Literacy & Education


Literacy and education in SIL Cameroon, as well as SIL International, distinctively focuses on developing programs in non-dominant languages and emphasizes using the mother tongue as the gateway to basic literacy. SIL Cameroon's vision for language programs is to see literacy become a sustainable community value with the ownership of literacy goals and activities in the hands of the people. This is achieved by maintaining a focus on training and capacity building of local people who can participate in and lead in both adult and children's literacy efforts, in formal and informal settings.

Improving educational achievement is an outcome that can be realized through multilingual, mother-tongue education programmes, particularly in the rural areas of Cameroon. When children arrive at school on their first day, they don't come with empty "baskets." Rather, they come with a storehouse of cultural and linguistic knowledge based on their mother tongue and cultural heritage learned at home. This is a ready storehouse upon which a strong foundation for literacy, first in the mother tongue and then in an international language, can be built.

Adults, too, can benefit from the acquisition of literacy skills later in life. Often, adults who have not learned to read and write as children, face insurmountable barriers such as learning to read and write in a foreign language. By tackling literacy in their mother tongue, the skill and confidence they gain can then be transferred in learning to read and write in English, or French, while maintaining a connection to their own cultural heritage.

International Literacy Day

Literacy remains a major global challenge. September 8 each year is an occasion to give hope to the millions of women, men and children who cannot read or write even their own names. International Literacy Day is a timely reminder to the world about the importance of literacy for individuals, families, communities and whole societies.

Empowering people, connecting families, bridging generations

Fulfulde mother tongue literacy classes held during the school holidays proved to be a great success. Three Fulani secondary school students taught the classes. The classes grew in size quickly. So, new classes were formed with late primary school students now teaching their younger brothers and sisters.

Young boys who help care for the cattle discovered that they, too, could read and write about their own interests and experiences. With this new sense of empowerment, they eagerly came to the classes to read their stories written while out with the cows.

Using a whole language approach that encourages creative writing, evenings were filled with the youths visiting the elders of the community to gather traditional stories that they could write down and read in the next day’s classes. Rediscovering their own rich traditions, they created excitement among the elders who asked to have their own literacy classes. 

Who would be the helpers for these classes? The younger children are sitting with their elders in the evening, helping them learn to read. Generations have been bridged together through the power of mother tongue literacy.