Serge Betsen Academy (SBA) was born from the return of Serge to his native country: Cameroon.
After 18 years in France, Serge returned to his homeland and discovered to his amazement that they play rugby there too!
The Charity was subsequently created in 2004, based on 3 objectives:
Support the children’s education and access to basic healthcare
Access to infirmary is offered, where young boys and girls are provided with treatments.
Introduce rugby to underprivileged children in Cameroon
Weekly training sessions are run by experienced coaches and educators.
Use rugby to teach values and standards to these children
After school and during weekends, tutoring sessions are held in well-equipped classrooms run by SBA staff, teachers and volunteers.
CIRCUMSTANCES IN CAMEROON
In 2018, 25 million people were living in Cameroon. Although the country is home to many natural resources, it was only ranked 151st out of 188 in the Human Development Index (HDI) 2018. Over a third of the population lives below the poverty threshold. Children are most affected by poverty. Children born in the poorest households are twice as likely to die before the age of five, twice as likely not to finish primary school and four times as likely to suffer from stunted growth. Causes like malnutrition, a weak health system, high food prices, insufficient vaccination and difficult access to drinking water all contribute high poverty levels. Even more so in rural areas.
According to UNESCO, in 2018, 17.4% of men and 28.4% of women living in Cameroon could not read and write. Access to education is one of SBA’s priorities, with access for girls as a particular focus. We see that the children we support can go to school by funding their costs (such as school uniforms and stationery). Our objective is to prepare them for a better future, to offer them ways to get out of poverty, which starts at the youngest ages.
CIRCUMSTANCES IN MALI
UNESCO reports that 53.8% of men and 73.4% of women in Mali are illiterate. According to UNICEF, 52% of women marry before they are 18 and 17% before they are 15. Marriage at such young ages is “a widely accepted norm because of the social and financial advantages it brings”. For a majority of girls, it means dropping out of school. In some Malian regions, only 12%of girls complete primary school. Early marriage also leads to child labour and teenage pregnancies, as well as female genital mutilation which 89% of Malian girls suffer. In the face of such an alarming situation, we have decided to focus on girl education, by supporting 25 young students in the first instance. At SBA, gender stereotypes have no place and we wish to encourage these girls to see their school education through.
At the turn of the millennium, Serge Betsen discovered to his amazement that Rugby was being played in Cameroon. This was the perfect opportunity for Serge to give back something to his native country, through rugby. He liaised with his cousin Ahmed Atiback, who was still living in Cameroon, and they created the charity on 4th March 2004.
The charity began its work under the name of Les Enfants de Biemassy, as a project to increase the popularity of rugby for disadvantaged children in Cameroon. The organisation was subsequently renamed the Serge Betsen Academy, as its scope widened. The Charity now uses the game as a method for social integration, offering access to education as well as basic healthcare for hundreds of underprivileged children, in urban and rural Cameroon.
In 2020, the Charity opened a new centre in Bamako, Mali offering education, healthcare and rugby. The Serge Betsen Academy now lends a hand to disadvantaged children in Cameroon and Mali. More lives will improve thanks to rugby! A beautiful story is in the making.
Sa Majesté Keutcha Djanda Rodrigue
MALI (registration in progress)
Mailys Finel Drouault
Therefore she joined the Serge Betsen Academy in early 2022 and is delighted to be involved as a Project Manager consultant within this beautiful charity.