African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 368

Full Length Research Paper

“Mother tongue won’t help you eat”: Language politics in Sierra Leone

Mneesha Gellman
  • Mneesha Gellman
  • Marlboro Institute for Liberal Arts and Interdisciplinary Studies, Emerson College, USA.
  • Google Scholar

  •  Received: 16 August 2020
  •  Accepted: 03 September 2020
  •  Published: 31 October 2020


Albaugh EA (2018). "Language Movement and Civil War in West Africa." In Tracing Language Movement in Africa, edited by Ericka A. and Kathryn M. de Luna Albaugh. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Albaugh EA (2014). State-Building and Multilingual Education in Africa. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Anonymous (2014a). Group interview with author. #26SL. Four Registrar's Office employees, Milton Margai College of Education and Technology, Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Anonymous (2014b). Informal conversation with author, 3/1/14. Kenema, Sierra Leone.


Anonymous (2014c). Informal conversations on politics with working class Sierra Leoneans in Wilburforce. Freetown, Sierra Leone. 


Anonymous (2014d). Interview with author, #5SL, Gender and Development MPhil student, Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone. Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Anonymous (2014e). Civil society leader. Personal communication with author. Freetown, Sierra Leone. 


Baker C (2011). Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism. Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


Bangura AK (2006). The Krio Language: Diglossic and Political Realities." In: New Perspectives on the Sierra Leone Krio, edited by Mac Dixon-Fyle and Gibril Cole 151-166. New York: Peter Lang.


Banya K (1993). "Illiteracy, Colonial Legacy and Education: The Case of Modern Sierra Leone." Comparative Education 29(2):159-170.


Beissinger MR, Crawford Y (2002). Beyond State Crisis? Postcolonial Africa and Post-Soviet Eurasia in Comparative Perspective. Washington, D.C.; Baltimore: Woodrow Wilson Center Press; Distributed by Johns Hopkins University Press.


Blatter J (2017). "Truth Seeking AND Sense Making: Towards Confirgurational Designs of Qualitative Methods." Qualitative and Multi-Method Research 15(2):2-14.


California Department of Education (2000). Proposition 227 Final Report. 


Childs GT, Good J, Mitchell A (2014). "Beyond the Ancestral Code: Towards a Model for Sociolinguistic Language Documentation." Language Documentation and Conservation 8:168-191.


Chisanga T, Alu MKN (1997). "Owning the Other Tongue: The English Language in Southern Africa." Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development 18(2):89-99.


Christensen MM, Mats U (2008). "Mercenaries of democracy: The 'Politricks' of remobilized combatants in the 2007 general elections, Sierra Leone." African Affairs 107(429):515-539.


Coronel-Molina SM, McCarty TL (Eds.). (2016). Indigenous language revitalization in the Americas. New York and Oxon: Routledge.


CIA (2020). The World Factbook - Sierra Leone. Central Intelligence Agency-US Government. Accessed 6/17/20 at: 



Clapham CS (1996). Africa and the International System: The Politics of State Survival. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.


Coşkun V, Derince MS, Uçarlar N (2011). Scar of Tongue: Consequences of the Ban on the Use of Mother Tongue in Education and Experiences of Kurdish Students in Turkey. Translated By: Leyla Tonguç Basmacı. Diyarbakır, Turkey, Diyarbakır Institute for Political and Social Research.


Crystal D (2013). English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


Dor D (2004). "From Englishization to Imposed Multiculturalism: Globalization, the Internet, and the Political Economy of the Linguistic Code." Public Culture 16(1):97-118.


Faingold ED (2018). Language Rights and the Law in the United States and Its Territories. Lanham, Boulder, Lexington Books.


Fishman JA (2006). Diglossia and Societal Multilingualism: Dimensions of Similarity and Difference." In Language Loyalty, Language Planning, and Language Revitalization: Recent Writings and Reflections from Joshua A. Fishman. Edited by Nancy H. Hornberger and Martin Pütz. Clevedon [England]; Buffalo: Multilingual Matters. pp. 69-78.


Francis DJ, Kamanda MC (2001). "Politics and Language Planning in Sierra Leone. African Studies 60(2):225-244.


Fyfe C (1962). A short history of Sierra Leone. London: Longmans.


Fyle CM (1994). Official and unofficial attitudes and policy towards Krio as the main lingua franca in Sierra Leone." In: African Languages, Development, and the State, edited by Richard Fardon and Graham Furniss, 44-54. London New York : Routledge.


Fyle, Clifford N. (2003). "Language Policy and Planning for Basic Education in Africa." In Towards a Multilingual Culture of Education, edited by Adama Ouane, 113-119. Hamburg, Germany: UNESCO Institute for Education.


Fyle, Clifford N. (1976). "The Use of Mother Tongue in Education in Sierra Leone." In Mother Tongue Education: The West African Experience, edited by Ayo Bamgbose, 43-62. London: Hodder & Stoughton.


Fyle CM (1981). The History of Sierra Leone: a Concise Introduction. London.


Gbakima A, Kamarah SU (2014). "Online discussion forum debate on detractors from English learning in Sierra Leone, between Professor Aiah Gbakima, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Sierra Leone, and Dr. Sheikh Umarr Kamarah, Professor of Linguistics of Virginia State University, USA." 



Gellman M (2019). "The right to learn our (m)other tongues: indigenous languages and neoliberal citizenship in El Salvador and Mexico." British Journal of Sociology of Education 40(4):523-537.


Gellman M (2017). Democratization and Memories of Violence: Ethnic Minority Rights Movements in Mexico, Turkey, and El Salvador. London and New York: Routledge.


Gellman M (2015). "Teaching silence in the schoolroom: whither national history in Sierra Leone and El Salvador?" Third World Quarterly 36(1):147-161.


Government of Sierra Leone (2018). Education Sector Plan 2018-2020: Getting It Right - Service Delivery, Integrity and Learning in Sierra Leone. Available at: 

View Ministry of Education, Science and Technology: 1-XLVII.


Government of Sierra Leone (2013). Education Country Status Report: An Analysis for Further Improving the Quality, Equity and Efficiency of the Education System in Sierra Leone. Pôle de Dakar, Dakar, Senegal: Government of Sierra Leone, Ministry of Education, Science, and Technology, UNESCO-Dakar Office.


Government of Sierra Leone (1995). New Education Policy for Sierra Leone. Freetown, Sierra Leone, Department of Education.


Government of Sierra Leone (1991). The Constitution of Sierra Leone. edited by Act No. 6. Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Herbst J (2000). States and Power in Africa: Comparative Lessons in Authority and Control. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.


Hovens M (2002). Bilingual education in West Africa: does it work?" International Journal of Bilingual Educational and Bilingualism 5(5):249-266.


Kachru BB (1994). Englishization and Contact Linguistics. World Englishes 13 (2):135-154.


Kamarah SU (1994). Phonology and tonology in the morphology of Temne: A lexicalist approach. (PhD), University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Kanu SM (Undated). "Languages at Risk: A Case Study from Sierra Leone." University of Alberta. Unpublished working paper. 


Kargbo L, Jones F (2014). Program Manager and Krio Literacy and Scripture Engagement Coordinator, respectively, at The Institute of Sierra Leonean Languages. Group interview with author. Freetown, Sierra Leone. 2/19/14.


Lumeh M (2009). The Dynamics of Colonialism, Political Division and the Militariat in Sierra Leone and Their Impact on Law and Society." California Western International Law Journal 40:1-30.


Marx AW.(1998). Making Race and Nation: A Comparison of South Africa, the United States, and Brazil. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


May S (2012). Language and Minority Rights: Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Politics of Language. New York: Routledge.


May S (2003). "Misconceiving Minority Language Rights: Implications for Liberal Political Theory." In Language Rights and Political Theory, edited by Will Kymlicka and Alan Patten, 123-152. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press.


McCarty TL, Romero-Little ME, Warhol L, Zepeda O (2014). Critical Ethnography and Indigenous Language Survival. Ethnography and Language Policy. T. L. McCarty. New York and London, Routledge.


Nelson W, Horacio M (2014). Executive Secretary of the Basic Education Commission, Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. Interview with author. Freetown, Sierra Leone. 1/27/14.


Olthuis ML, Kivelä S, Skutnabb-Kangas T (2013). Revitalising Indigenous Languages: How To Recreate A Lost Generation. Edited by Linguistic Diversity and Language Rights. Bristol, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.


Posner D (2003). The Colonial Origins of Ethnic Cleavages: The Case of Linguistic Divisions in Zambia." Comparative Politics 35:127-146.


Sengova J (2006). Aborigines and Returnees: In Search of Linguistic and Historical Meaning in Delineations of Sierra Leone's Ethnicity and Heritage." In New Perspectives on the Sierra Leone Krio, edited by Mac Dixon-Fyle and Gibril Cole, 167-199. Peter Lang: New York.


Sengova J (1987). The National Languages of Sierra Leone: A Decade of Policy Experimentation." Africa: Journal of the International African Institute 57(4):519-530.


Skutnabb-Kangas T, Dunbar R (2010). Indigenous children's education as linguistic genocide and a crime against humanity? A global view. Kautokeino, Norway: Gáldu-Resource Centre for the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.


Sonntag SK, Cardinal L (2015). "State Traditions and Language Regimes: Conceptualizing Language Policy Choices." In State Traditions and Language Regimes, edited by Selma K. Sonntag and Linda Cardinal, 3-26. McGill: Queen's University Press.


Telles E, Sue CA. (2019). Durable Ethnicity. Mexican Americans and the Ethnic Core. Oxford: Oxford University Press.


Thiong'o, Ngũgĩ wa (1986). Decolonising the Mind: The Politics of Language in African Literature. London; Portsmouth, N.H.: J. Currey; Heinemann.


Trudell B (2012). "Of Gateways and Gatekeepers: Language, Education and Mobility in Francophone Africa." International Journal of Educational Development 32:368-375.


Trudell B (2005). "Language choice, education and community identity." International Journal of Educational Development 25:237-251.


United Nations (UN) (1948). "Universal Declaration of Human Rights." United Nations Accessed 12/12/2017. 



United Nations Development Programee (UNDP) (2009). Sierra Leone Socio-Economic Indices. United Nations Development Programee. 


UNESCO Institute for Statistics (2017). Sierra Leone. Accessed 12/12/17 

View: UNESCO Institute for Statistics.


Van de Walle N (2001). African Economies and the Politics of Permanent Crisis, 1979-1999. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press.


Zack-Williams A (1999). Sierra Leone: The Political Economy of Civil War, 1991-98. 20, (1) (02):143-162. Third World Quarterly 20(1):143-162.