A WAY TO PROMOTE THEM – BILINGUAL EDUCATION

bilingual
Elementary school children learning to read and write in Moore and in French

Burkina Faso shelters 65 languages natively spoken on its soil. The linguistic dynamism of the country could have constituted a powerful apparatus for its development, especially on the educational level. Unfortunately and luckily not too late, the colonizers later replaced by local elites, promoting similar language-alienating agendas, did nothing but cultivate within the Burkinabe mind a complex of inferiority toward his own languages.

According to the 2006 United Nations report, Burkina Faso adult literacy rate is 26%. This literacy according to the United Nations Development Program(UNDP) is lowest in the world. Because the educational system implemented thus far has not been attuned to the social and cultural realities of the country, it has revealed itself to be costly and inefficient. 

In an effort to remedy such a low literacy rate, the Swiss Organization for Workers’ Solidarity  (OSEO) and the Burkina Faso Ministry of Basic Education and Literacy (MEBA) have put in place the Bilingual Education Program since 1994. These bilingual schools have already proven themselves to be effective. Presently, seven languages are being used in that respect: MooreJulaFulfulde, Gulmacema, Dagara, Liele, and Bissa.  

In schools where students’ first language is used as the instructional language, an active interaction between instructor and students takes place. This learning environment contributes to create a lively classroom and decreases the stress on students who would otherwise be intimidated to use a language in which they have a low proficiency.

Conversely, in schools where French is the only instructional language, the teaching can’t be but centered on the teacher who does all the talk while the students only listen. Such a classroom environment implies that students’ first years of education are not only dedicated to learning to be literate, but essentially on learning a new language. This further implies that repetition and memorization would be the sole route to learning.

The use of Burkina Faso languages in basic education and literacy programs will boost their status to a higher level for it will provide them with additional viable ecosystems where they can effectively be utilized. Additionally, it will enrich them by attuning them to scientific and technical lexicon, which they might already be lacking. In order to sustain the Bilingual Education Program, these languages also have to be used in formal, administrative, and political settings in lieu of within bilingual elementary schools solely.

The implementation of bilingual education does however present some challenges, one of those being the lack of funding to train instructors who are capable of effectively teaching in those schools and the challenge of developing appropriate didactic material to suit its purpose. Another challenge represents the lack of opportunity encountered upon developing literacy in the language. Said otherwise, there is no substantial reward for knowing how to read and write in them. Furthermore, the often lack of support from local communities constitutes another obstacle that hinders its implementation.

Going forward, it will be important for the Burkinabe to sit and seriously reflect upon his language policies in order to come up with solutions that would allow the upright man to seek development while preserving his integrity. Certain requirements to speak French in order to become a member of the government have to be lifted. Every citizen of Burkina Faso has to be able to participate in the democratic process without having to face the burden of speaking French.