German studies in Africa: successful pioneering activity

There is currently a rising number of pupils in sub-Saharan Africa who are learning German. German is the second foreign language after English in the school system in Burkina Faso so there is a high demand for German teachers.

The most recent statistics for Burkina Faso report on over 80,000 pupils who are being taught by 300 German teachers. These in turn mostly come from universities at which committed German studies lecturers are observing a growing influx of students.

One of these lecturers, who has been passionately promoting the German language, literature and regional studies for many years, is Dr Jean-Claude Naba. This 64-year-old has been a lecturer at the University of Ouagadougou since 1993. He received a DAAD scholarship at the start of his academic career.

Upper Volta, Ivory Coast, Germany

Dr Naba thinks back on how he received the funding to obtain his license in German studies, comparable with today's bachelor's degree: "The cooperation between Germany and Upper Volta (now Burkina Faso) involved DAAD awarding in-country/in-region scholarships. I was one of three people from Volta who received a scholarship to study in Abidjan in the Ivory Coast. The university in Upper Volta's capital Ouagadougou did not have a German studies department at that time."

Jean-Claude Naba was happy, in part because he was also one of the first German studies students in his home country who was able to study in Germany: "After completing my license in Abidjan, I was able to obtain another DAAD scholarship to obtain a German 'Magister' degree at Saarland University."

About the guest author

Gabriel Kombassere, 23, is a Germanist. He successfully completed his bachelor's degree in his home country of Burkina Faso and is now studying for a master's degree in literature and regional studies. He is a freelance journalist and the author of five books. His latest book, "Séquelles et autres nouvelles" (Sequels and other news), was published in Mali in August 2020. Gabriel Kombassere writes for the Alumniportal Deutschland and a student magazine in Ouagadougou.

From Saarbrücken to Bayreuth

Yet the young Naba also developed an ambition in another discipline: after the German "Magister" degree in German studies, he decided on a doctoral programme in African studies. At that time there was no opportunity to study this subject in Saarland, so he moved to Bayreuth in Franconia where African Linguistics and Literatures had been newly introduced.

"I no longer had a scholarship, but the situation wasn't that difficult then: many students – even Germans – financed their studies by means of holiday and casual jobs. So I enrolled at the University of Bayreuth where I later also received teaching assignments, both at the professorship for African Linguistics I and at the language centre," he explains.

Naba not only obtained his doctorate in Bayreuth, he also married there. He returned to Burkina Faso in 1992 and collaborated with Professor Bama Bapio Rosaire, who in the meantime had introduced German studies at the University of Ouagadougou.

German studies is very popular

The German studies department at the University of Ouagadougou now has over 2000 students. The majority of them decide to go into teaching after completing their degree. Only a few are involved in public service or in the German-Burkinabe Development Cooperation.

Jean-Claude Naba is currently teaching the morphology of German, translation, semantics and contrastive linguistics. He has also founded a publishing company – Sankofa & Gurli. "That started in Germany," he explains. "The Hans Böckler Foundation assisted me during my doctorate and also enabled me to acquire basic publishing knowledge. I think back with gratitude on my time spent in the BW publishing house in Nuremberg where I took my first practical steps."

Naba has to manage his time well: "Being a publisher and a lecturer, those are two full-time jobs," he says. And the challenges in German studies are also increasing due to the current high demand for lecturers in Burkina Faso. So it is fitting that the University of Ouagadougou is augmenting the subject with a newly introduced master´s degree course.

Guest author: Gabriel Kombassere

Contributions by external authors do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors.

How much interest is there in German studies and the German language in your home country?

Tell us about your impressions and experiences in the community.

To the Community

September 2020