Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Textbooks, Literacy, and Citizenship: The Case of Anglophone Cameroon

Academic journal article Research in the Teaching of English

Textbooks, Literacy, and Citizenship: The Case of Anglophone Cameroon

Article excerpt

Education in Africa and Colonialism

In Decolonising the Mind, Ngugi wa Thiong'o (1986/2011) draws attention to the different ways Western colonialism has impacted African cultures and shaped African consciousness. While his central argument revolves around the importance of African languages as vehicles through which African authors should tell their stories, he raises concerns about the educational experiences of African children. These issues are inevitably linked to postwar literacy instruction in the continent, which typically was driven by imported curricular materials such as textbooks and readers.

One textbook series that guided English literacy instruction in schools across what was then known as "British Africa" was the Oxford English Readers for Africa (OERA; French, 1950). First published in the 1930s, it remained a staple in the curriculum of most English-speaking African countries for decades. The series contained language and grammar activities, and reading comprehension passages and exercises. The textbook, thus, was designed to provide students with ample opportunities to practice basic communicative processes in English, including listening, speaking, reading, and writing. But the use of the OERA began to dwindle in the late 1950s and early 1960s with the gradual disintegration of the British African Empire, as several African countries won their independence.

One major change was a switch from these readers to alternative textbooks. In the case of Cameroon, the transition led to the development of the Evans Cameroon Primary English series (ECPE; Ndangam & Weir, 1986, 1980), the Primary English for Cameroon series (PEC; Ndipnchot, Tabe, & Forbin, 2004), and the Basic English for Cameroon series (BEC; Enang, Ali, Georges, & Forcha, 2010).1 The last two are current. (See Appendix A.2)

The shift away from the OERA during the postindependence era could be interpreted as a shiftin educational philosophies in Africa. This study, therefore, seeks to understand the degree of this shiftin thought, as it may be reflected in the nonfiction passages that appear in the textbooks previously used or still in use in Anglophone Cameroon. The objective is to examine the cultural contents of these passages in the four series, paying attention to the sociohistorical contexts within which each series is situated and how these might inform notions of citizenship. The study also raises questions about the degree to which the most recently published textbooks promote African and Cameroonian identity.

Language and Citizenship in Cameroon

The language situation in Cameroon is complex, partly because of its rich ethnic diversity and its bicultural colonial language heritage. In brief, Cameroon's recent history includes being colonized by Britain and France; prior to that, "Kamerun" was a German colony. Thus, Cameroon's linguistic history is multifarious. This "multilingual country," George Echu (2003, 2004, 2005) posits, has "some 247 indigenous languages, one lingua franca (Cameroon Pidgin English) and two official languages (English and French)" (Echu, 2004, p. 1).3 For language instruction schools in the former British Cameroon use English as their primary medium and follow a variation of the British curriculum, whereas those in French Cameroon privilege the French language. As in other former British colonies, in Cameroon English is gaining currency in a global economy and thus mandates attention from local educators (De Costa, 2014).

Due to Cameroon's encounters with multiple colonial masters (Cameroon, 2015)-starting with the Portuguese, who named the country Camaroes in 1472-it has evolved into a cultural mesh. As such, it "qualifies" for "global citizenship," a cultural space Tlostanova and Mignolo (2012) regard as unequal and "divided by racism, on which the colonial and imperial differences have been built" (p. 182). Anglophone Cameroon, though, occupies a third space (Bhabha, 2004), a space under constant negotiation amongst the local, national, and colonial communities, and which indeed should make its educators more conscious of the politics of representation in the language and literacy curriculum. …

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