give up on your dream, even if others, including family members, may not fully understand its significance to you. When everything works out in the end, they will become more supportive of your efforts.