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Francophony/Priority Solidarity Fund “100,000 teachers for Africa

Published on March 24, 2014
Speech by M. Laurent Fabius, Minister of Foreign Affairs (excerpts)

Paris, March 20, 2014

(…)

When we look at the figures, we are told there are 220 million French speakers today. We envisage the figure to be 400 million in 2025 and over 700 million in 2050, i.e. a fourfold increase in 50 years. While the world’s population will rise by only 50% during that period, the number of people speaking French will grow by 400%. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that, if Africa develops – and it definitely will – as expected, the number of its French speakers will develop at the same rate. There’s a race between demographic growth and educational growth. Our task and our choice is to ensure that educational growth wins this race. I believe this is the fundamental idea behind the 100,000 teachers [project]. We have to make active efforts to teach, spread and support the French language. This is the basic aim of the OIF [Organisation internationale de la Francophonie – international Francophone organization]. And it’s what we share here: it’s also a priority of my action as head of our diplomacy.

We have to ensure that French is one of the languages of cyberspace.
There’s a huge amount to be done to give French greater visibility on the web. In the virtual world – which often determines, by a sort of reverse logic, the real world – the importance of French falls short of its importance in the real world.

If we want to succeed in winning the race, we must create more digital content, especially in the areas of knowledge, information, school and university teaching, culture and entertainment, trade and medicine.

This must be a priority for all our Francophone cultural and educational institutions. Recently, the Minister of Higher Education and Research launched the first French online course platform, France Université Numérique [France Digital University], to which the Foreign Ministry is lending its support. The goal of this Massive Open Online Course is crucial for promoting the French language around the world in the future.

We must also make better use of digital technology to teach and spread the French language, which is the second most learned language after English. In many countries, the success of education for all, the second Millennium Development Goal, has at times been achieved at the expense of the mastery of French, given the lack of teachers or qualified teachers.

The digital tools we’re going to be presented with this morning must help address this challenge, this race – a challenge we’re working on together through many things: the projects developed by TV5Monde, France 24 and RFI in the framework of the close partnership uniting France, the French-speaking countries, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie and the Agence universitaire de la Francophonie (1).

The project being launched, “100,000 teachers for Africa”, reflects this desire to use all the opportunities digital technology offers to consolidate the teaching of French, and teaching in French, on the African continent. It must enable us to address the challenge of the huge rise in the number of students in schools and universities by making a sufficient number of teachers available and providing tailored linguistic and teacher training. It’s the result of many partnerships and of the active role played by all the Francophone players, and allow me to thank, above all, President Darcos and the Institut français team in charge of implementing the “100,000 teachers for Africa” project. It should create a dynamic in terms of training, including vocational training, and the development of digital technology. So all young African people should ultimately benefit from it.

(…) Why not think about another [such] operation for other continents, because the promotion of the French language obviously isn’t limited to Africa? (…)./.

(1) Global network of French-speaking higher education and research institutions.

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