Dr. Eric Graham, Former Board President of Alliance Francaise Accra
Can you start by explaining to us the origin of your link to France?
Everything started in Junior High School, when out of curiosity I chose to follow French classes instead of Latin. Therefore, I became aware of a totally different culture from the one in the Anglo-Saxon system. Later, while studying at the Alliance Française in Accra, I won a scholarship from the French Embassy in Ghana to go and study in Strasbourg in 1965.
What was your reaction once you arrived in France?
I would talk about a culture shock, as I arrived in winter it is primarily the freezing temperatures that surprised me. Then we were only two Ghanaian studying at the University of Strasbourg. However, I quickly got used to the French student life, I went around using a Solex and I started discovering the French cultural heritage.
Do you have any comments comparing the education systems?
Absolutely, first the higher number of students in classrooms and the lack of campus, but also the absence of mentoring and the fact that the French system attributes great importance to oral examinations. I noted that failures or repetition are relatively frequent in France, totally the opposite of the British system in which selection is done at the entrance. I also lived the period of May 68 during which Daniel Cohn-Bendit militated against the teaching conditions. Personally, I attach great importance to what the teaching of philosophy, as well as a cultural policy with musical and artistic education, can bring to citizens. This is what is missing in Ghana and we are trying to do through the French Alliances.
Let’s turn to your role in the French Alliance Accra, why this commitment in favor of French learning, especially in Ghana?
Observing that French is not sufficiently taught in Ghana, while the benefits this language provides are incontestable – as my professional experiences in France and then in Brazzaville and Kinshasa have shown me – I obviously identified myself with the missions of the Alliance Française in Accra. I first joined as a member of the committee for this institution that has been very popular since its opening in the 50s. For a long time the only place to fuel the Ghanaian cultural scene, during my term as chair we decided to continue this mission while developing the teaching offer of the Alliance, with both French and English classes.
How do you assess the evolution of the perception of French and France today?
Our work has helped to further spread French teaching in the country, even if the Ghanaian institutions still haven’t seized the opportunities provided by France and the International Francophonie Organisation to increase its teaching. I remain convinced that having more bilingualism would directly contribute to the development of the Ghanaian economy, as speaking French, especially in Africa, greatly improves the professional and personal opportunities. This language has for example changed my life! We must also pursue academic and scientific partnerships in which our two countries can bring a lot to each other. But overall the French culture, especially food, wine and fashion, is very popular in Ghana.