A group of university students and new graduates from Kenya have landed a chance to teach English in primary and secondary schools in France for one year, in an exchange programme supported by the two governments.
The 122 students were selected from 15 universities and will be deployed in schools in different regions of France as English language assistants. Ninety-two of the students are female. Some of them will be posted to French overseas territories such as Guyana, Guadeloupe and Martinique. They will all work under a senior teacher at their respective schools.
“You are on the threshold of a great adventure! Human, professional, educational and international,” Ms Aline Kuster-Ménager the French ambassador to Kenya, said during an induction seminar for the students at the French School (Lycée Denis Diderot) on Monday.
“You will see that young French people are afraid of making mistakes when they speak English, so your mission will be to make them want to speak,” she added.
The students will be at the school the whole of this week to familiarise themselves with the French school system before the first group flies out of the country on September 24, 2021. They are all expected at their stations by the beginning of October.
“It’s a nice feeling since this will be my first time to travel outside the country. I’ve studied the French language from secondary school at Buru Girls’, then at Alliance Française and now I’m at C1 proficiency level,” said Ms Hawo Hassan. C1, also known as superior, is the second highest level of proficiency at the school. She is a tourism and travel management student at the Technical University of Kenya. She will be teaching in a high school in Strasbourg.
According to Ms Julie Briand, the attaché for education and French at the embassy, half of the students have studied education, while the rest are from other disciplines.
“We selected them based on their motivation and will to share their culture with others. The purpose of the programme is to develop mobility of young people and create bridges between French and Kenyan cultures,” she told the Nation.
Ms Briand revealed that the 122 students were selected out of 200 applicants. 150 had been shortlisted before the number was whittled down. The criteria for selection included a good level of the French and English languages, which the candidates were tested in.
This is the third and largest cohort since the programme was started in Kenya; 59 students were selected for the 2019/2020 year. These were followed by 70 the following year.
Ninety-two of the students will go to secondary schools while 30 will be in primary schools. They will work for 12 hours a week and the French embassy will give them each a monthly stipend of 800 euros and health insurance. It will also issue them, free of charge, a long-stay visa to facilitate their issuance of a residence permit as temporary workers.
Kenya was included in the France Education International programme as part of the bilateral agreements between France and Kenya following the visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to the country in 2019. South Africa and Ghana are the other countries from Africa that take part in the programme that involves 64 countries, taking about 4,500 students to France every year to assist language teachers.
“Many of them ask for a renewal, which we do, but only select the best,” Ms Briand said.
While at the French School, they will be under Ms Claire Karadi, the director of the primary section.
“It’s exciting and scary at the same time. It’ll be my first time outside Kenya but I appreciate the opportunity to show that I’m motivated,” said Mr Victor Maina, a communications and French major student from the University of Nairobi. He started learning French while in Form One at Makueni Boys’ High School.
Two language assistants from France will be deployed for nine months to teach French at UoN and TUK as part of the programme.