The federal government has directed that students at all levels of the country's education system, from primary to tertiary, must henceforth offer courses in French language. This was disclosed recently by the Minister of State for Education, Prof Anthony Anwukah, when the French Ambassador to Nigeria Denys Gaver paid him a courtesy visit in Abuja.
Minister Anwukah said, "French language is a matter of necessity. We have Cameroon, Niger, Chad, Benin Republic, Togo, Guinea and Ivory Coast surrounding us and so there is need for us to get more Nigerians to become proficient in French language". While harping on the need to have more French teachers, the minister said government will soon embark on intensive training of more French teachers. The minister also flagged off the French Clinic Project at Federal Government Boys College, Apo, Abuja. Anwukah said the federal ministry of education is targeting the establishment of French clinics in all the 104 federal government colleges in the country. The clinic is expected to improve the four basic learning skills of students namely listening, speaking, reading and writing.
Federal government's declaration on the compulsory study of French language in schools and tertiary institutions is a laudable development. It is good for the country particularly for citizens at border towns and villages. Their knowledge of French language will enhance meaningful socio-economic interaction between Nigerians and their French speaking neighbours. The study of French language will also make Nigerian students more competitive at the global level.
But beyond this public proclamation is the need for government to back the statement with necessary policies clearly spelt out in the country's National Policy on Education especially as it concerns senior secondary and tertiary institutions. The policy already exists for lower level schools. At the tertiary level, it could be added to the existing group of General Studies courses which students are required to pass as requisite conditions for graduating from any tertiary institution in Nigeria. This strategic policy in its new form will equally sustain the interest of students in their study of French language over a long period of time.
In a world that is becoming increasingly smaller, it is important that Nigerians should understand and respect the diverse cultures of foreign nationals. The study of French language will enable Nigerian learners to appreciate the culture of all French speaking people. It will also increase their chances of getting employed in French organizations within and outside the country.
It would be recalled that the administration of former Head of State General Sani Abacha made the learning of French language compulsory in both primary and junior secondary schools in Nigeria. This in effect covers the 9 years of free and compulsory learning at the basic level of education. The current 9-year basic education curriculum provides for the compulsory study of French language at the middle and upper levels of basic education which begins from primary four and ends at the third and final year of junior secondary school.
Besides the need to have relevant and up-to-date instructional materials for the teaching of French language in schools, the success of this worthy course of action essentially depends on the availability of trained and qualified French teachers. French government will do well by supporting this policy in terms of human and material resources. We therefore endorse the appeal made by the Minister of State for Education when he requested the French Ambassador to consider it a lot more expedient in helping Nigerian government to train French teachers for primary, secondary and tertiary levels of the system.
The French Clinic Project should be executed by government as planned, averting any factor, immediate and remote, that could lead to its abandoning. School authorities and teachers are encouraged to properly guide and monitor students to take full advantage of the services of a French clinic by sufficiently exploring and utilizing its benefits.