Community engagement can come in various forms. Service is one of the best ways internationalesawyer engages with the community. Service is a vast domain and can include simple participation in town hall meetings, or formally serving on a board. Recently internationalesawyer was asked to serve as an expert panel judge for an English competition among university students at CFPEM International located in Ouagadougou. This is not the first time that internationalesawyer has partnered with this university. In the past the director of the school approached internationalesawyer to be a monthly guest lecturer to business students. The objective there was to give lectures in English and organize career counseling (i.e. practice interviews) to students in fields such as accounting.
When approached to be a judge for the English competition, there was only one answer…YES! The competition included an essay and oral presentation in which competing students from CFPEM were given topics that ranged from improving the school system in Burkina Faso to the current epidemic of Ebola affecting West Africa. As one of the 3 judges, we made the rules and criteria. The 7 candidates all had 5 minutes to present their topic, and then 1 min 30 seconds for each question. The candidates were scored on criteria that included grammar, verbal and non-verbal communication, and dress. This was no easy competition as the stakes were high. Some of the prizes included scholarship money, tablets, and even a laptop. For all the candidates English is either their third or fourth language. In some cases the fifth language they speak. To write a 3-5 page essay on serious topics such as youth employment and healthcare is no easy feat. The candidates all gave their very best effort which showed in the scores. However, the judging was not easy as well. We were objective as possible and what made it easier to be objective we did not have prior contact with the candidates. All the judges knew was their essay by number.
The English competition was held on a Friday October 10th. The results were strategically released at graduation the following day. Out of the 7 candidates the first 5 took home prizes. Nevertheless, those who did not win a physical prize, still won as they gained experience in oral presentation, essay writing, and the spirit of competing.