Education – Key to fostering long term relations between Nigeria and France
Emmanuel Macron, President of France
Education is generally viewed as the bedrock of development and national growth of any nation. Mr. Kofi Anaan, a Ghanaian diplomat and former UN secretary general once said: “Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society, in every family”. On the global scene, Nigeria is a country reputable for her quest for knowledge and information particularly regarding seeking education; whether within her borders, across the African shores or overseas. According to the World Education News and Reviews website, about one quarter of African students in the U.S hail from Nigeria. Below is an excerpt:
Nigeria – UIS reports that Nigeria has some 1.4 million students enrolled at home, and that it has sent 71,351 degree-seeking students abroad. According to analysis from Campus France, a government agency tasked with promoting the country as an international education destination, Nigeria’s outbound student numbers grew by a staggering 45 percent from 2010 to 2013. These students’ top destinations are the U.K., Ghana, and the U.S., in no small part because Nigeria is home to a large English speaking population. Roughly one quarter of all U.S. enrolled African students are from Nigeria.
Campus France, the French body in charge of promoting the country as an education destination also asserts that Nigeria champions African student mobility with a record of one out of six African international student in the year 2013. France, on its part plays a significant role as an attractive and preferred destination for African students.
The leading study destinations of internationally mobile students from Africa, 2013.
From the above illustration, France overwhelmingly tops the list of foreign destinations for African students, with the US and the UK following. However, according to The Pie News, France does not rate so highly in terms of population of Nigerian students. The U.S and the U.K have a greater number of Nigerian students. The reason is not far-fetched. Although tuition fees in public universities in France are generally lower, language barrier is a major restraining factor for Nigerians who consider France as a study destination. With globalization trends and English language being indisputably the world’s First language, French higher education has seen significant evolution as it now offers over a thousand degrees taught in English ranging from Bachelor’s degree programs to PhD Programs. Also, in recent times, the French education system has been modified to LMD – Licence-Master-Doctorat which is the equivalent of the Bachelor-Master-Doctorate tertiary format, to suit global standards. These render the country more attractive for English speaking foreign students and in this context, Nigerian students. The French government through its Embassy in Nigeria, encourages Nigerian students to take advantage of the opportunity offered through English language programs and see France as an ideal study destination. Education fairs are organized annually by the Embassy where prospective students meet representatives of French universities to discuss their plans. The French government also creates partnerships with Nigerian institutions with the aim of fostering growth in the education sector.
One of such partnerships is the French-FUNAI/Nigeria partnership. This partnership between the French embassy in Nigeria and Federal University Ndufu-Alike, Ikwo (FUNAI), Ebonyi state into existence through the signing of a tripartite agreement in January 2016 between FUNAI, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund) and the French Government. The French government would be awarding thirty-five scholarships to FUNAI students. Speaking on this the French Ambassador, Mr. Denys Gauer said: “Through an agreement signed in January 2016, FUNAI, TETFUND and the French government have delivered or are about to deliver 35 scholarships, enabling as many trainees to pursue master or PhD studies in the best French universities in Paris, Marseille, Toulouse, Strasbourg, Dijon or Grenoble. The first group of students and junior lecturers has already left, and two others will soon follow. In a few years, they will come back to contribute to the development and success of this university, and beyond. You may not know that 250,000 foreign students choose France every year, of which 100,000 hail from Africa. We are the fourth host country in the world, and the first for Africa students. Yet, only a handful comes from Nigeria. It is all the more gratifying to see that FUNAI has decided to send its promising staff-in-training to France. And it makes a lot of sense, because in France, you can study engineering, mathematics, humanities or social sciences at the highest level and at the same time learn the language of your francophone neighbours”
Apart from efforts between both governments to improve education ties, Nigerians in France are taking significant steps to support their compatriots who are working towards coming to France to study or have already been enrolled in a French university. One of such platforms is aibuddy, an internet forum dedicated to finding answers to pertinent questions concerning studying and living in France. Friends of Nigeria (FON), hosts a forum for Nigerian students in France tagged Nigerian Students in Europe Conference (NISEC), a programme that provides guidance and support to Nigerian students in France. FON also hosts Spotlight Nigeria, an annual conference geared towards promoting Nigeria in France and creating business partnerships and collaborations between business professionals within different sectors of both countries, the education sector included. This year’s event would take place in Paris on the 4th and 5th of October and is a great forum for reinforcing bilateral relations. With the current trends, more would be achieved in respect of France Nigeria ties in education as all stakeholders in this sector take necessary measures in creating awareness and promoting international mobility amongst students.
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