Call edition 2012

A new edition of the Prize of the Belgian Development Cooperation has been launched. This call is open until March 31st, 2011. You can read in the regulations whether you comply with the criteria for participation.

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The issue of culture and the Burkina Faso education establishment. A historical and socio-anthropological perspective

Géraldine ANDRÉ student laureate

°1980 Belgium
Licentiate in Philosophy and Language & Literature, 2002

La question culturelle et l'institution scolaire burkinabé. Approche historique et socio-anthropologique

The issue of the use of languages in the post-colonial environment is crucial to the thorough understanding of the development dynamics at local level. The student has endeavoured to demonstrate this by combining the socio-cultural aspects and the economic and social challenges of bilingual teaching, a choice that fits in Burkina Faso’s development policies but which does not have the same implications for all parties concerned. Indeed, as Géraldine André points out, under colonial rule, new divisions emerged in these societies. Colonisation has left its mark on them. Teaching took precedence over education, while imported knowledge and the local ways of doing things, which were perfectly adapted to the local context became second-rate. One of the new criteria of adaptation became European-style teaching and the command of the French language, which became part of the image of success, as they gave access to salaried jobs. The prestige associated with these jobs created a sharp contrast with the ‘rural masses’, who had not received a European-style education.
The linguistic and cultural policies of Burkina Faso show that the successive post-colonial governments have sought to introduce teaching formulae that were thought to promote development and yet integrate local languages and knowledge. These attempts have not succeeded, particularly because of the relations between the elite and the rural population, as rural people had become reticent to what they saw as a new discriminating tool: being taught in their own language. The recommendations of the Bretton Woods institutions clash indeed with the usual image of a progress linked to the command of French. Being part and parcel of a wider policy of administrative decentralization, the project is interpreted within this context. Yet, at a stage when civil service has reached saturation point, local ventures are opening up perspectives for progress. The use of local languages, whose improved image is likely to bring new motivation to the devalued teaching staff, comes at the right time. The teachers’ efforts are, of course, a pre-requisite for the success of bilingual teaching.
Géraldine André provides her readers with a brilliant analysis. She combines the historical study of political dynamics with methods and perspectives that are totally appropriate for an anthropological study, i.e. on the basis of a long period of field research. The analysis of data was carried out in an interesting way, on the basis of perfectly appropriate literature that has been well assimilated. This dissertation is useful from the outset to everyone concerned with the use of languages in teaching in the post-colonial environment.

Report: Dr. Danielle de Lame, Ethnosociology & Ethnohistory, Royal Museum for Central Africa, Tervuren, Belgium