Prof. Paul Nkui: “Make Bilingual Mandatory For Senior Civil Servants”

Senior Anthropologist shares his views and expectations on  Multiculturalism in Cameroon.

What do you expect from the National Commission on Bilingualism on Multiculturalism when they start work?
Let me begin with the question whether the Commission on Bilingualism and Multiculturalism was created to solve the Anglophone problem. For me, I think the answer is no then, if the creation was to give importance to the component which the government has neglected in the past, then the creation is positive. That is why we expect the Commission to produce rules and regulations that enforce total bilingualism at the all levels of governance.
The Commission should make it mandatory for top civil servants to master the two official languages, English and French before appointment to any high office. I mean that people like SDOs, Directors, etc. master the official languages of the Nation. That is what the country should have done over forty years ago. The importance of English and French as official languages has been neglected even though the constitution is clear about it. Unfortunately, there has been no mechanism to ensure that it should be so. It does not speak well when we know that during the government’s recent negotiation with stinking teachers,, virtually all the five ministers concerned did not master the language in which the teachers were speaking and some of the issues had to be translated into French for some of them to understand. Bilingualism is a national pride even in a country like Senegal. It is imposed on almost all senior officials in Senegal and that is why Senegalese presence in the international community is great. They occupy high positions in many world organisations. Meanwhile, the promotion of our country’s cultures first requires a systematic codification of such cultures because the process of marketing the culture is far more than singing and dancing. We have at least 250 cultures and at least 250 languages. We have studied one of such cultures that is about to disappear. It is the Sio Tribe where some 26 people are actively speaking and practising it.
In which case, I think that it will be an achievement if the Commission engages experts to produce a compendium or an encyclopaedia of Cameroon cultures.
Any comment on the membership of the Commission?
It was a political decision to appoint members of the Commission and I cannot comment about it. I cannot say if the decision went for expects in Bilingualism and Multiculturalism nor not. But if the decision lost sight of it, then they did not reflect well and it will not be good.
Could you prescribe an attitude for Cameroonians towards the Commission?
Perhaps, I should say that it is thanks to the strike action that we have come to reflect on ourselves as a people and nation. We cannot continue to protect the English and French languages meanwhile we were there before the colonial masters. The Commission on Bilingualism and Multiculturalism is positive. It was long overdue and with it, our culture should become significantly important. We have to encourage the protection of our cultures.

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