Friday, 25 November 2016

Olivia Mukum-Wandji shares her experience about living as a bilingual Cameroonian.

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Entrepreneur; Olivia Mukum-Wandji, shared her experience about living as a Cameroonian( a French and English speaking bilingual country in Africa with French being the dominant language spoken) on her blog. She also shared her views about the current strike situation in Cameroon. We think her views are spot on. Here is what she said:

"I was the Guinea pig of my family. After 20+ older siblings and cousins were sent to the French schools,  I was the first child who tested the English system of education in Cameroon. This made me an oddity,  not only in the family -  that has called me "Angloz"  all my life,  but also among my school Admin (whom my parents had begged in 1993, to let me join the school body of CIS) and friends who called me "this Francophone girl." The only way to defeat the talkers was to excel at school... 3 years after learning English,  I was the best English, Math  and Geography student at my primary school, in Class 5 and 6. Passed the entrance into one of the top English boarding schools,  Our Ladies of Lourdes in Bamenda,  where I was in the Top 5 of my classes,  but still  I was called "the Francophone girl." 3 years later,  went to Sacred Heart Douala, where I aced among both boys and girls in the English system ,  but still I dwelled "the Francophone girl. " All this while at home,  in my family,  I was still the "Angloz." Fast forward 12 years later,  I get recruited in an international English-speaking Institution,  and 2 weeks into my job,  I hear some colleagues grumbling about "The Francophone girl"  who got recruited...disregarding if I was competent,  if I aced the language tests and content tests ; but bringing it back to that very thing which I thought I had proved was a non-issue. That's a summary of my life as an Anglo-Franco. I identify myself as Cameroonian first -  I think,  speak and write in English better than I do in French; yet still  none of the sides of the coin adopts me. It's like being Bi-racial in South Africa... In the middle of the battle of both races, neither white,  neither black,  Coloured.
Today though,  about half of my cousins in the family have become Anglo-Franco.  Clearly,  the English system is greatly respected among Francophones.
Still,  with this dual perspective I have,  this is what I want to add to the various  discussions online and offline that are happening :

*******Francophone Cameroon :

Anglophone Cameroon has grievances that have always been undermined and brushed under the carpet,  and MUST be addressed,  because it's simple injustice. 
We call ourselves a bilingual country,  but in truth Anglophones try more to learn both languages (or at least understand)  both languages than Francophone. I have the opportunity practically every week to speak to crowds of Cameroonians and before diving into the meat of our discussions, I always make a head count of how many people in our mixed Anglophone and Francophone audience "do not understand English"  (you see many hands raise)  and "do not understand French"  (no hands go up). To me,  it is even okay to have Cameroonians who don't speak both languages,  but we need to understand each other.  That means we should be able to have conversations where I speak my English,  you speak your French and we understand each other,  the conversation flows...but that is not the current case,  and that is unfair.
As citizens of this nation, we must fight against injustice; and rally behind noble causes. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Anglophone Cameroon has been complaining about its marginalization for more than 30 years,  and it has only gotten worse. If we don't address their complain,  we might have a remix of what is happening in the Far  North of Cameroon - - where people have been disenfranchised and marginalized for so long to the point of total poverty  and complete disengagement from the nation of Cameroon. Let us learn from these examples that the cry of a people should not be suffocated,  but in a proper country,  it should at least be addressed.

******** Anglophone Cameroon :

Please guard your hearts!  Being a minority and being victims does not give you the freedom to have  xenophobic attitudes towards the majority. I have noticed in over 2 decades that the "disdain"  and "sense of superiority"  you have towards "those Francophones"  is not productive,  it is dangerous to harbor such feelings -  it is the same feelings that even divides Anglophone Cameroon : South Westerners don't want to be called "Bamenda",  Bayanguis only want to marry Bayanguis ; Kumbos don't want to mix with Balis... I mean, how subdivided should we be to feel important? In this day and age  shouldn't the goal be to unite as much as possible (yes,  while preserving our identities). Sometimes also,  try to acknowledge other ethnic causes in Cameroon (the Mbororo who are treated so unjustly in your very own regions,  the Far Northerners who are practically out of touch with what is happening in the South of Cameroon ; the Easterners who have the majority of the resources this country depends on,  yet don't have any respectable Government University,  Hospital,  or basic infrastructure for their basic human needs). Because at the end of the day,  even though there is justice to be made for you,  stop thinking that you are not the most marginalized group in Cameroon because you are the most vocal of them all. Actually,   join other groups,  and uplift their causes.
Plus,  we must admit that not all is grey while being an Anglophone in Cameroon.  In fact,  the competitive advantage you have with the English plus is that you are beneficiaries of most UK/US scholarships,  jobs in multinational companies and embassies,  you know how to obtain grants for your projects,  you have the international language that gives you so many opportunities,  that say a rural person in Yokadouma or a fisherman in Campo could never have,  if he did not learn English. You have the edge,  and so many opportunities for upward mobility because you can speak and write in English -  thus access networks and opportunities that your francophone counterparts will not be able to access,  unless they learn English. You have a massive Diaspora,  who -  if mobilized and focused on the prize - could transform the DNA of this country with the expertise they have amassed in the UK,  US,  China,  Australia, Kenya,  Ghana,  South Africa... Thank God you are succeeding in all these different sectors.  Be happy about that,  and use that now to impact more change.

To sum it up,  for me,  our attitude in the face of mediocre governance and injustice in Cameroon is that we must turn off the fire in our neighbors house,  if not our house might be the next to be burned. We must not be so blinded by our micro/ethnic/language causes that we forget the bigger problem,  that is the problem all regions and ethnic groups decry : We live in an upside down country that is visibly derailing,  with poor governance,  absence of meritocracy, un-sustainably centralized,  out of touch with local realities,  in lack of values, with a non-existent culture of results,  blind to the cause of the oppressed,  and celebrating mendacity and debauchery with full impunity, led by  greedy and corrupt people at every levels of the decision making line; a country with no historical vision of our time and place in the world. That's the country in which we live in,  those are the rulers we have chosen . That's the system of governance we must collectively fight against ; not divided into Anglophone vs Francophone Cameroon ; or into North vs South,  East vs West; Bassa vs Sawa,  Bulu vs Bami,  Bamenda vs Buea; we are one Cameroon -  we must keep our eyes on the prize. Let's pick up the burden of our brothers and run with it to the finish line,  and once we have alleviated that burden,  we pick up the burden of the other brother,  run with it to the finish  line; and so on.

For now though,  the imminent problem is the Anglophone grievances,  let's support them. In January 2017 though,  let's all focus on registration to vote.... The population that wants change is more massive than the one that doesn't,  we just need to mobilize to make sure we make changes via elections. And even though many think it's useless to register,  let me tell you this: change can be done at any level -  from municipal councils, to legislative representatives,  to Presidential. Even if you think you can't change presidential, and as many often say "don't see any credible opposition leader"  (which is not very true),  know that you can change At Least municipal and legislative representatives.

:::::::::::::: Just imagine if with our massive and collective votes we elected 20 principled,  patriotic,  progressive and forward looking young men and women into Parliament? The laws and  policies that would change in our favor... .  Imagine if we could vote for 40 principled,  patriotic and forward looking youth in our city and town halls around the country,  imagine the change, innovation and impact?
That's how we have to start thinking of the long term. Don't sit back and think you are voiceless and powerless, that the only way to be relevant is on social media; my friend you have power offline,  register to vote....  Get in the game,  and we will change the way this game is played. For now,  be confident that YOUR VOTE WILL COUNT in 2018...We will make sure it does.

#OneCameroon  #Unity #UnityOfPurpose #OneCause  #JusticeForAll  #Love #Togetherness  #Cameroon #Bamenda #Anglophone #AngloFranco
#LetsActOffline #OfflineAction  #RegisterToVote #WeCanChangeThings  #ConcertedEffort #TogetherWeCan #StayFocused
@OliSankara "

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