Decolonising the mind? : national identity and historical consciousness in Cameroonian history textbooks
1University of Oulu, Faculty of Education, Department of Educational Sciences and Teacher Education, Educational Sciences
|Online Access:||PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.4 MB)|
|Persistent link:|| http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:oulu-201306051458
|Publish Date:|| 2013-06-17
|Thesis type:||Master's thesis
The thesis focuses on history textbooks in the contemporary Anglophone Cameroon and aims at studying what kind of history consciousness and national identity is promoted in the textbooks. History is essential for the forming of national identity. School textbooks reveal officially recognised historical truths in a country, and therefore provide a fruitful source for studies on historical consciousness and national identity. Eurocentrism and western traditions of historiography are essential to take into account in the African context. Also in Cameroon, the schooling was originally established by colonial regimes and aimed at colonizing the mind of the natives. Colonial heritage has shaped the history writing in the African context until the present day and has its effects also on the analysed Cameroonian textbooks.
The production of a nationally distinguished publishing house Anucam Educational Books (ANUCAM) was chosen, because of the vast potential that lays in the national publishing industry in African countries, including in Cameroon. The levels of education covered primary (classes 4–6) and lower secondary education (forms 1–5) where the enrolment rates are higher than in the upper secondary education. The historical consciousness is likely to have a more significant basis in these levels of education.
Both quantitative (space analysis) and qualitative content analysis (imagology) were used in analyzing the textbooks. I first sketched quantitative tables on the geographical division of the textbook contents into world history, regional history (history of Africa and Europe) and the national history (history of Cameroon). The majority of contents discusses national history (32 %) and the history of Africa (32 %). With a share of 15 %, the history of Europe has a significant role in the textbooks. As regards the timely periods, the contemporary history is almost totally absent. For example, the past 30 years of the history of Cameroon, hence the period under the rule of president Paul Biya, is covered with only 5 %.
In the qualitative analysis it will be examined, how the “self” and the “nation” are perceived in the textbooks In examining the image provided of the “self”, the narratives examined are: the origins of Cameroon and the Cameroonians, the “exterior self” and the relation of the “self” with the Western civilisation. The entire formation of Cameroon is seen as a European creation, terminology stemming from the colonial interpretations, is used in descriptions on the Cameroonians and the image of the Western civilisation is loaded with positive connotations of development.
In examining the image of the “nation”, the narratives were linked with the state-produced discourse of “national unity”. The process of becoming independent was examined as well as images of leading historical figures and the presidents of Cameroon. Achieving independence appears as a destined historical thread in the textbooks. Leading historical figures are represented necessary for the national unity, which again is seen central for the prosperity of civilisations. Mostly without any criticism or analytical reflection, the presidents are presented as creators of this national unity in Cameroon.
Taking into account the central role of history in the forming of national identity, it seems surprising that textbook content analyses in the African context are largely absent. When aiming at improving the quality of education, it is not enough to focus on increasing the access to textbooks. As the international discourse on educational development goals Post-2015 is increasingly tuned to learning, more attention should be paid also to the quality of learning materials. Textbook content analysis can support national efforts of improving the quality of learning materials — an objective explicitly expressed also by the government of Cameroon in its educational policy lines.
© Kati Anttalainen, 2013. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.