The new policy of one textbook for each subject is now effective in Cameroon. Since the last month, the ministries in charge of education have released the official textbook list for the 2018/2019 academic year.
In the high school course of study, literature has witnessed a cut in term of textbooks number. In fact, it has dropped from 11 textbooks to only 6. Another salient observation on the list provided by the ministry of secondary education is the absence of African textbooks in high school. All the four textbooks present, on the previous list, have been removed, leaving high school students with no African literature to explore. This can be object to questioning as to know if the thematic elaborated on African literature are less worthy than those in other literatures.
Considering the aim attached to literature teaching in Cameroon context one can question the absence of African literature in the advanced level. In fact, teaching literature aims at, enabling students to enjoy literature as entertainment, to study it for its didactic fall-outs, to cultivate the ability to make value judgments and develop critical skills for independent assessment of human issues; it also wishes students to achieve a better understanding of themselves and of the world around them as well as to an exploration of wider, universal, more far-reaching issues (Cameroon school authorities). Moreover, literature not only informs about authors and the life exposed on the work of art, it also seeks to provide students with a projection of literary imagination and to stimulate and nurture their imagination about the happening around them. Therefore, primary functions of literature in Cameroon are to teach and to entertain. In as much as learning through other experiences is true, it is also important for literature students to be informed about their contribution to the well-being of their direct environment. Such aims are praiseworthy and they clearly set the pedagogical function of literature and indicate the seriousness in which the authorities view the didactic element in literature.
Through literature, education purpose, in high school, is to raise individuals who think, come up with new ideas, learn and express things they learn correctly and use their knowledge actively in real life. Therefore, among other skills in literature, exploring literature thematic in high school makes it possible to achieve the aforementioned goals and in that line contributes to produce competent citizens.
The six literary books selected for high school students address a litany of issues that emanate from the latest medieval period to the latest modern era. One can argue on the relevance of this choice as far as students’ development is concerned. In fact, it can be believed that subject and thematic preoccupation in these textbook are out-dated and irrelevant for students in high school. Besides they are set in other areas far from student’s grasp. Though literature is about part of life, it portrays human daily life in order to educate the reader.
As a matter of fact, the prescribed textbooks present human flaws as central issue; they seek moral rectitude through language artefacts. Authors explore human being in order to inform students about life. In the general prologue of the Canterbury tales, Chaucer presents its characters in a way that informs about their personality and the society in which they live. He shows how human declining attitudes and morals succeeded in perverting a religious pilgrimage into an excursion where merriments prevail over religiosity. The pilgrimage, therefore offers the opportunity for Chaucer of bringing together a cross section of the society from the rich to the poor, the religious and the secular, the virtuous and the vicious. Such characterization can be source to stimulate students critically on human manners and how society can go astray from what is important. Moreover, in the same dynamic, William Congreve’ The Way of the World also represents human in his day to day life; it is the “world” of the restoration period from Congreve’s view. Amidst the romantic celebration of human feelings the author seeks to mock those who deviate from social conventions through comic. Human hypocrisy and greed are presented here in a subtle and witty language.
William Shakespeare’s Hamlet also seeks moral rectitude; when we explore the thematic concern of they play, we realize that the portrayal of human evils are central in the play. Hypocrisy, conspiracy, moral corruption and murder are among other themes, the manifestation of human declining attitude. Hamlet explores human experiences, values and concerns in a dramatic way. It is human evil planning exposed in public in other to inform about life. Besides, Arthur Miller’s Death of the Salesman portrays disastrous human pursuit of wealth in the early 20th century in American society. It is the pursuit of American dream that is a metaphorical presentation of capitalistic belief and its drawback on human sensitiveness and understanding, as exposed in Charles Dickens’s Hard Time. Willy Loman, the tragic heroes, and his family members are the embodiment of the American dream destructive appeal on human value
In a broad sense, human rectitude appears as central concern on literature material in high school. This choice could be justified by the desire of the national curriculum planners to develop a virtuous citizen that contributes efficiently to the well-being of his society. It is also a contribution to the edification of a nation free of declining virtue and moral evilness. However, the absence of concrete materials that directly speak to students’ experience and history can be subject to debate as to judge the relevance of this choice. In other words, African literature explores in an acute way African concerns which, in our assumption is intimately linked to their history, thus enabling then to better understand themselves and speculate on their future and the nation building.