For decades, the promotion of the English language has been among the top priorities of the US Embassy in Benin. Far from the idea of imposing its culture on Africans, the US is rather concerned with the development of Benin in a world that’s functioning more like a single village with English as the main language of communication. As Benin needs to do business with other nations for its own development, it is therefore imperative for its citizens and leaders to improve their fluency in English. Hence the effort deployed by the US Embassy and BNTEA since 2011 to promote the English all over the country.
Many people outside Cotonou are so passionate about the English language, but they lack an adequate environment to learn and practice the language in a more communicative way. The little amount of time dedicated to the English subject in schools, the lack of new technological tools in rural schools, the lack of information about available opportunities and poverty have all led to the disappearance of many English clubs in Benin, especially in rural areas.
Faced with this sad reality, the Public Affairs Section of the US Embassy initiated and funded, in Summer 2017, a project called the “Benin English Clubs Summit (BECS)” in order to revive English clubs and build the capacities their leaders on values that would eventually enable them to impact the development of their communities. With the aim to empower local organizations on projects management, the PAS entrusted the implementation of the BECS project to the Benin National Teachers of English Association (BNTEA).
From January 18 to 20, 2018 one hundred and fifty leaders of English from the 77 municipalities of Benin gathered at the University of Abomey-Calavi (UAC), Benin share experiences on club leading activities. Speakers came from the US, the UK, Senegal and Benin to train participants on various topics including
The Place and Power of English Clubs in West Africa (by Eran Williams, RELO Dakar), Life & Language Skills for the 21st Century (by George Kokolas, Express Publishing, UK), Service Learning (by Annaliese Hausler-Akpovi, US), Leadership & Governance (by Kanishka Gangopadhyay, US Embassy Cotonou), Ethics in English Clubs Management (M. Jean-Olivier Cheou), Applying for Grants at the US Embassy (Romaric Mouftaou, US Embassy Cotonou), English Language Resources and Studies in the U.S. (by Cyrille Vito/Bienvenu Akodigna, US Embassy), Using Songs in English Cubs Activities (by Dr. Flavien Lanmantchion), EFL Teachers’ Role in English Clubs Sustainability (by Annaliese Hausler-Akpovi, US), Designing English Club Activities (by Eran Williams, RELO Dakar), Giving Visibility to English Clubs (by Eran Williams & Paul Kilahounko), Sharing TEC’s Experience on English Club Activities with Participants (by Rachad Ayasse, Micheline Ague, Aminou Ouorou).
The three-day event enable participants to network and learn important values like “team work”, “result based management” and “civic engagement”.
Another important asset to the success of the event is the cooperation and synergy among the organizers. Under the leadership of Dr Flavien Lanmantchion, the team worked to implement all the scheduled activities. The Regional English Language Officer from Dakar, Mr Eran Williams, was greatly impressed by the punctuality of the organizers.
The funding partner, the US Embassy, the speakers, and the participants were all satisfied by the quality of the overall organization of the event. BNTEA hopes that this general satisfaction will earn them another grant for the organization of BECS 2 in 2019.