Cameroon is one of the most multilingual countries in the world. With 286 local languages daily used as the main tools of communication by the majority of its population, a basic expectation would be to see at least some of these languages used for the education of children in schools and in the various realms of written exchange for intergenerational transmission of knowledge, information and values. But the history of languages-in-education in Cameroon is marked by the very absence of Cameroonian languages from the mainstream education system.
The advent of English in Cameroon came as part and parcel of the colonial enterprise in Sub-Saharan Africa, and falls squarely within the ‘Second dispersal’ of Jenkins (2015), and is therefore part of the Outer Circle’s Englishes of Kachru (1992). After the Independence from colonial masters, Britain and France, in 1960, and the plebiscite of 1961 which saw the British Southern Cameroons join the nascent federal republic, Cameroon as a nation embarked on an ‘official’ bilingualism in education based on French as medium of instruction and English as a subject in the eight Francophone provinces, and vice versa in the two Anglophone provinces.
Consequently English occupies a ubiquitous place today in formal education in Cameroon. But with the English-everywhere agenda, prescribed by the Ministry of Education from the early 2000s in the Francophone provinces of Cameroon, English has been forcefully imposed all the way from the early years of primary education through to university – in a country which does not have any native speaking pupils in its classrooms, nor any significant number of trained English language teachers to implement such an agenda.
This seminar will discuss the recent developments of the English-everywhere agenda in the school education system and critically present some of the pedagogic and operational challenges faced by this contentious agenda.
Chairperson: Dr Carli Coetzee (SOAS)