By Dibussi Tande
Today is National Bilingualism Day in Cameroon. I didn’t even know that such a day existed until I read about it in the Monday, January 30, 2006 online edition of the Government-owned daily, Cameroon Tribune.
According to an article in the newspaper titled "Bilingualism is still a Challenge”, this day was instituted because,
Bilingualism is enshrined in the Constitution of Cameroon since September 1st, 1961, when English and French were recognised as official languages, with equal status in every sphere of national life. Bilingualism was chosen, not only as an instrument to ensure equity, but also as a pivot of socio-economic integration for the two entities, Francophone and Anglophones, who opted for unification.
Now, that it is the political theory, the national fairy tale.
Here is the reality as reported by the Buea-based The Post newspaper: "French Frustrates ASMAC Anglophone Students", screams the headlines in a story about the plight of English-speaking students in the Advanced School of Mass Communications at the University of Yaoundé. According to The Post:
Only 3 of the 42 permanent lecturers in the Advanced School of Mass Communication, ASMAC, are of English expression. Over the years, English-speaking students in ASMAC just like other higher education institutions in Yaoundé receive lectures almost exclusively in French. Some English-speaking students have described this situation as ‘deplorable’.
Yes, that is the real Cameroon where the English language and English Speaking Cameroonians are treated like inconvenient step-children who are barely tolerated.