In a great English-speaking country surrounded by French-speaking nations and constituting with them a region on its way to integration, the need to learn French can be compared to the necessity of learning English in France. Nigeria’s educational system, however, although one of Africa’s best in the 60s, has been facing major economic problems for the past two decades and is now trying hard to fulfil its mission. Support for French language learning constitutes therefore the main priority of the French cooperation.
That support involves close cooperation with the Federal Ministry of Education and has taken concrete form through the establishment of a network of more than 179 secondary schools and 24 institutions of higher learning on a pilot basis. Three establishments (the Jos, Enugu and Ibadan centres) and the Ikeja "French Language Centre" in Lagos specialize in training teachers of French. Moreover, in January 2007 the French Ambassador in Nigeria inaugurated the new facilities of the Peter king school of music at Badagry, Lagos State.
Support for French language learning further consists of courses offered in 10 establishments (nine Alliances francaises institutes and one French Cultural Centre in Abuja) and a teacher training program run in partnership with external organisations (Agence Internationale de la Francophonie, Organisation intergouvernementale de la Francophonie and various vocational training bodies). This training is aimed not only at increasing the number of French teachers but also at modernazing their teaching methods and making them more appealing to students.
French cultural establishments, especially the Abuja Cultural Centre and Alliance Francaise, strive to be windows to the French culture and to foster the mutual enrichment of French and Nigerian artists. For instance, Nigerian and French dancers have for a decade been given the opportunity to come in contact - indeed since 2001 at the annual "Dance meets Dance" event in Lagos. Through shows and festivals for thousands of spectators, French cultural bodies operating in Nigeria enrich the theatre, fine arts and music of both countries during the year. A number of talented young artists are awarded scholarships for training in France.
Provided that they are open to other cultures, cinema, television and the radio are powerful means of inter-cultural communication. Since French-speaking cinema, whose quality is generally acknowledged, and Nigerian video production, one of the world’s most productive, have so far had little opportunity to interact, one of the aims of French cooperation is to bridge the gap. Another aim of the agency is to promote broadcasts in French by the Nigerian media. As examples of French-Nigerian cooperation in the audiovisual area, mention should be made of the recent establishment -in the premises of Voice of Nigeria in Lagos- a team of Radio France Internationale (RFI) journalists producing and broadcasting in Hausa; and of the deeply significant success achieved by the Nigerian film "Ezra" (whose director, Newton Adouaka, was awarded the Yennenga Stallion) at the latest FESPACO film festival in Ouagadougou, an event substantially supported by the French Cooperation.
One of th essential aspect of cultural osmosis between two countries is the exchange of university students and young research scientists or scholars in significant numbers. The Institut de Recherches en Afrique (IFRA) in Ibadan offers this possibility to young French and Nigerian researchers preparing a doctorate in the social sciences, while being itself a vigorous centre of Nigerian research. Since September 2006, an IFRA contact point has been available at the University of Zaria.
Interest in language and culture does not detract from France’s solidarity with Nigeria with a view to its further economic development. France, biggest contributor to the European Development Fund (EDF), supported Nigeria’s bid for 552 million euros under the 9th EDF; and French experts are available to European programs implemented in Nigeria in the areas of water management and combating animal diseases, including, notably, bird flu.
Bilateral technical assistance focuses on agriculture and water resources management at village level. In the four Northern States of the Federation, a capacity building project addressing the needs of the villagers’ organizations has been on track since 2003. Moreover, support is provided to Nigerian civil society initiatives through many community development micro-projects carried out thanks to the Social Development Fund of the French Embassy.
Postgraduate study scholarships are offered every year. Despite differences in language and educational tradition, technical partnerships between Nigerian and French Universities are taking shape.
That applies in particular to education in information and communication technologies, with the launching of the Systeme d’information scientifique et technique (SIST) project, aimed at making scientific and technical information more readily accessible.
Programs of various types (concerning such areas of cultural heritage as archaeology and museology, professional training, and safety issues) are in early stages of development.
Although they have been trade partners for a long time,
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