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For our 2021 CAS Project Challenge, we received 61 CAS Project entries featuring 286 students from 32 countries worldwide. We were blown away by the creativity, dedication, and innovation on display, and picking the top spot was no easy task. However, after a thorough analysis from a panel of 29 expert judges, it was determined that CMath was the clear winner. 

The hard work, originality, and resilience these students demonstrated has proven to be life-changing for many of the people their project has impacted. We are thrilled to support them in their ongoing efforts to enact real change in their home country of Burkina Faso and look forward to welcoming them as all-expenses paid guests at the next Global Student Conference in Boston, USA!.

The team and their project

Team CMath is a group of six students from the International School Of Ouagadougou: Antonio Kambiré (17), Tatiana Nikiema (17), Djamila Barry (16), Nelly Gogohounga (16), Jade Zougmoré (16), and Zouleïka Démé (15). Their project originated from an experience that their captain, Antonio, had after participating in a math camp in America in 2020. He was thrilled by the material presented and was inspired by the teachers, but he started to reflect on the fact that he was the only African student in attendance and one of only a few Black participants. 

Speaking with friends after the camp had ended he became aware that, despite being one of the key elements of a quality STEM education, mathematics simply was not very popular amongst students in Burkina Faso. This troubled both him and his cohort, as they recognized that mathematics plays a critical role in building the kind of strong scientific community needed to bolster a developing country. 

The issue thus seemed like a natural fit for the CAS Project Challenge and along with his group, they decided to tackle the problem head-on—applying a CAS mindset to come up with a solution. In the beginning, they created a student association called CMath, through which they planned to start organizing local math clubs. 

From local club to nation-wide competition

As time passed and their ambition grew, they set the SMART goal of organizing a mathematics competition in their home city of Ouagadougou. They began partnering with sponsors, were able to meet and exceed their fundraising goal, and soon increased the contest’s size to 10 cities. In the end — more than 1400 students from around the country participated. With the help of their sponsors, finalists were awarded prizes like university scholarships, an insured motorcycle, phones with internet access, and school supplies. 

Overall, the effort was a huge success, covered on national TV and enthusiastically recognized by the Ministry of Education. There is no doubt that their efforts have established a community of learners who will continue improving the quality of education in Burkina Faso. 

In addition to providing students with the tools and challenges they need to excel intellectually, they also addressed the gender gap in the STEM field by offering incentives for female students to participate. Further, they gave students from financially-insecure families access to a college education through scholarships (addressing the UN SDG of Reducing Inequality). To share more insight into how the project came to life and their ambitions for the future, we spoke to Team CMath about their journey over the last year. 

Team CMath’s experience, in their own words

A huge congratulations! Surely this has been a very inspiring journey for all of you. How do you plan to apply the lessons you learned from this experience in the future?

Tatiana N. & Antonio K.:  Our work at CMath is just beginning. No one on the team had ever done anything of this kind before. Although our efforts were met with tremendous success, we recognize that there still exists an insane amount of room to improve ourselves as changemakers. The lessons from CAS Trips are going to help us to do just that. 

Learning from world-class plenary speakers and like-minded Changemakers will help us scale our project and create an even bigger impact in the future. Furthermore, this will teach us how to innovate in our upcoming projects and make us part of a community of open-minded student learners from all over the world.

It must not have been easy to pull off a project of this scale. What were the most significant obstacles your team faced along the way?

“The road to the goal was tedious,” as we said in our video. This was not an understatement. From the very dawn of the project, several obstacles presented themselves.

➔ First, creating the association and getting it recognized by our ministry of education (steps required to lead such an ambitious project) was one of our biggest hassles. Indeed, the process was very slow both because of government formalities and our lack of experience in undertaking such advances.

➔ Getting support from the government also turned out to be one of the most arduous tasks. Fortunately, we benefited from the help of several of our teachers who had contacts in the government and helped us schedule a meeting with the minister of education. This meeting allowed us to get enough support to launch the project.

➔ Due to the novelty of the project (and maybe to the fact that we constituted quite a young team), we struggled to get people willing to invest in our project. Nevertheless, those who sponsored the competition showed a genuine interest in the initiative and truly believed in us.

Your tenacity certainly paid off. How will you apply the lessons you learned from this experience in the future?

Zouleika D.: Among all life lessons that this experience taught me, the one that resonates most is that even “kids” can bring change into the world in their own ways. Age does not matter; it should never stop someone from trying to give back to their community. The most important thing is the work done and the will that one has to make an impact–no matter how difficult things get. Now, I will always be willing to try something new because I appreciate that nothing is impossible.

What does winning this challenge mean to you on a personal level?

Jade Z.: Winning this challenge is an acknowledgment of all the efforts and sleepless nights we put in during this year-long journey. However, although awards and recognitions are great, we are most grateful for the opportunity to improve ourselves through the amazing workshops available to us, where we will meet brilliant people from around the globe. For some of us, this is the first time going abroad. With the challenges our country is facing, we firmly believe that we will be able to gain a lot from the experience.

Which CAS Trips Global Student Conference are you most excited about the opportunity to attend and why?

Nelly G. & Djamila B.: We are primarily interested in attending the Boston Global Student Conference. We looked at the different global conferences that CAS Trips is offering and the wide range and breadth of activities presented at the Boston conference drew us to it. Although we did not have a clear indication of what SDG this year’s conference will be focusing on, we are confident that the workshops taught at the Boston conference will help us deepen our knowledge on many issues of global significance. It will be a perfect opportunity to get motivated for future CAS experiences. 

Once again, we would like to congratulate team CMath on their tremendous work! They stood out amongst an exceptional group of participants, and we cannot wait to see what the future holds for them. Stay tuned for an upcoming feature highlighting some of the other top 2021 CAS Project Challenge participants. There is plenty more CAS inspiration on the way!