Aug 29, 2012, 9:54 AM
Gerard Chouin incharge of French Corporation in The Gambia (PAFEG) has put a lot in place for the appreciation of the French language in the Gambian society to make the learning of French available to Gambians and others interested in becoming bilingual in modern day society. Society and Development has traced Dr. Gerard Chouin's intentions and how his office stands to support education and the spreading of French in a contemporary Gambian society. To help him in his task, two strong groups have emerged to only further strengthen the learning and increase interest in French.
S&D: Starting from the highest point of education in the country what can you say in line with your office (PAFEG)?
G: Chouin: Things have moved very well and there are going to be changes in the months and years to come. There is vision in the heart of the new Vice Chancellor due to the regional placing. The university is undergoing reforms and we were expecting to work with these reforms.
S&D: What major development and interesting aspect has your office involved in?
G: Chouin: The University of the Gambia has signed an agreement or MOU with Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie (AUF) on the basis of this MOU. We are expecting equipment such as 'digital campus' of which the project (PAFEG) has contributed 20, 000 Euro and the AUF provided 20, 000 Euro plus, and they will send experts to set the equipment up. The equipment comes from France. There will be a video component, Internet and resources on line. Apart from that the new Masters Degree programme has taken off. We have a two Masters programme; it combines the certificate from Gambia but also a certificate from Limouge. Again Professor Femi Ade recently came from Nigeria to give lectures. Different lecturers will come from all over the world including myself. We have ten students on the programme at the moment. They will have two Masters as in Europe we also have Masters 1 and 2 it is a two-year programme.
S&D: How was it possible for the ten students to start their Masters programme at the University of The Gambia?
G: Chouin: This was possible through scholarships that came through PAFEG and also got a package from TOTAL to help students. It is really positive to receive such from a private company and the programme is there now. Dr. Pierre Gomez is the co-ordinator and he is now the Head of Department.
S&D: What makes you happy about the whole set up?
G. Chouin: I am happy that Dr. Mamadou Tangara is now made the Minister of Higher Education Research Science and Technology because he is an alumni of the University of Limouge and he has been very active in the formation of French in the University of The Gambia.
S&D: Have you brought about any understanding between the UTG and other universities in the French world?
G. Chouin: Yes, we have been behind such. We went to the University of Saint Louis, known as Gaston Berger (UGB). Together with the UTG authorities we signed the Memorandum of Understanding and it will be very important for the UTG to attain its standards. UGB is an excellent university and they have strict admission procedures with strong faculty. We want them to send their best lecturers to come and bridge up the gap and build up confidence. And to train some would be academics so when they come back they can do well in their field.
S&D: Would you be expecting any good from the UTG?
G. Chouin: There are several things in the pipeline. The Vice Chancellor is open to making French compulsory in the university. We are there to give support in full. It would interest you to know that Professor Nyiang called me and asked as to how to implement French in the Medical School. They would want to do specialist courses in Dakar as doctors as there is no facility here. We have three students currently under training to later study in Dakar; they are our vision or our test case.
S&D: Would this assistance be limited to only Medical students?
G. Chouin: No, no! We shall also apply this to other areas like Law, the Sciences, Tourism, Hospitality and more. We are trying to send some people to study French for special purposes. Soon we shall have people to teach students in the university. We have a lot of other things like the review of the curriculum. Chernor Barry is head of French in the University and he is a man with lots of ideas.
S&D: How do you see students' accessibility of their library?
G. Chouin: Library issue has not been satisfactory, not only the availability of materials, it is the management. You can have all the books of the world but if they are not classified then its of no use. Things are moving fast for the study of Library Studies. We have a growing number of materials in the digital form. There is a huge challenge for the Vice Chancellor to tackle. The UTG has a library at the Gambia College.
S&D: Is there anything you can do to remedy this?
G. Chouin: Apart from French students going to study Library Studies, 'Biblioeconomist' lady will come in summer to have a look and to make suggestions on the libraries. We have to be able to help. There is IBAD in Senegal that trains librarians we are ready to send people to study there. We shall suggest to our French students to go and study about Library. Why not send our students if they see reason to study such?
S&D: But it seems books to equip the library would pose problems
G. Chouin: In this world there are many ways to get books. There are lots of NGOs that give books on free basis but there are conditions: for example, books should not be sent into fire. We want to reserve books on the shelves for use. This is found at St. Louis University.
S&D: Let us talk about Secondary Schools a bit. What has happened so far at that level?
G. Chouin: Three or four important things have emerged. The Association of French Teachers has been established. They have committed teachers. This has not been there. They had their first congress with 250 teachers, which is a large number of French teachers. Through the PAFEG project we were able to do wonderful things.
S&D: Is the French Foreign Affairs helping?
G. Chouin: Yes! The French Foreign Affairs presented 60, 000 Euro last year to make use of it and gave us 30, 000 of very good books for distribution to different institutions. We shall cover these books with plastic before use. We have meanwhile given every French teacher a bilingual French Dictionary, with three other grammar and verb books. Many teachers are calling to show their appreciation for those books. The books belong to those teachers, they will move with them if they go on transfer.
S&D: Have you any programme for the French teachers?
G. Chouin: One of the programmes is to send some Gambia College French Teachers to Togo, at Vb ? Cirel (Village du Benin.) We had about 30 in last year?s intake. We are trying to build up a self-learning guide with information important for teachers. We have a competition based on project writing. The best project will be sent to Dakar. There is another competition to choose the best French teacher in the Upper Basic and Senior Schools. Their children should be the best in WASSCE and GAMBECE exams then they would be considered the best teachers. We are also trying to have continuous or inservice training for French teachers. There is also Semaine de la Francophonie for a week, and both SFA and French Teachers Association come together throughout the country to celebrate the Francophon Day. We are currently involved with the Curriculum Department in developing the French Curriculum, and it is ongoing. It will be for the future. One of the ideas is to have a pilot primary school especially Basic Cycle Schools to start the learning of French from Grade 5 as a start. It means training more teachers. We shall have six pilot schools in the country.
S&D: What will the pilot schools gain then?
G. Chouin: All 6 schools will receive some materials like television with solar panel. We are trying to advocate for Peace Corps to be sent to those schools so as to help with the set up and there would be training.
S&D: What about those who did French in Grade 12 and still love the language but have no chance to further learn it?
G. Chouin: We have initiated a small programme for particularly those that have good French. We have scholarships for them in any field of their choice that would take only two years. We have three people currently, two doing computer IT and one doing International Relations.
S&D: Have you got some more surprises in the pipeline?
G. Chouin: PAFEG is talking to Gambia Bureau of Statistics to send Gambians to Abidjan. There is also arrangement in Dakar. The Embassy of France in Dakar has proposed a scholarship for a Gambian to study journalism at the Ecole Superieure de Lille in France. Three young ladies are doing on line course so that one of them will be selected at the end. We are also hoping for a corporation with a French Newspaper so as to have an exchange programme.
S&D: What about SFA and the French Teachers Association?
G. Chouin: We are setting up a network on the computers for them at Region One Education Office in my office and are to set it up at Janjangbureh. Adama Talla, the National Cordinator of SFA went to Fatoto to see the Peer Health Educators organising best students in all subjects. He will help us to know where we can help.
S&D: Any last words sir?
G. Chouin: We insist on continuity of French teachers in schools. There are eighty schools, we hope it will continue. Last year there were sixteen students in first year at the Gambia College and this year we have thirty-two we aim next year at fifty. We are asking for unqualified French Teachers to take the opportunity to go to College and study.