Presentation of the Draft Charter for the Promotion of African Languages in Education (Accra 1996) for readers of the Bisharat! web site. Return to Basic Documents.







FROM AUGUST 26 ‑ 30,1996



For the promotion and use of African Languages in Education

AUGUST, 1996



















1. Whereas, for over one hundred and fifty years, efforts have been ongoing, both by Africans themselves and others, for interested persons and institutions, towards the development of the languages of Africa for use in education and as tools for both the material and the cultural uplift of the African peoples; as evidenced by the following agreements, among others:


‑ The Charter of the Organisation of African Unity (1963)

‑ The UNESCO Declaration on the Principles of International cultural co‑operation (1966)

‑ The OAU Cultural Charter for Africa (1976)

‑ The OAU Lagos Plan of Action (1980)

‑ the Declaration on the cultural Aspects of the Lagos Plan of Action (1985)

‑ the OAU Language Plan of Action for Africa (1986)


2. And whereas these efforts have continued throughout the years and very significant contributions have been made through African language studies and promotion to the determination of linguistic universals and to human understanding and development in general;


3. Whereas today there is widespread recognition of the importance of African languages not just for the above purposes, but even more so, as key factors in the total social and economic emancipation and the cultural and spiritual advancement of the African peoples;


4. Whereas there is now near total awareness of the value of education using the African languages for the purpose; and all but, a few of the African states are now committed to the fullest possible use of their languages in education;


5. Noting however that despite the achievements in this respect, more remains in fact to be achieved than ever before, and that the task is all the more urgent, in view of the continuing socio‑economic crises that have beset the African nations over the past 15 years;


6. Noting, in addition, the need for the languages of the people as a means of grass roots communication, and also as a key factor in the rehabilitation of populations uprooted and displaced as a result of civil wars in many of the African countries;


7. Noting the important role of the study and knowledge of languages in the achievement of peace and mutual understanding not only between nations but also and primarily between groups and peoples within nations, and its pertinence particularly for the war‑torn countries of Africa;


8. Aware that the benefits of the languages involvement, as indicated above, cannot be derived through the use of foreign languages, but only by making full use of the languages of the African peoples themselves, and especially within the perspective of achieving the objective of "Education for All".


9. Aware also that languages, throughout the world, have always been crucial to the development of personality and the attainment of both group and national consciousness as well as in the development of group and national culture;


10. Aware of the universal principle that the learner learns best in his mother tongue or most familiar language, but that this principle has for long been flouted throughout Africa, must [sic] to the detriment of African education;


11. Aware, in addition, of the continuing need to correct negative attitudes towards language teaching and learning in Africa;




We, the African Ministers and those Responsible for Education in the African States, assembled here in Accra in the Republic of Ghana from 26 to 30 August, 1996.


Taking into account the fact that the African countries are in the process of development and that education is a priority among their strategies for this development;


Taking into account also that education very largely depends on the communication of knowledge, and that language is indispensable for this communication of knowledge.


We must solemnly affirm as follows:


1. The dignity and worth of each and every one of our mother tongue languages, and their complete inevitability as instruments of African education, culture and personality development;


2. The premier place of these languages as instruments of national communication from the grassroots, and therefore of all national economic and social development;


3. That full literacy in and a full understanding of these national languages is a human right to be attained within a multilingual educational system appropriate to the socio‑economic and sociolinguistic situation of a country. In this respect, we affirm also:




·         The right of the African peoples to use their languages for all purposes of inter‑country subregional and regional development, without prejudice to the acquisition and use of selected foreign languages for such purposes as those of religion; international business; and international understanding.



4. The need for specific actions to be taken by African governments and their agents towards the exercise, enjoyment, preservation and protection of these rights.




The main goal of this charter is the promotion of the use of African languages in all normal and specialised situations and functions. Actions for the purpose will be oriented towards the following:


1. National awareness campaigns for the removal of prejudices and the development of positive attitudes towards African mother tongue teaching and learning and community and national usage;


2. The use of the national lingua francas and major community languages for all national business and administration, as well as in all other spheres of national life, be it information; national debates and legislation; theatre, music or other entertainment;


3. Quality education both formal and non‑formal in the community language at levels, and the acquisition of the national lingua francas, without prejudice to the learning and use of the international languages of national adoption;


4. Mass literacy of every language group in its own language, and of every community in its prevailing language..


5. Mass literacy of every community in the national Lingua Franca or Lingua Francas, as well as in the major community languages of the country;


6. Full media use of the languages in newspapers and journals radio and television, and the development of rural language journalism towards this end;


7. The preservation of the oral traditions as well as the rapid development of national literatures in the languages;


8. The development of national language book publishing and the development and regulation of the national book trade for the purpose;


9. The development of local language translation and of translation personnel and their training, so as to facilitate the free flow of information among the various language groups within the nation;


10. The development of a realistic planned and phased programme for the achievement of the above goals, in the light of the resources that are available or that can be made available to the nation.




The following actions will be necessary, where they have not been already taken:


1. Language mapping, to identify the languages of a country, their extent and their first and second language speaker populations; as well as other linguistic research, resulting in descriptions of all the languages and the provision of modem grammars and dictionaries;


2. For maximum success, the densitation of all agents and others concerned in the development of mother tongue languages, by means of public meetings, use of the meetings seminar and workshops, the theatre and other such means.


3. The adoption of clear national language policies for the development. A policy would include all the languages of a country, whether major languages, minority groups, spell out the role and status of every language, which languages are to be adopted for nation‑wide communication, which for zonal communication, and which for literacy among its native speakers.


4. The setting up of institutions for research and the motivation, direction and co‑ordination of all or specific aspects of the language action, such as national language academies, language associations; as well as the strength ensuing of university and other institutions for teaching and training.


5. The development of institutional arrangements for the preparation of syllabuses and curricula, for the conduct of examinations and other such evaluative activities, and for the certification both of teachers as well as of students leaving educational institutions for entry into the work force.


6. The training of journalists, translators and educational and literacy personnel, as well as literary critics to encourage and monitor the production of ethnic literature.


7. A determination of which languages are to be taught as subject or used as medium of instruction in the national education system and at what levels without prejudice to the learning of the international languages of a country's adoption.


8. The provision of libraries with easy access to mother tongue books; the provision of magazines, book, information bulletins and government handouts, and an abundance of post‑literacy and continuing education materials, all free or at low cost, for encouraging of the reading habit.


9. The setting up of efficient management and co‑ordination structures and mechanisms for the language action within Ministries of Education, these structures and mechanisms being concerned with co­ordinating also the involvement of partners in the educational action, as well as with supervision and monitoring and evaluation.


10. The effective co‑ordination and management of both the literacy and the basic education effort as part of the same programme and this with respect to content and methodology development; training and staff deployment and career structure; and the use of spaces, facilities and equipment.


11. Mobilisation and training of teachers and literacy personnel for teaching of and in the mother tongue languages, upgrading of their teacher status, and providing incentives for their work.


12. Encouragement and development of local production, through private publishing, printing and other such enterprises for the provision of both pupils, teachers and general materials for mother tongue education. These actions would include also the translation into the mother tongues and publishing of high quality literature from other African sources or from international sources world‑wide.




As regards supportive measures, the following will be necessary where they have not yet been undertaken:


1. The Organisation of funds for phased programme for the language action, both from national revenue as well as from non‑government sources;


2. The increase of the contribution of governments towards their national language programmes;


3. In view of the magnitude of the language action, the mobilisation of private sources as well as language communities themselves within the nation for financial and other support for the development and use of their own language.


4. Legislation as necessary for adoption of the national language policy, and immediately and freedom from bureaucracy in its implementation;


5. Legislation also for guaranteeing the use of mother tongue languages as the primary instruments for government business and administration within our countries;


6. The encouragement of partners in the pursuit of the language action, both through international and bilateral co‑operation and NGO's and the planned and co‑ordinated utilisation of their efforts;


7. The involvement of national linguists and language specialists in all policy matters involving languages, both national languages and the foreign languages of adoption;


8. The constant review, monitoring and updating of the language policy provisions;


9. Legal measures for regulation of the book trade especially in favour of mother tongue books; protection of copyright; and action against plagiarism, book piracy and other kinds of copyright infringement;


10. The strict observance of international conventions mandating exemptions from customs duties and taxes for paper supplies and printing materials for the production of educational books;


11. Inter‑African co‑operation, and other co‑operation as relevant, in such matters as:







In conclusion, we recognise and appreciate the role of UNESCO, since its inception and continuing to date, and of the OAU and other international and bilateral agencies and NGO's in the language action through research, stimulation, provision of technical and material support, and assistance with funding, in favour of the language action in the African states, and we fully recommend that this role should continue and that the Organisation should provide itself with suitable personnel for the purpose.


Finally, as a necessary prerequisite for the African language action, and as much as lies in our power, we would not tire in our efforts to guarantee individual and collective freedoms, in the peaceful, just and democratic societies towards which all Africa is now working.


Text source: Appendix to the Final Report (revised 2002) of the 1997 Intergovernmental Conference on Language Policies in Africa, Harare at

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