Informing policy for a brighter future in Cameroon

Rose’s Summer School experience

In developing countries in general, and Cameroon in particular, young people struggle to get the quality of education needed for upward social mobility. I started studying intergenerational mobility in the labour market in Cameroon during my Masters studies, and moved my focus area to Sierra Leone for my PhD research, assessing the intergenerational impacts of the civil conflict on child labour, child education, and child health. The big challenge is how interdisciplinary the topic is, calling for an understanding across the sociology, psychology, political and economic influences of education, human capital, and mobility.

I found myself often leaning on the resources of UNU-WIDER, drawn to the multidisciplinary research that was being conducted there. Inspired by the cross-over between my research interests and their work programme, I began to eagerly apply for fellowships and research positions, to no avail. When I saw the announcement for the UNU-WIDER Summer School, I thought ‘why bother?’ — I had been unsuccessful before, why would this time be different. But my mentor convinced me to have a go, just in case. And I am so glad I did!

Hearing that I had been accepted for the programme was really two dreams coming true at the same time — becoming a member of the UNU-WIDER network, and being part of a programme at the University of Cape Town’s Development Policy Research Unit, one of the foremost think tanks in Africa!

On the first day of the summer school I was overjoyed, as an early-career researcher, interacting with well-known development economists, people I used to cite in my research, was a great privilege. What I learnt over the two weeks has been immeasurably useful for me. The work that I do requires me to understand both theories of human capital and intergenerational mobility, but also, I need to be able to use tools to analyse data and support my theories. The summer school was able to give me that, discussing, and practicing with, tools at the cutting edge of applied development economics.

Rose FontepBeing part of a course with other young researchers from various backgrounds and countries was also incredibly useful, both for building my network and for our research. The learning wasn’t just from the lecturers, but also from other participants, we shared experiences, insights, and knowledge, and there were many conversations on potential collaborations taking place over lunch breaks. It was also exciting to be able to share our experiences with the lecturers too, we were able to help to give them insights into our experiences, constraints, priorities, and help them to understand the country contexts from across the Global South. We can all make our research more inclusive, and perhaps more impactful, by having a greater understanding of contexts in other parts of the world. As such, I am excited to have returned to my university in Cameroon and want to take every opportunity I can to transfer the knowledge and skills that I gained during the summer school to the colleagues and younger researchers with whom I work with.

Group-Summer-School 2019My experience at the UNU-WIDER Summer School gave me access to an amazing network, equipped me with tools to generate good research, and gave me confidence in my own abilities, that I can do work to a high standard, and that I could become a development economist that someone will be excited to learn from, just as I was when Gary Fields walked into the room. Most of all I feel well placed to pursue my research, and my greatest hope is that future generations will benefit from policies that support more investment in human capital, informed by my research!


Eugenie Rose Fontep is a Human Capital and Labour Market Economist and PhD candidate in Development Economics for the AERC Collaborative PhD Programme at the University of Yaoundé II Cameroon.

The views expressed in this piece are those of the author(s), and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Institute or the United Nations University, nor the programme/project donors.