is a special report on the use of English-lexified pidgins and creoles
in education in four West African countries: Sierra Leone, Ghana,
Nigeria and Liberia. It is based on reports from people who answered
a call over the CreoList, and from published sources.
FB 3, Fub 4
Universitaet GH Essen
for Sierra Leone, I think it is safe to say that the official policy
is not to allow P/Cs to be used in the classroom. I know more about
the anglophone West African countries, but the situation in the
former French colonies must be pretty much the same, the French
certainly having a prescriptive tradition as far as language is
concerned and many former colonies still entertaining much closer
relations with France than former British colonies with Britain.
LEONE: in a pilot project, Krio as a subject was first introduced
in 10 schools in 1985. And it was as late as 1993 that Krio was
made a core subject at the junior secondary level. It is not, however,
used as a medium of instruction, English being the teaching language
there have been complaints about the falling standard of English
in Ghana since at least the 1960s. Boadi (1971:56) writes:
is a general demand from all quarters for improvement in the standard
of written and spoken English in the schools and universities.
University teachers, finding their freshmen insufficiently equipped
to understand and write English at the level required for advanced
work, blame the low standard on the secondary schools. [...] Teachers
in secondary schools, on the other hand, admit that something
radically wrong is happening to the teaching and learning of English,
and that this is adversely affecting standards at all levels.
But they see the cause of all this in the handling of the subject
in the primary schools.
reason for the decline in the students’ performance in English
seems to have been the Accelerated Education Development Plan, embarked
upon in the early 1950s. The number of primary school children rose
sharply, and to satisfy the demand in teachers so-called ‘pupil-teachers’,
ie primary-school leavers, were recruited as teachers. These did
then pass their errors on to the new generation of pupils, and so
on. Since about the mid-60s, this problem has acquired a new dimension:
is probable that pidgin in Ghana spread from the uneducated section
of the population to the literate strata: whereas in the army
and the police force PE [Pidgin English] seems to have fulfilled
basic communication needs it acquired a new function when, in
the middle of the 1960s, it entered institutions of secondary
education and subsequently the universities.
these institutions pidgin today is the main informal register
in use between male students and is often (though not exclu-sively)
used even if the communicants share the same mother tongue. It
may be because pidgin in Ghana is still associated with the illiterate
classes that female pupils and
students are rarely observed to speak it, preferring Standard
English or a local language instead. Especially with the older
generation, but with the young as well, pidgin has the stigma
of showing lack of womanliness and education. Therefore, although
many young educated women have a passive command of pidgin, they
rarely use it actively. Very often males switch from pidgin to
Standard English when a woman joins the conversation.
at both secondary schools and the universities are concerned about
the harmful effect the use of pidgin may have on the students’
Standard English. However, it has not yet been demonstrated that
pidgin impairs the students’ command of the standard (cf.
Dolphyne 1995:32); my impression is that students are very well
aware that the two are different language systems used in a diglossic
situation, pidgin being exclusively in spoken form and reserved
for informal situations. Although it is banned from the classrooms
(the Faculty of Pharmacy, University of Science and Technology
Kumasi, officially prohibited the use of pidgin on its precincts
in 1985) pupils and students continue to use pidgin among themselves,
so that an increasing proportion of educated Ghanaians actively
use pidgin. (Huber 1995:228).
educationalists’ reaction to pidgin being used by students
in secondary schools and universities are quite violent at times:
“The indiscriminate use of pidgin English is leading the nation
towards illiteracy” (Egblewogbe 1992:1).
sum, pidgin in Ghana is highly stigmatized although it enjoys covert
prestige as an in-group language among educated male Ghanaians.
Because of its social stigma, it is improbable that Pidgin will
be used as a medium of instruction in Ghanaian schools in the near
future. The low performance in English of school leavers is probably
due more to the perpetuation of L2 learner's errors (teachers pass
these on to students, who in turn pass them on to the next generation,
in a self-enhancing process) than to the use of pidgin among the
Nigerian Pidgin has not yet officially been recognized as a local
language of Nigeria (Elugbe 1995:287). The education-al policy in
Nigeria is that children should be taught in their mother tongue
up to the third year in primary school. Where this is impossible,
the dominant language of the community may be used. Elugbe (1995:
292) thinks: “It therefore follows that Nigerian Pidgin can
be used in teaching many Nigerians where many local languages would
have been required.”
(1988:230) says that Nigerian Pidgin is used “as an unofficial
medium of instruction at the primary level in some urban schools”.
Rebecca N. 1988. The standardization of Nigerian Pidgin English.
English World-Wide 9, 227-41.
L.A. 1971. Education and the role of English in Ghana. In The
English language in West Africa, ed. by John Spencer (London:
Florence. 1995. A note on the English language in Ghana. In New
Englishes: a West African Perspective, ed. by Ayo5 Bamgbos5e,
Ayo5 Banjo & Andrew
Thomas (Ibadan: Mosuro/British Council), 27-33.
E.Y. 1992. The use of broken English in higher institutions of learning
and its implications for the future of education in Ghana. Unpublished
paper presented at an inter-faculty lecture, University of Ghana,
Ben. 1995. Nigerian Pidgin: problems and prospects. In New Englishes:
a West African Perspective, ed. by Ayo5 Bamgbos5e, Ayo5 Banjo
& Andrew Thomas (Ibadan: Mosuro/British Council), 284-99.
Magnus.1995. Ghanaian Pidgin English: an overview. English World-Wide
Neville. 1995. Standardizing the Krio language. In From contact
to Creole and beyond, ed. by Philip Baker (London: University
of Westminster Press), 217-28.
Department of Linguistics
New York University
719 Broadway, #501
New York, NY 10003 USA
the Liberian case, all English-lexifier varieties are referred to
as English. Officially, Standard English is the language of all
formal education at all levels, from kindergarten on. Since Standard
English is the official language and since all English-lexifier
varieties are called ‘English’, there’s no place
in the curriculum for pidginized or creolized English. The reality
is that pidginized features are common in the English of the Liberian
classroom, but that reality is not acknowledged.
Dept of Linguistics
University of Chicago
1010 S. 59th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
did a lot of work studying theatre in Freetown, and I am of the
opinion that theatre artists are the largest segment of the population
that is literate in Krio. Here is a little blurb on the state of
Sierra Leonean theatre that I wrote circa 1990. It is more relevant
to Krio literacy than Krio education, but I include it just as an
FYI. (It is also interesting to note that many if not most Sierra
Leonean playwrights are (or were) also secondary school teachers.)
1930 and 1970 Sierra Leone produced only six playwrights, eight
drama groups, and fifteen plays including Decker’s translations
of Julius Caesar and As You Like It. The forty
year period was a long dry season, but Juliana John Rowe, a member
of Julius Caesar’s original cast, marks the beginning
of the theatre boom. With her new drama group, The Liberals, she
staged original plays about Sierra Leonean life written in Krio.
Her second play I Dey I Noh Du (‘What's here won’t
due’) had a record run of eighteen performances, and Spencer
says Rowe’s first two plays ‘were probably the first
really popular plays in Sierra Leone’ (1988:33).
the end of the eighties there were at least 14 different groups
operating outside of the Western Area. Each Province’s capital
had at least one group and 8 of the 12 districts were represented.
In the Western Area, Waterloo now boasts of Leona Theatre. Wellington
has 4 drama groups, Kissy has 8, and Freetown proper has 30. All
told Sierra Leone has 64 functioning drama groups.
are now 8 times as many groups as there were in 1967, and probably
more than 18 times as many playwrights. While I was in Sierra Leone,
I was able to gather the names of 108 playwrights, 327 plays, and
collect 214 manuscripts from 79 different playwrights. (The manuscripts
in my possession are scripts rather than transcriptions of performances.)
Out of the 214, 140 plays are in Krio and an additional 15 have
scenes in Krio and English.
Krio in Sierra Leone:
and unofficial attitudes and policy towards Krio as the main language
of Sierra Leone” by C. Magbaily Fyle appears in the book African
Languages, Development and the State, edited by Richard Fardon
and Graham Furniss (Routledge, London, 1994), pp.44-54. The author
points out that even though Krio is the mother tongue of only 2%
of the population, it is an important lingua franca in the country.
A brief history of Krio society and the origins of Krio is given.
It is pointed out that Krio has no official status, even though
it is the language used 90% of the time in public speeches by heads
of state. It is also used unofficially in the schools (p.47):
many schools in the main towns and the provinces and also in Freetown,
Krio is used to introduce pupils to English, the official language
in Sierra Leone. Phrases are rendered in Krio with the English
equivalent simultaneously presented for repetition by children
beginning to learn English. Thus it is often seen as ‘essential’
to know Krio to get into the modern education sector for schooling.
there are typical negative attitudes towards the language –
even by Krio speaking people themselves (p.48):
the opposition to speaking Krio is based partly on the conviction
that Krio is a bastardized form of English, a ‘patois’
or, as some older Krio call it, ‘broken English’,
which will present a worrying distortion of the English being
taught at school.
author describes two varieties of Krio: Freetown Krio, used by native
speakers, and “up-line” Krio, used in more rural areas.
These have influenced each other in different ways.
broadcasting, the policy since the 1960s has been to utilize Krio,
along with the largest indigenous languages (Mende, Temne and Limba),
for the evening news.
regard to education, in 1978 the Indigenous Languages Education
Program (ILEP) was launched, with the aim of teaching indigenous
languages in early primary schools. A pilot project was started
in 1979. It received enthusiastic support from local communities,
especially when it was realized that children at the pilot schools
did better in the end-of-year exams.
1979 the National Planning Committee was set up by the Ministry
of Education to promote the program and workshops were held. The
author notes (p.52):
though the terms of reference of the Planning Committee did not
include Krio, a decision was taken at these workshops to standardize
orthography, and other matters, in Krio. This was a recognition
of the prominent role Krio could play in literacy. But since that
time, no one in officialdom has taken seriously the issue of introducing
Krio in schools.
more recent publication, “Standardizing the Krio language”
by Neville Shrimpton in From Contact to Creole and Beyond edited
by Philip Baker (University of Westminster Press, London, 1995),
pp.217-28, reports on changes in attitude towards Krio in Sierra
Leone so that “it has come to be accepted as a language in
its own right” (p.217). The author describes efforts to promote
Krio through drama and the important publication of a Krio-English
dictionary in 1980.
pilot project using 3 indigenous languages in 26 schools began in
1979, and 1985, Krio was added in 10 schools. The author notes (p.219):
“The experiences gained from this experimental scheme were
later used for curriculum development and were also to be very important
for discussions about standardization and the sort of Krio that
was to be taught in schools.”
the coup in 1992 and the introduction of the new school system in
1993, Krio was formally introduced as a core subject at the junior
secondary level, along with three other indigenous languages. However,
it was not used as a medium of instruction. The author notes (p.221):
“There is little chance at present that Krio will be used
extensively in writing for official purposes.”
describes the variability in Krio ranging from what speakers consider
a “deep” or genuine form to a heavily anglicized from.
Most people are promoting a deeper form of the language as the standard.
However, there is a dilemma with regard to using Krio in schools.
Education is still only for the privileged few, who already know
a great deal of English and will therefore find it easier to assimilate
English words into Krio. If the standard is likely to be defined
by its use in the classroom, then it will move away from the non-anglicized
form spoken by the majority.
other practical problems are a lack of guidelines for teachers,
a shortage of teachers whose mother tongue is Krio and classes with
pupils with many different first languages. However, it is significant
that many speakers of other languages are choosing to study Krio
(although the opposite also occurs). It may be that Krio will emerge
as the national language and then have a special place in the curriculum.
of interest is Reading and Writing Krio: Proceedings of a Workshop
Held at the Institute of Public Administration and Management, University
of Sierra Leone, Freetown, 29-31 January, 1990, edited by Eldred
D. Jones, Karl I. Sandred & Neville Shrimpton (Acta Universitatis
Upsaliensis, Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia 77, Uppsala,
1992). The paper “Problems relating to the publication of
Krio Materials” by Eric Johnson (pp.55-60) mentions that six
Krio workshops were conducted for primary school teachers and Freetown
Teachers’ Training College lecturers. One of these was for
textbook writing and another for the writing of supplementary materials.
The author writes (p.59): “The only works printed from these
activities are the Mi Fos Ridin Buk series, Books I and
II, now in use in pilot Krio teaching schools. This is grossly inadequate.”
Uppsala-Umeå-Freetown Krio Research and Publications Project”
by Karl I. Sandred & Neville Shrimpton (pp.61-72) describes
six works produced in the Krio Publications Series and
other efforts which have been aimed at “the spread of knowledge
about Krio culture and the linguistic and literacy expression of
this culture” and ultimately, perhaps, “to the spread
of Krio literacy” (p.71).
Language and the Nation: The Language Question in Sub-Saharan
Africa (Edinburgh, University of Edinburgh Press, 1991),
Ayo5 Bamgbos5e writes (p.29):
is an attractive candidate for national language status. It does
not suffer from the elitism associated with English… It
has major drawbacks, however. First, its language development
status is almost non-existent (there are no serious books, for
instance, written in pidgin and even the writing of the language
is still subject to a great deal of inconsistency as well as confusion
with English orthography). Second, there is no large population
to back it. (In Nigeria, for example, pidgin is the unofficial
language of the armed forces and the police; it is also spoken
in the coastal areas as well as in some urban centres, but it
is virtually unknown in large areas of the country.) Third, due
to its restricted use it is likely to be unacceptable. Fourth,
since English is still required for nationism, and pidgin cannot
function in that role, it is often argued that English might as
well be retained rather than exchanged for an English-based pidgin.
language development in Nigeria: A situation report on Rivers and
Bendel states” by Ben Ohi Elugbe is another chapter in African
Languages, Development and the State (mentioned above), pp.62-75.
The author notes (p.65):
for Nigerian Pidgin, it has no official status whatsoever and
is seen as debased version of English so that its possible role
in national development is for now not appreciated.
also observes (p.65) that in Rivers State, “Nigerian Pidgin
is used in radio news under the title ‘News in Special English.”