|More than Just a Citadel of Learning|
“Bonjour Monsieur”, said a middle-aged man who stood at the gate, dressed in a security uniform as Mike approached the entrance of this huge building complex. The building complex has a brown serrated gate in which one can easily see through. Beside the gate is a large sign post and on it is written: NIGERIAN FRENCH LANGUAGE VILLAGE (NFLV)…
“Good morning sir”, Mike replied with a soft smile on his face. It became obvious he could not understand French at all. Knowing that, the security man simply asked:
“Whom do you want to see?”
“I wanna visit the tennis court”, Mike answered in relief, as the security man now speaks in a language he understands.
“Okay, you may go”, he said, allowing Mike entry into the very large compound…
Behold! This was the first time Mike is visiting the French Village. Curiosity and anxiety occupied his adventurous mind at the same time. This is because of the fact that French was neither his first nor second language. All these were dependent on the notion derived from his conversation with the security personnel, which shows that French might be their main language there. Mike had been hearing of NFLV for some time now, hence decided to visit it so as to quench his curiosity on why it is called a ‘French Village’. On entering the French village, he expected to see a typical village setting (thatched roofs, scattered houses, farms/cultivating tools and rural-looking environment etc.)as the name implied, rather he saw huge buildings fixed at strategic positions with Faculty labels, hostels(male and female), cars coming in and out, well-dressed people, high-school/elementary students, flags of both Nigeria and France and a large landscape with green grasses and beautiful flowers fill its gracious scenery. All these happened two years ago when Mike newly moved to Badagry (Lagos, Nigeria), and till date, the encounter with the security personnel on his first visit to NFLV is still in memory.
The NFLV was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria in December 1991 as an Inter-University Learning Centre for French studies. Its main essence is to instil French language to its learners by providing services to Nigerian Universities (Federal, State and Private) as well as Colleges of Education and Polytechnics (bilingual secretariat studies)1. Ever since his first visit to NFLV, he realised it is more than just a citadel of learning. In recent times, Mike had become more acquainted to a few of its lecturers, non-teaching staff, students and the environs etc. This institute is a perfect blend of academic uniqueness, cultural mix, favourable location and a rich recreational activity. The above mentioned features are reasons why NFLV is a unique institute amongst other great institutions in Nigeria. NFLV is also the only French language Institution of its kind in a non-francophone (non-French speaking) country2.
Ever since its inception, the NFLV has been an Inter-University centre where students from various Universities come together to learn the complete art of French speaking/writing for a period of one semester/session (along with other colleges of education within the country). They also charge moderate fees as its cost is dependent on the type of programme3. This learning period is part of their main university program as they become fluent French speakers and writers when the program is completed. The institute offers a wide range of programs like French for Specific Purposes(FSP)/Consult Programme which comprises of :Diploma(one year),Module(three months), Evening Programme, Weekend Programme, Summer Holiday Camp(For secondary Schools), Easter Holiday Camp(In the West Coast), Teachers Workshop and Other customized Programmes4. The NFLV also offers Language Immersion Programme (LIP) for Universities in : Literature, Culture & Civilization; Language & Communication; Translation & Interpretation; French for Specific Purposes; French Teachers’ Continuing Education and National Certificate of Education(NCE)5.The NFLV has subsidiary schools for elementary and high school students who take French as a core language alongside their other normal subjects. The major departments in the NFLV are: Principal Officers, Directorate, Academic, Bursary, Library, Registry, Health Services and Works/Services6. There is no place in the country where all age groups from different backgrounds come together for a common goal: French.
NFLV plays host to students from various Universities every year (>300 students). These students are products of different cultural background. The healthy mix of culture amongst the students creates an interesting learning atmosphere for the French learners. In a wider stage, the location of NFLV creates avenue for easy contact with citizens of the Francophone (French speaking) or Non-francophone (non-French speaking) countries of West Africa. NFLV is situated close to the boundary of Nigeria and the Republic of Benin, along with other West African nations who may also be studying in French village. This cultural diversity is one of the most enriching aspect of this institute, as it creates a stage to learn new things about other cultures/ethnic groups. Moreover, despite being a French village, the services rendered is regardless of sex, age, tribe, ethnic group or race. The citadel accepts, appreciates and respects every person irrespective of the fact that it’s a French-Speaking University.
The NFLV is located in the outskirt of Lagos (P.M.B 1011. Ajara Badagry,Nigeria), close to the nation’s borders7. This unique location is free from the main urban metropolitan activities (known to be both busy and noisy), thereby offering the citadel a calm environment for learning. More so, the NFLV is situated close to various historic sites and artefacts of Nigeria. Historic venues such as :The first storey building in Nigeria(built by missionaries in 1845), Badagry Heritage Museum(filled with slave trade artefacts and relics was built in 1863), Seriki Abass Williams Brazilian Baracoon(a 40-slave trade compound built by Brazilian salve merchants in 1840),THE-POINT-OF-NO-RETURN(the colonial slave trade point),Whispering Palms Resort(A leisure and relaxation spot with sporting facilities and much more), The Agia Tree Monument(The exact spot Christians were first preached in Nigeria by Thomas Birch Freeman and Henry Townsend in 1842) and Vlekete Slave Market(A slave market built by the Portuguese in 1502)8. The above mentioned tourist sites are a reflection of our past(Nigeria) and are great scenes for learners of diverse cultures. These historic sites are avenue for tourist attraction. Moreover, the popular Badagry Coconut Beach(located along the Badagry coastline to Benin Republic) is one of the most interesting sites to visit, as you will not forget the sweet taste of its coconut when you eventually visit. All these is as a results of its location which is at the coastal area of my beloved country Nigeria. What a perfect site!
The location of NFLV provides an opportunity for recreational activities. The tourist scenes are being visited by the students periodically, as a part of their extra-curricular activities. Students are taken in batches to visit these sites in excursions which will serve as a vital part of their educational experience and exposure. The school complex of NFLV has various sporting facilities which includes: lawn tennis court, volley ball court, basketball court, badminton, table tennis and a football pitch etc. Sports is taken very seriously in NFLV as it is actively incorporated into the student’s academic program. This is one the reasons Mike visited the NFLV in the first place, which can be seen in his conversation with the security man, being that he was visiting the tennis court to watch the game of tennis. Today, he still enjoys the game of lawn tennis with some students in NFLV which keeps him physically fit.
Whenever Badagry is mentioned anywhere in Lagos, it is usually referred to as ‘the end of Lagos’, where nothing happens (resolute and uninteresting). Little did they know that a special institution of learning exist there, which enjoys academic uniqueness, beautiful cultural mix, a favourable location and fun-filled recreational activities. Mike who first visited the NFLV as a non-French speaker, is now not only fluent in French but writes it perfectly. Mike is not the only person who sees NFLV as a unique university, I believe you now see it too…
Vou etes les bienvenus, which means you are highly welcome.
1-7 : NIGERIAN FRENCH UNIVERSITY VILLAGE—history, departments,courses and programmes. Website: www.nigerianfrenchvillage.edu.ng. Date accessed: 23rd June,2020.
8 : GUARDIAN NEWS(LIFE): TRAVEL AND PLACES–A Travel Guide to Badagry by Chiamaka Obuekwe. Date Published: 18th Sept,2017. Website: https://m.guardian.ng/life/travels and places/a-tourist-guide-to-Badagry/ . Date Accessed: 23rd June,2020.
By Udeme Akpan, Badagry, Lagos Nigeria