Baka students receive mother-tongue instruction

Students from Cameroon's Baka community now have the opportunity to learn in classes taught in their mother tongue.

(October 2013) The 2013-2014 school year marks the implementation of a new intercultural and multilingual education project in the classrooms of Cameroon’s Baka community. In the region where the Baka community lives, French has traditionally been the language used in school, making learning difficult for Baka-speaking students. The new program, known in French as Projet d’éducation interculturelle et multilingue (EIM), is joint effort of three partner organizations: MINEDUB (Cameroon’s Ministry of Basic Education), Plan Cameroon and SIL Cameroon.

Around the world, there is a growing understanding that providing instruction in the students’ mother tongue is the most effective way to teach the basic skills of reading and writing. Children learn to read and write with much greater ease and enthusiasm when the language they speak at home is also the language of instruction in school. Once students have acquired these basic skills, they are able to build on this strong foundation to begin learning other languages as well as other school subjects.

To prepare for the launch of EIM Baka, organizers developed teaching materials, held teacher training sessions and conducted an awareness-raising campaign in the community. Programs like EIM are an important step towards fulfilling objective number two of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs): making primary education accessible and effective for all children.

The Governor of the Eastern Region, Mr. Samuel Dieudonné Ivaha Diboua, presided over the official launching of the EIM Baka project. The event was held at the Mayos public school in the Upper-Nyong Division of eastern Cameroon. During the colorful ceremony, school bags, slates and notebooks were distributed to the youngest students by Plan Cameroon. UNICEF provided school bags to distribute to the older students.

younger students receive bags from Plan Cameroon  older students receive school bags from UNICEF

Baka-language classroom materials  children in classroom
Above: Students receive school bags from Plan Cameroon and UNICEF; a display of teaching materials in the Baka language; students in their classroom, ready for a new school year

The occasion allowed all EIM Baka’s stakeholders and key partners to renew their commitment to meet the challenge of providing school opportunities for Baka students. Also in attendance was the Regional Delegate of Basic Education of the East, with his senior staff.

The government of Cameroon is now promoting mother-tongue education within the school system. It encourages specific projects such as EIM Baka with the hope of establishing a nationwide model for the future. Through mother-tongue education, teachers will be able to more effectively reach students by using the language that they know best and that speaks to their hearts. SIL Cameroon is planning to publish a story booklet in 2014. It is hoped that the new Baka-medium program will lead to long-term benefits for students and for the community as a whole.

Related links: