CALI – History

CALI 50th Anniversary Celebrated

Fifty years–half a century!  Certainly a lot has changed in Congo’s history over the past 50 years, but the one thing that has remained constant is the U.S. government’s commitment to English language learning in the country.  While the program has changed over the years, noticeably in name—from CALI to ZALI, back to CALI again—–and also in its oversight—from USAID to USIS to the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy –as you have heard, the commitment to teaching English has been a strong part of the U.S. bilateral partnership with the DRC.

Begun in 1962, its first iteration was a language program for teachers of English to teach Congolese government civil servants.  Ten Congolese teachers went through the eight month program.  Today we teach over one thousand students each session!

In 1963, the student program began.  And also during that year, the language program was charged with teaching Lingala to U.S. Embassy officials.  That program lasted only two years.

In 1966 the U.S. Information Service, what is today the Embassy’s Public Affairs Section, took over the management of the program.  In 1972 CALI changed its name to ZALI, reflecting the change in the country’s name.

From 1973 – 1974 ZALI’s building was completely refurbished.  It became a bright, cheery place conducive to English language learning.  At that time ZALI employed 19 English teachers.  Today we have almost double that number.  Along with USAID supported students, third country nationals, and Zairians interested in the language, we also taught members of the Presidency.

ZALI was also charged with the supervision of English teaching activities in Kisangani and Lubumbashi. The Kisangani branch had three classes and Lubumbashi had four.  ZALI also supported a small program in Bukavu. Today we run an off-site program which provides English language classes in situ at a number of companies in Lubumbashi.

Major changes took place in 1976 with the introduction of pedagogical methods training and supplementary materials. ZALI organized seminars and workshops for national teachers of English and a six level series program was introduced.

In 1979 ZALI flourished and further raised its academic standards. The quality of teaching improved through regular teaching workshops, teacher observation, and teacher evaluation by the director and his or her assistant.

In the early 1990s, ZALI was entrusted by USAID with the extensive training of over 40 professionals with university degrees in order to pursue their post graduate studies in the U.S.

ZALI’s accelerated growth at that time necessitated additional space. The growth reached its peak in 1997 with the fall of the late President Mobutu Sese-Seko.  The country reassumed the name Democratic Republic of Congo, and the school did it as well, renaming itself as the Congo-American Language Institute–CALI.  In 2003, CALI reached a student population of 1,000 registrants. Today we routinely meet and often surpass this number.

In 2004, CALI started managing the English Access Microscholarship program, financed by the U.S. Government. The program provides a foundation of English language skills to talented 14–18 year-olds from disadvantaged sectors of Kinshasa and Lubumbashi through after-school classes and intensive summer sessions. Access students gain an appreciation for American culture and democratic values, increase their ability to participate successfully in the socio-economic development of their country, and gain the ability to compete for and participate in future U.S. exchange and study programs.

Over the past 50 years, CALI has touched the lives of over 60,000 Congolese students.  As the Ambassador noted, today more than ever, having a good working knowledge of English is a valuable asset.  CALI is pleased to offer the opportunity for thousands of Congolese to open new doors to employment and cultural opportunities.  We look forward to another 50 years together, not just in Kinshasa but hopefully throughout this beautiful country.