The Study Groups and Literacy Programme

Country Profile: Cameroon

Population

16,322,000 (2005 estimate)

Official Languages

French and English (Camfranglais, Cameroonian Pidgin English, Fulfulde and Ewondo are regarded as linguæ francæ)

Poverty (Population living on less than US$1 per day):

17.1% (1990-2004)

Total Expenditure on Education as % of GNP

1.8

Adult Literacy Rate (15 years and over, 1995-2004)
  • Total: 68%
  • Men: 77%
  • Women: 60%
Sources

Programme Overview

Programme TitleThe Study Groups and Literacy Programme
Implementing OrganizationNational Association of Cameroonian Language Committees (Association Nationale de Comités de Langues Camerounaises – ANACLAC)
Annual Programme Costsapprox. US $8,000
Date of Inception2005–

Organization

National Association of Cameroonian Language Committees (Association Nationale de Comités de Langues Camerounaises – ANACLAC)

ANACLAC is a national NGO that was established in 1998. It regards the use of national languages as an effective tool for education and literacy, and promotes the publication of various types of literature in these languages. Its aim is to contribute towards the creation of a literate environment. In a broader context, ANACLAC assists local communities in harmonising, coordinating and supervising literacy programmes.

Context

Despite having a fairly high illiteracy rate, Cameroon has no national EFA or literacy policy. The proportion of the population that is illiterate varies significantly according to region, ranging from 44.3% in rural areas to 12.2% in towns. In the northern provinces and Adamawa, the rates are even higher (60% in Adamawa, 68% in the North Province and 76% in the Far North Province).

Legal frameworks enabling NGOs to pursue literacy activities do exist, but no financial support is available. In theory, the constitution supports the promotion of national languages, and this stance was further strengthened by a decentralisation law passed in July 2004 that aimed to make town and rural councils responsible for tackling illiteracy and providing vocational training. Unfortunately, these legal frameworks have not yet been implemented. Although the importance of the work carried out by NGOs has been recognised by the National Literacy Programme (Programme National d’Alphabétisation – PNA), they have been virtually excluded from efforts to implement this national initiative.

Programme Overview

The Study Groups and Literacy Programme (Programme de Cercle d’Etudes et de l’Alphabétisation) is aimed at boosting the role of national languages in literacy training. It focuses on promoting democratic principles, with a particular emphasis on equality and good governance, including transparency in the management of local resources and self-financing. The programme was launched in 2005. The first phase ran from 2005 to 2007, while the second will run from 2009 to 2011. Due to financial constraints, no activities took place in the interim, and this afforded the actors concerned the opportunity to learn lessons from the first phase and seek new sources of funding.

Main Objectives

The main objectives of the programme are to:

Target Groups

The programme’s main target groups are:

Implementation

The programme is run in municipalities in partnership with one target community in each region. It currently covers two provinces – Mada and Yemba – but the scope will gradually be extended during the next phase of the programme. The “Study Groups” method focuses on learners. Each group leader acts as a facilitator who stimulates discussion and helps learners achieve the goals set for each discussion topic. Reading and writing sessions are built into the discussions. A period of around two hours (varying according to the needs of each group) is set aside for reading and writing activities. The method uses both synthetic and analytical approaches. In the synthetic approach, sounds are grouped to form words, which are then combined to create phrases. The analytical method involves breaking down words into sounds and phrases into words. In summary, words are regarded as groups of sounds and phrases are regarded as groups of words. Learners within the study groups communicate with each other in their native language. In future, the programme will be bilingual, using native languages alongside the official language. The materials used by study groups depend on the topics selected for discussion in each case. Where materials are already available in a foreign language, the language committee and ANACLAC translate them into a national language and adapt them to the situation of each local community. For instance, one of the two communities has produced an eight-page document on soil improvement. Materials used for teaching purposes only, such as syllabaries, are developed by communities with technical assistance from ANACLAC. Sexual equality is also taken into account when choosing discussion topics. The subjects generally covered are:

During reading and writing sessions, syllabaries are used to an extent appropriate to the needs of each group. Within the Yemba community, local radio was used to inform the public about the study groups. Half-hour summaries of study group discussions and lesson content were broadcast to the whole community twice weekly. The annual cost of the programme is approximately US $8,000. Learners generally enrol with the help of existing groups. Many learners belonging to these groups see the programme as an opportunity to achieve personal goals such as the ability to fund activities independently, improve the quality of the products they use to make food, and so on. Each year, the programme trains an average of 350 learners from the two communities. The number of learners in each group is determined according to the study-group methodology. Ideally, groups should be made up of 8–12 learners; in practice, however, group sizes are never stable. The number of facilitators consequently depends on the number of groups per village. Teachers are educated to at least BEPC (Brevet d'études du premier cycle) level. They furthermore receive ongoing training in the form of seminars that are held once a year within each community and are paid for by language committees provided that they have the financial means to do so. To date, the programme budget has made no provision for salaries as the donor has requested that these costs be borne by the language committees. Most of those recruited work on a voluntary basis.

Outcomes

During the first phase of the project, around 120 study groups were formed and a total of 400 people from the two target communities were trained. During the second phase scheduled for the period 2009–2011, it is planned that 600 people will receive training. The programme has already helped to build the capacity of language committees through annual training, and they have already produced and translated a wide range of literature on subjects such as HIV/AIDS, agriculture, basket-weaving and embroidery. This has contributed to the creation of a literate environment and therefore a reduction in the illiteracy rate within the communities concerned. In addition, the study groups encourage learners to discuss a variety of topics, including democracy, income-generating activities, soil improvement and HIV/AIDS awareness. These exchanges make learners more aware of certain realities and development concepts such as HIV/AIDS or the importance of literacy in everyday life. Some groups have undertaken joint production projects and sell agricultural produce such as onions or tomatoes, demonstrating that exchanges between study groups can lead to joint initiatives. These outcomes were made possible by the open approach taken by study groups, which enables participants to select discussion topics according to their individual needs. This not only encourages people to attend learning sessions, but also makes the programme more relevant to them.

Future Challenges

Apart from financial problems, the main difficulty facing the programme is an apparent lack of motivation on the part of study-group leaders. Although salaries cannot be guaranteed, most expect to receive some form of financial reward for their work. In addition, some members of study groups no longer attend regularly. Generally speaking, the initial goals of the programme proved too ambitious. Many obstacles that hindered its implementation were initially underestimated. In future, therefore, a number of factors that continue to affect the programme’s implementation will have to be taken into account, such as the difficulty of providing study groups with software due to a lack of IT skills. In some cases, it has proven difficult to encourage participants to discuss more abstract social or political topics, such as democracy, as opposed to subjects of a more practical nature, such as income generation. Since political education forms an integral part of the programme and its impact will only become apparent in the long term, it is vital that the programme continue to pursue its objective of raising participants’ awareness of political issues.

Monitoring and Evaluation

The programme is monitored on two levels: nationally and locally. The national coordinator remains in constant contact with local communities to ensure that activities run smoothly, while local supervisors ensure that learners behave appropriately and assess their progress. Their reports are ultimately forwarded to the national coordinator for analysis. Remuneration for local supervisors in charge of front-line monitoring and evaluation is covered by the programme budget. They receive a monthly wage of around US $75. Gender parity has been achieved among local coordinators, half of whom are women. An incident within one language committee which revealed the chairman’s desire to exploit the programme for his own benefit demonstrated the importance of professional monitoring. The monitoring process is thus supplemented by twice-yearly external evaluations for each community, which are carried out by the Swedish organization, Studieförbundet Vuxenskolan (SV).

Sustainability

The programme’s sustainability depends on the degree to which language committees are integrated into each language community. The training of local supervisors and group leaders and their involvement in the programme’s planning and implementation increase communities’ acceptance of the programme. The fact that many facilitators have become involved on a voluntary basis confirms the programme’s relevance and status. Funding is a further key factor determining the ongoing success of the programme. Although members of language committees, traditional leaders and the elites within each community are called upon to seek local sources of financing, there is a general lack of local funding capacity. Furthermore, the fact that the elites, who represent the main source of funds, are failing to encourage the promotion of programmes focusing on the use of national languages is causing serious problems for the sustainability of the programme. There is consequently a clear need to increase the number of people supporting the programme in order to secure local financing and guarantee sustainability. At present, SV is the main source of financing; however, there are no guarantees that this foreign source will remain available in the future. Since SV itself depends on other Swedish bodies for funding, the second phase of the programme, starting in January 2009, is currently under threat. The future of the programme will thus depend both on the communities’ ability to secure local sources of financing and on ANACLAC’s ability to find external sources to ensure the programme’s long-term sustainability.

Contact

Dr. Etienne Sadembouo
Deputy Director
BP 2905 Yaounde
Cameroon
Tel.: +22 31 91 43/99 61 07 67
Fax: +22 31 91 43
E-mail: nacalco (at) camnet.cm

Dr. Blasius A. Chiatoh
National Project Coordinator
BP 63 Buea
Cameroon
Tel.: +231 75 51 86 91
E-mail: bchiatoh (at) yahoo.com

Last update: 8 December 2009