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Cameroon: Social Pluralism and Development

Cameroon: Social Pluralism and Development

Examine social, economic, and political development patterns in one of Africa’s most ethnically and geographically diverse countries.

The program explores the challenge faced by Cameroon — a nation that is home to more than 200 ethnic groups and even more local languages and dialects — of finding common ground for its national agenda. Students learn how Cameroonians are striving to strengthen a shared cultural heritage and bolster national political and economic cohesion while preserving diversity in the face of globalization and the country’s socioeconomic needs. As they learn about these issues, SIT students study together with Cameroonian university students.

Major topics of study include:

  • Cameroonian history before and during colonization, the fight for independence, and Cameroon’s post-colonial present
  • Minorities, including the “place” of Anglophones and the culture and traditions of Baka-Bagyeli (pygmies)
  • Development theories and approaches in the specific context of Cameroon
  • Art, tradition, and cultural expression, including the ceremonies of Bamilékés and the contemporary form and functions of the chefferies (chiefdoms)
  • Contemporary gender roles in Cameroonian society and tensions between modern and traditional gender expectations
 

Study alongside Cameroonian students.

camerooniansEach semester, a small number of Cameroonian students participate in the full SIT Cameroon program. The Cameroonian students are enrolled in graduate programs at local universities, including the University of Yaoundé. They complete all of the program’s components — courses, excursions, and ISP research — alongside SIT students.

Having lectures, excursions, and field activities together creates a deeply immersive and intellectually stimulating learning environment for SIT students, who benefit from their peers’ assessments and analyses of key issues facing Cameroon. Together, the students examine challenges relating to development; the role of minorities, particularly the Anglophones and Baka-Bagyeli (pygmies); and the impacts of British colonization, among many other topics.

The Cameroonian students gain the chance to experience the breadth of their country in collaboration with US students. Both groups benefit deeply from the program’s network of lecturers, resources, and program partners as well as the cross-cultural learning that studying together provides.

Yaoundé (program base)

The program is based in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s political capital and second largest city, commonly referred to as the city of seven hills. The program typically spends between five and six weeks in Yaoundé.

Thematic seminars (four modules)

The thematic seminars on development and social change and social pluralism and minorities facilitate the examination of four key topics:

  • The economic, social, political, and cultural development of Cameroon
  • Social change, with a focus on the effect of globalization and westernization on local traditions and cultures
  • Development aid in the context of Cameroon
  • Women and minority groups such as the Baka-Bagyeli (pygmies) and English-speaking Cameroonians

Learn from development experts and Cameroonian political leaders.

Students are able to engage with staff at development organizations in the public, private, and nongovernmental sectors. This allows students to gain perspectives on Cameroonian culture and development from a variety of sources. In one lecture, students hear from the president of a local, well-established NGO about the creation of NGOs and aid effectiveness in Cameroon.

Visits to important political leaders prompt examination of the highly significant role politics has played in shaping Cameroon’s history and development.

Engage with traditional leaders.

danceA day at the palace of the chief of Batoufam provides students with firsthand experience of the life and customs of traditional leaders in Cameroon. The chief of Batoufam — respected for his level of education and strong attachment to his culture and people — discusses with students the process of becoming a chief, his responsibilities and challenges, and important rites and ceremonies. He also explains the importance of chefferies (chiefdoms) in the nation-state.

In addition to lectures by university professors, local experts, and leaders, thematic seminar courses are complemented by several activities outside of the classroom. For example, students participate actively in International Women’s Day in the month of March by spending a day with members of a microfinance finance institution, marching with the female members of that institution and other women’s organizations, learning about the importance of microfinance institutions for women, and hearing specific stories about how microfinance has influenced/impacted these women’s lives. The program’s French language professors join the group on this visit  to facilitate the discussion.

Improve your French.

Students receive intensive language instruction in French focused on beginning or improving their speaking, reading, and writing ability. Students are placed in intensive beginning classes or focus on French for Development Studies at more advanced levels, while gaining additional language practice in homestays and field visits. Students also receive basic oral instruction in either Pidgin English or Fulfulde during excursions to facilitate local communication.

Dance classes

While in Yaoundé, students are able to learn Central African modern and traditional dances during an average of four sessions. The dance professor, Patrick Roger, has partnered with the program for more than ten years and is also a professional drummer.

Group research project

presenting a paperStudents participate in a group research project focused on a development issue in Cameroon. Students are divided into small groups and are encouraged to choose a development topic not covered by the program and research the topic using interview and survey methods. The group project helps students prepare for the ISP period as they become aware of the realities of doing research in Cameroon. The project also gives students the opportunity to work as a team and manage group dynamics.

Independent Study Project

Students spend four weeks engaged in an Independent Study Project (ISP), with the opportunity to pursue original research on a topic of particular interest to them. The ISP is conducted in Yaoundé or in another approved location in Cameroon appropriate to the project.

Sample ISP topics include:

  • Political opinion among Cameroonian youth
  • Chinese and American development efforts and perceptions in Cameroon
  • Gender roles and standards of beauty in Cameroon
  • Traditional and modern healing: people’s preferences
  • The uses and practices of bilingualism in Cameroonian schools
  • The influences of westernization on the Bikutsi style of music
  • Oral history of the Bamiléké people
  • Land grabbing and its local impacts
  • Microfinance and women’s empowerment

Access Virtual Library Guide

This program introduces students to a broad variety of issues related to Cameroon’s culture and development via an interdisciplinary format that includes lectures, seminars, meetings with experts and practitioners, hands-on learning, research projects, excursions, and homestay experiences. The thematic seminars are taught in English, with a few lectures in French offered in translation. Intensive French language study allows students to engage more fully with communities in Cameroon, and students are immersed in homestay environments that promote further language learning. The Research Methods and Ethics course addresses ethical and culturally appropriate research methodology in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP).

Links to syllabi below are from current and forthcoming courses offered on this program. Because courses develop and change over time to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, actual course content will vary from term to term.

The syllabi can be useful for students, faculty, and study abroad offices in assessing credit transfer. Read more about credit transfer.

Development and Social Change in Cameroon – syllabus
(SDIS 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
An interdisciplinary course taught predominantly in English, examining foundational concepts, principles, and paradigms of development studies and social change for the purposes of critically engaging with specific topics and issues relating to the Cameroonian context. Through formal lectures, assigned readings, group discussions, and integrated field visits, students explore the ways in which development initiatives — in local, regional, and national contexts — seek to become agents for changing structural relationships in society.

Social Pluralism and Minorities – syllabus
(AFRS 3000 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
An interdisciplinary course taught predominantly in English, exploring Cameroon’s complex social history and postcolonial national identities in one of the most ethnically and geographically diverse countries on the continent. In addition to lectures and discussions, the course integrates multiple learning methods including required readings, excursions to relevant sites, group discussions and processing sessions, participatory workshops, student presentations, and independent or self-structured learning. 

Beginning French: French in Cameroonian Contexts - syllabus
(FREN 1000–1500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This intensive course is designed to prepare students with little or no previous instruction in French to confidently use the language in daily communications in Cameroon. Another major aim of the course is to facilitate access to the Cameroonian host culture, particularly in the urban homestay. The course emphasizes the development of speaking and comprehension competencies. Cultural context is built into the course and introduced through audiovisual materials and experiential activities accompanying the text.

French for Development Studies - syllabus
(FREN 2000–2500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
French for Development Studies - syllabus
(FREN 3000–3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
This language course focuses on the acquisition of the French lexicon used in the area of development and social change to equip students with the language tools needed to work with NGOs and development associations. Students are immersed in course materials designed to build their capacity in comprehension, speaking, reading, and writing skills to support the course’s focus on engaging students with discourses, vocabularies, discussions, and readings centered on developmental issues in Cameroon. Based on in-country evaluation, including oral proficiency testing, students are placed in the appropriate level, with additional language practice in homestays and on field visits.

Research Methods and Ethics- syllabus
(ANTH 3500 / 3 credits / 45 class hours)
The Research Methods and Ethics course provides students with the essential tools required to conduct independent study in either the public health or social research domains in Cameroon. Material includes cross-cultural adaptation and skills building; project selection and refinement; appropriate methodologies; field study ethics and the World Learning/SIT Human Subjects Review Policy; developing contacts and finding resources; developing skills in observation and interviewing; gathering, organizing, and communicating data; and maintaining a field journal.

Independent Study Project - syllabus
(ISPR 3000 / 4 credits / 120 class hours)
Conducted in Yaoundé or in another approved location appropriate to the project in Cameroon. Sample topic areas: education in a Cameroonian village; traditional healing; bilingualism and the media; the makossa style of music; oral history of the Bamiléké people; a women’s village cooperative; influence of oil on Cameroonian economy and society.

Browse this program's Independent Study Projects/Undergraduate Research

Please note that in order to take advantage of dynamic learning opportunities, program excursions may occasionally vary.

Known as "Africa in Miniature," Cameroon is home to tremendous diversity. During the program, students study and travel in a majority of Cameroon’s environmental zones. Students can expect to experience the daily life, traditions, customs, and historic and cultural sites of several different Cameroonian communities.

The program typically includes time in the following areas of Cameroon.

NORTHWEST and WEST REGION

Dschang

village

Situated in the West Region of Cameroon, Dschang (pronounced “chong”) is the center of the Bamiléké, an ethnic group with a very rich and unique culture. Students learn about Bamiléké’s traditions and arts, while focusing on the development issues specific to the region. Dschang is one of the major university towns of Cameroon, so students have added opportunities to interact with Cameroonian college students during this period. Students also have a homestay with a family in Dschang. 

Dschang was the first colonial capital of the West Region until independence and today has a population of around 46,000.

Batoufam

Students spend a day at the Batoufam traditional palace and enjoy the privilege of meeting with a traditional leader known in the administrative jargon as "a first degree palace." Following the meeting, students are given a guided historic tour of the palace and are introduced to local dance and music featuring the sounds and rhythm of drums and traditional xylophones. Prior to the visit, students are introduced to the history, chiefdoms, and ceremonies of the Bamiléké. The excursion gives students a field-based experience to better understand the traditions, arts, and socioeconomic realities of the Bamiléké region.

Bamenda

The program typically spends three days in Bamenda focused on the issue of minorities in Cameroon. Students consider the impact of British colonization in Cameroon and examine the place of Anglophones (people originating from the two English-speaking regions of the country) in Cameroon's social, political, and cultural evolution. Students have lectures and enjoy site visits and exploring the city.

Also known as Abakwa Town, Bamenda is the capital city of the Northwest Region, one of the two Anglophone regions of Cameroon. It is the heart of the English-speaking opposition movement against French rule and dominance in Cameroon and home to one of the well-known and prominent opposition leaders of the country. It has an estimated population of about 446,000 inhabitants and is known for its cool climate and beautiful and hilly landscape.

SOUTH REGION

Kribi

Kribi

Kribi lies along the Gulf of Guinea, at the edge of a tropical rainforest and is home to the Baka-Bagyeli (pygmies). During this excursion, students examine the controversial debate and overall issues surrounding this minority group including their history and current challenges. The excursion includes a visit to a pygmy camp, where students engage in conversations with the Baka-Bagyeli and participate in their daily lives.

During this period, students also have a chance to enjoy Kribi's beautiful sandy beaches.

Christiane Magnido, Academic Director

Christiane Magnido

Christiane Magnido is a native of Cameroon and grew up in Douala, the economic capital. She holds a master's degree in management and business from the University of Dschang and a master's in development and peace from the Protestant University of Central Africa. Prior to joining SIT, she was involved in many internship programs in microfinance institutions and worked for the US Peace Corps as cross-cultural, language, and homestay coordinator and for the Small Enterprise Development Project as co-technical trainer.

Christiane has been running the SIT program in Cameroon since 2006 and has enjoyed every step of the experience. Her position entails many responsibilities; the most significant include designing an academic program for the semester, recruiting relevant and experienced professors for lectures, working with partner institutions, creating a conducive scholastic environment, providing guidance and support to students, integrating field-based experience and classroom activities, and collaborating with staff to produce the most effective setting for each student’s educational journey.

In addition to her position as academic director with SIT Study Abroad, Christiane is co-founder of the Center for Communal Building Skills, a nonprofit association working to promote education and knowledge for Cameroonian high school and university students.

Her areas of interest include commerce, international development, and the impact of culture on interpersonal relationships. She has acquired extensive knowledge and skills related to development through examination and comparison of development patterns in "developed" and "underdeveloped" countries.

Nathalie Miste, Student Service Coordinator

MisteNathalie is responsible for the selection of homestay families, family placement, and orientation of students. She also assists students in their cultural integration and oversees their medical care. Nathalie is a student at the University of Yaoundé I, where she is pursuing a bilingual degree in English and French.

Atangana Mbanga Serge, Program Assistant

SergeSerge joined SIT Study Abroad Cameroon in January 2013 as a program assistant. He holds a BA in sociology, with a concentration in population and development, from University of Yaoundé I and continued his education there with a focus on gender studies, with a particular interest in women's and minorities' issues. Serge is also enrolled at Douala University and is writing a master’s dissertation on economic sociology. He has been a student leader in various students’ associations including an environmental association and one of the oldest student organizations in Cameroon’s university, the Cercle Philo-Psycho-Socio-Anthropo. These experiences have greatly contributed to his management skills. In his role as program assistant, Serge is in charge of program logistics, excursion planning, and other administrative tasks.

Pouokam Joseph, Homestay Coordinator in Dschang

Joseph works part-time for SIT Cameroon, overseeing the homestay component in Dschang. He has been working with the SIT Cameroon team for more than twelve years. Additionally, Joseph is an administrative assistant at the University of Dschang.

Dorothy Ntah, City Coordinator in Bamenda

Dorothy works part-time for SIT Cameroon as coordinator of the program’s Bamenda excursion. Dorothy has been associated with the SIT program since 1992. In addition to her work with SIT, she is director of a local foundation that works on developing the capacities of youth and providing financial assistance to young entrepreneurs and children whose parents died of AIDS./h4>

Language Staff

The Cameroon: Social Pluralism and Development language staff consists of four language trainers in Yaoundé and four in Dschang. The program's language teachers have extensive experience with Peace Corps training and hold assistant professorships at the University of Dschang and Yaoundé.

Lecturers for this program typically include:

Professor Gilbert L. Taguem Fah

From August 2006 through August 2007, Professor Taguem Fah was a Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence at Illinois Central College-East Peoria where he later became a visiting faculty. He was also a Zentrum Moderner Orient in Berlin as an Alexander von Humboldt Research Fellow (November 2008–January 2011). He was initially a specialist in the field of African history but has since developed a wide interest in political developments in Africa in general, and West-Central Africa in particular. He teaches African history and African politics at the University of Ngaoundéré in Cameroon. He has been a visiting professor at several universities in Europe (EHESS-Paris and the universities of Tromso, Bergen, and Oslo in Norway); in the United States (Northwestern University, Illinois Central College-East Peoria); in Canada (Université Laval-Quebec); and in the West Indies (UAG-Martinique). He has authored books, journal articles, and book chapters on topics as varied as popular culture and politics, corruption, local elitism and politics in Africa, Islam and politics, chieftaincies, art, and politics. His most recent works include the following journal articles: “The War on Terror, the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline, and the New Identity of the Lake Chad Basin” (Journal of Contemporary African Studies, Vol. 25, No. 1, January 2007); “Dealing with Africom: a Political Economy of Anger and Protest” (Journal of Pan African Studies, Vol. 3, No. 6, March 2010); and “Thematique de recherche autour de quelques acteurs de l’histoire contemporaine du Nord-Cameroun” with Bienvenu-Denis Nizesete as co-author (African Humanities, Vol. 1, January 2010). He has also recently published a book chapter, “Negotiating Elitism and Facing Change: Dynamic Idioms of Power and Leadership” in Ngaoundéré-Cameroon (Egodi Uchendu, Ed.). An expert on UNESCO, Professor Taguem Fah is a consultant at many international organizations and is affiliated with many institutions of higher learning. He is also the founder and executive director of the Community Research and Development Center (COREDEC), a social sciences and community development institute in Ngaoundéré, Cameroon. He is currently the director of African Humanities, a social sciences journal.

Dr. Willibroad Dze-Ngwa

Dr. Dze-Ngwa is a lecturer and researcher in political history and international relations at the University of Yaoundé I and at the Higher Teacher Training College (ENS) in Bambili, Cameroon. He is also a lecturer on history and geopolitics in the Department of Peace and Development Studies at the Protestant University of Central Africa (UPAC), Cameroon. Additionally, he is the executive director of the Africa Network Against Illiteracy, Conflicts, and Human Rights Abuse (ANICHRA) and an advocate of peace and tolerance education. He was laureate of the 2008 Educational Network for West and Central Africa Small Grant Award and has travelled extensively to present papers at national and international conferences. He has several publications to his credit. His research interests are in the areas of political history, international relations, peace and conflict studies, democracy, citizenship education, minority issues, good governance, human rights, social science research, quality education, and development studies.

Dr. Robert Fotsing

Dr. Fotsing is a senior lecturer in the Faculty of Letters and Social Sciences at the University of Dschang in Cameroon. He teaches French and comparative literature in the Department of Foreign and Applied English. His areas of research include intertextual, intermediate, and intercultural aspects in the expression of French literature. The author of about twenty articles, he is also editor of the collection L’imaginaire musical dans les littératures africaines published in the Harmattan in 2009. He is currently working on a book entitled Ecritures camerounaises et intermédialité. He is very interested in cultural studies.

Students spend a total of five weeks in a homestay in Yaoundé, two weeks with a host family in the West Region of Cameroon (Dschang), and two weeks with a family in Kribi, in the South Region. During the Independent Study Project period, students also stay with local families. These comparative homestay experiences give students a better understanding of the differences between urban and rural areas and facilitate immersion in Cameroonian host communities. Students often make long-lasting connections with their host families. The homestay experience is closely tied to the program's thematic seminar and allows students to deepen their understanding of the themes covered through the program’s coursework.

Yaoundé

homestayMost of the homestays in Yaoundé are with middle- to upper-class Cameroonians who have connections to, and an understanding of, life in the western world, having either traveled there themselves or having children and close relatives who live there. These connections have affected their way of thinking as well as their economic status in comparison to the average Cameroonian. As the focus of our study while in Yaoundé is to further understand the complexity of development and development aid as it relates to the country, living with these families allows students to exchange ideas, interrogate, and debrief their experiences with these host families who have had experiences that allow them to compare and contrast life inside and outside of Cameroon.

Dschang

villageIn Dschang, students are placed with Bamiléké families and experience the realities of Bamiléké culture and traditions firsthand. The focus of study in Dschang is to examine an ethnic group that still maintains strong ties to its culture and is striving to retain some of its important features in the face of globalization. Living with Bamiléké families allows students to observe and participate in their daily activities and to ask questions to further understand lectures and field visits.

Kribi   

In Kribi students live in homestays. Kribi is famously known for its fishing and tourist industries. The tourist industry has influenced the attitude, jobs, education level, and social skills of the population. The fishing industry has been affected by the Cameroon-Chad oil pipeline, which is believed to have decreased the amount of fish in the sea and resulted in frequent oil spills that end up on the beaches.

Outside Kribi, an autochthonous and indigenous population known as the Baka-Bagyeli live in the forest. Their way of life has been dramatically affected by foreign companies’ investment in the area and by the country’s modernization/westernization. While in Kribi, students will examine the interaction between the Baka-Bagyeli indigenous population and the people of Kribi, who are Bantou. They will also learn about the impact that foreign companies have on the Baka-Bagyelis’ lives as well as the dynamics between traditions and modernity.

Also in Kribi, students will have the opportunity to meet with two development NGOs with which the program has established long-term partnerships: WOPA, which provides small loans and job training to women and young girls in order to boost their economic status and financial independence and FAGAPE, the oldest NGO working to support the indigenous population in accessing state resources such as education and civil documents, while also helping with development projects.

Other accommodations during the program could include hostels, private homes, and small hotels.

Program Dates: Spring 2015

Program Start Date:  Jan 27, 2015

Program End Date:    May 11, 2015

The dates listed above are subject to change. Please note that travel to and from the program site may span a period of more than one day.

Student applications to this program will be reviewed on a rolling basis between the opening date and the deadline.

Application Deadline:   Nov 1, 2014

 

SIT Pell Grant Match Award. SIT Study Abroad provides matching grants to all students receiving Federal Pell Grant funding; this award can be applied to any SIT semester program. View all SIT Study Abroad scholarships.

Tuition: $14,760

The tuition fee covers the following program components:

  • Cost of all lecturers who provide instruction to students in:
    • History
    • Development theories and approaches 
    • Gender
    • Minorities
    • Art, tradition, and cultural expression
    • Islam and traditional power in the Grand North
  • Research Methods and Ethics training in preparation for the Independent Study Project (ISP)
  • Intensive language instruction in French
  • All educational excursions to locations such as Dschang, Bamenda, and Kribi, including all related travel costs
  • Independent Study Project (including a stipend for accommodation and food) 
  • Health insurance throughout the entire program period 

Room & Board:$2,040

The room and board fee covers the following program components:

  • All accommodations during the entire program period. This includes during orientation, time in the program base (Yaoundé), on all excursions, during the Independent Study Project, and during the final evaluation period. Accommodation is covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend provided to each student, or through the homestay. 
  • All homestays (five weeks in Yaoundé, two weeks in a rural setting in Dschang in Cameroon’s the West Region, and two weeks in Kribi)
  • All meals for the entire program period. Meals are covered either by SIT Study Abroad directly, through a stipend, or through the homestay. 

Estimated Additional Costs:

International Airfare

International airfares vary greatly due to the volatility of airline industry pricing, flight availability, and specific flexibility/restrictions on the type of ticket purchased. Students may choose to take advantage of frequent flyer or other airline awards available to them, which could significantly lower their travel costs.

Visa Expenses:$275

Immunizations varies

Books & Supplies :$200

Discretionary Expenses

Personal expenses during a semester abroad vary based on individual spending habits and budgets. While all meals and accommodations are covered in the room and board fee, incidentals and personal transportation costs differ depending on the non-program-related interests and pursuits of each student. To learn more about personal budgeting, we recommend speaking with alumni who participated in a program in your region.  See a full list of our alumni contacts.  Please note that free time to pursue non-program-related activities is limited.

Please Note: Fees and additional expenses are based on all known circumstances at the time of calculation. Due to the unique nature of our programs and the economics of host countries, SIT reserves the right to change its fees or additional expenses without notice.

 

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SIT was founded as the School for International Training and has been known as SIT Study Abroad and SIT Graduate Institute since 2007. SIT is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Inc. (NEASC) through its Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

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