Youth of the Month- Danièle MAGATSING

From an early age, many of us are encouraged to read in school. It is an important life skill and building this habit has lifelong positive ripple effects. It can be said, reading helps us make sense of the world.  Key to building this habit is ensuring reading is not seen as a chore. This is what our youth of the month, Danièle MAGATSING, works on. Danièle serves as the president of Reading Classrooms, an association which works to build a love for reading in kids. Below is our chat with her on the work she does.

Tell us a bit about who you are? 

I am Danièle MAGATSING, engineer, sales representative, and book passionate. I have worked in various domains after my graduation. These are: industrial maintenance, solar energy installations, Marketing, Business strategy and sales. My reading habit grants me the flexibility to work in these different domains. Hence, I can learn quickly, adapt myself and level up to what is expected from me. I am a go-getter; able to find solutions to issues I face daily. Therefore, I believe in the power of the stories we tell and the urgent need to give women the opportunity to express their talents in our society.

You are the president of Reading Classrooms, an organization which works to build a love for reading amongst young persons. What is the founding story behind Reading Classrooms?

While in university, my friends and I had a great interest in Africa’s development. We read and discussed about geostrategy, politics, business amongst other topics. After 5 years of theory, I felt the need to make a first step towards our ambition to make our country a better place to live in. To me, it was a way to celebrate my graduation and give back to our community as we seemed to be among the privileged. At this point, the question for me was: ‘What can I do to contribute to the change I am willing to see in my country?’

I first thought of starting a business but upon deeper reflection, education seemed to be the basis on which a good shift could have a significant impact in every domain of our society.

What motivated you to commit to building a reading culture among young Cameroonians?

In some regions, we face instruction challenges but at every level of our society, we have a mindset and moral education challenge to tackle. Reading Classrooms was our answer to better inform people’s moral standards, create/strengthen African pride, and encourage a positive mindset in our youth. Hence, we promote African books and develop the African book market by creating new consumers.

What specific challenges did/ do you face in running this initiative?

As we grow, so do our challenges. They might be different from those in the beginning, but they still exist. Nonetheless, these challenges make us prouder of what we achieve.

The first challenge we face is/was getting approval from the administration of primary schools to hold our activities. They are often sceptical and sometimes refuse to participate in our programs even though we organise it for their pupils at no charge to them. Hence, we have a constant challenge in encouraging the interest of schools and parents towards promoting reading in the country through our programs.

Secondly, we faced a challenge with resources. We started Reading Classrooms fuelled by our fierce willpower but quickly realized we needed more hands to help with the project. Volunteering is not yet commonplace among Cameroonians so, without funds to pay for services we were very limited. As we did not yet have a deep proof of concept, it was also difficult to raise funds from organizations or companies. However, thanks to local solidarity, we made it 5 years doing the job on the ground and delivering on our aim to reach more people year after year. I need to pause here to say a thousand thanks to our individual donors and volunteers. Their support provides books and fuel for our entire team to keep on against all odds.

To meet our objectives, we constantly remind ourselves of two quotes. The first is: “By all means, realize your promises every year better than the preceding” and secondly, “Do what you can, where you are with what you have”. This mindset helped us overcome a lot of situations.

What current plans/projects are you involved in which our readers should be aware of?

This year, we focused on two main goals for Reading Classrooms. The first was, organizing our reading competition for 2000 children across the ten regions of Cameroon. And the second, sourcing a location to open a new library. Anyone willing to contribute or partner to realize these goals is welcome to contact us.

For those who have a little more time on their hands and are willing to share powerful stories, we are currently building a volunteer reader program which launches in 2022. Follow our social media pages (@readingclassrooms) to know more about it.

Tell us about some of the achievements you have had with Reading Classrooms and as an individual which you are most proud of

Leading Reading Classrooms is the achievement I am most proud of because it took the team and I a lot of effort and sacrifice to get to this point. We have had a lot of people appreciating our activities, telling us how we had a positive impact on children or their reading practices. This is the thing that I am most proud of in my life as it really contributes to better other people’s lives. For Reading Classrooms, its latest achievement that made us most proud is organizing our reading competition nationwide. As we engage to achieve more, year after year, I am sure 2022’s session will be more impactful.

What are your ambitions?

My ambition for Reading Classrooms is to build, in partnership with publishing houses and the ministries concerned, a national program to promote reading and African literature. Personally, I am working on my craft to be among the best in doing business and building successful companies.

What do you think our Cameroonian youth need to know/do to be the Better Breed?

They need curiosity, audacity, and courage. Thanks to the internet, we can learn a lot by ourselves. After learning, go and practice it without any fear of judgment or mockery from others. At the end of the day, you lose nothing by trying. This is the mindset that I think will unlock our youth potential.

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