Laurent Polonceaux is the French Consular General in Lagos. In this exclusive interview with ABDUSSALAM AMOO, he highlighted why Nigerians should consider a university education in France. The French envoy invited students to study in English-taught courses across France while also talking about the efforts of the French foreign mission in Nigeria in improving French education. Excerpts are presented below.
By studying English-taught courses in the French universities, does it mean that learners wouldn’t have to learn French?
That’s not exactly so. Even if you don’t speak French, don’t be afraid as a student to go to study in France because there are 1,500 programmes taught exclusively in English. So, it is not a deterrent not being able to speak French. When you spend two or three years in France, whether you want it or not, you will be able to communicate in French. Of course, you will be taught in English. But you will need French in everyday life. At the end of the day, it’s a win-win deal.
Does it that there will be a special class for those that want to learn French?
Absolutely possible. But we have many institutions such as Alliance Française in France for people who want to learn French. Alliance Française provides many opportunities to learn French.
What is the relationship between the Nigerian and the French government in promoting education?
We have a solid relationship. The main relationship is with the Nigerian Embassy in Paris and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Nigeria. The relationship is encouraging. We also have very good relationship with Ambassador Modupe Irele. She is a Lagosian. She was very kind to visit me and the (French) Ambassador here in Nigeria before she goes to Paris. She is a French-speaking person and brilliant diplomat. Also, she is a specialist in education matters. Yes, we are very linked in a way with the Nigerian Embassy there.
In terms of funding, how cheap are those universities?
We have a policy in France that everybody must be able to have access to higher education. So, the tuition fees are not very expensive. They are affordable. The tuition fee to go to university is quite amicable for French students and also international students. There are also scholarships not only for French students but also foreign students.
What’s the future of French education in Nigeria?
We have two main institutions for developing French in Nigeria. We have French schools such as Lycee Francais Lois Pasteur (French School). These are located in Lagos, Abuja and Portharcourt at the moment. We also have this wonderful network of Alliance Francaise all over Nigeria. There are ten of them. It is a very efficient way to have more Nigerians learning French. The Alliance Française has two objectives. It doubles as a language school and a centre for learning French culture to Nigerians.
French in Nigeria is officially a second language like English. In terms of learning it in schools, many pupils learn French but don’t take its learning seriously. What’s the effort of the French foreign mission in Nigeria in promoting the learning of French in Nigeria and end this unfortunate trend?
Technically, we can’t do the task of the Nigerian government. We count on French teachers to provide Nigerian education system with the best of French education. The Nigerian government employs French teachers and encourages the learning of French. They provide the right qualifications and environment for French to thrive. On our part, we develop partnership as much as we can in order to enhance learning. We offer trainings to professors (teachers) through the Alliance Française, the Institute Française, and the Embassy in Abuja for them to be able to learn French and teach it better.
How do you handle immigration issues between Nigeria and France in the face of all the trans-Sahara migration issues? Are there specific immigration restrictions students should brace themselves for?
For all I know, there are no immigration restrictions students need to be wary of. We do our utmost to ensure less and less people who go through the Libya route end up in our country. On the immigration issue, we have a policy framework called the Schengen Agreement. So, on regulation, students who are able to study in France are free to do so. We don’t have any restriction. There is a required format in France to obtain visa and go there to study. Whoever meets up with this is free.