Flavia Lwanga Ntambi, the Airtel human resource director, says dropping French in Senior Two, was one of the most regrettable decisions she has ever made. It caught up with her even after joining a prestigious company and she had to pick it up again and finish what she had started.
When Lwanga started working at the telecom company, she realised she had many opportunities because of its reach in 14 countries of which 50 percent are Francophone.
However, she could not tap into those opportunities because the main component they needed was fluency in French. She reveals that she struggles with the spoken element even after returning to school.
“I wish I had dropped off at level B2 when I was still in school, it would have been easier for me to speak. This is because the brain was virgin and young to absorb the language. It is hard to grasp the spoken because I am always engulfed in day-to-day activities and I hardly get time to practice,” Lwanga says.
Lwanga who spoke at Nabisunsa Girls’ School French graduation from the level A1 to B1 on June 2, urged the graduates to invest in themselves so that the language does not fail them.
Having more than one language competence helps one stand out in different categories, not forgetting the potential to be a translator.
The ceremony saw 65 students graduate with the best of the lot winning tablets from Alliance Francaise de Kampala (AFK) and other gifts from Airtel.
Michael Kushemerewa, a teacher of French at the school, says this year has been a bit different from the previous one.
“Last year, we only gave out certificates but this year, there have been more gifts that were topped by tablets from Alliance Francaise,” he says.
The students who scored 90 points and above in the Delf junior won seven tablets. This, according to Kushemererwa is to keep the students motivated to aim for the highest and even top their personal best.
Gloria Kukunda Senior Five, level A2, began her classes in Senior and joined the Delf programme because “I was told there is a range of opportunities when you know an extra language. I have always had a passion for languages and French is one of them.”
“I studied French in the UNEB curriculum and I went for DELF as well because there is a certificate after each level. The certificate can be used anywhere.” Hellen Devine Giramia, a student of French A2 joined Delf in Senior One when she was doing the UNEB French.
“I used to lose track and I only knew greetings and introducing myself. When Teacher Michael explained Delf to us, it as an opportunity to learn the language fast since I have wanted to learn French since childhood,”says Giramia a Senior Three student.
There was also a girl who was so good at French in her school and she admired her.
“Last year we had a speaking competition and I emerged the best. I want to win Njogera Francais, a school competition at AFK. Last year, the pass mark was 95, so I did not qualify.
French to suit job aspirations
Michelle Edith Amuge, S3,at Level A2 chose Delf because when she travelled to Switzerland in her Primary Seven vaction, her cousins spoke French so well and she got lost in translation.
“It is my wish that when I go back to Switzerland, I can easily converse with my cousins. Also, I also want to work for the UN,” Amuge says adding: “I do not want to be like that Ugandan who missed an opportunity at a better job in the UN because he did not know French.”
Learning French was a bit stressful and I even considered dropping out. However, my mother had already paid for level B1. SO, I stayed and I will finish this level and God willing even take on B2 as well.
Stacy Kabajwiga Julian, Senior Three and Level A2 student, believes that to be unique, she needs to learn another language.
“I want to do medicine; many doctors can only do that in Uganda and maybe English-speaking countries. If I learn French, I will be able to work in France so I have to build that strategy by learning Delf.”
The course however, she says is expensive. “I miss lessons in class and on Zoom because of late payment. The fees problem is still evident, but my parents are trying to solve it”.
Nissi Alinyo, Senior Six, at level A2, started DELF in Senior Four but did not have fees.
“My father has moved to different countries and he believes learning French will take me to great lengths. When they got the money, they supported and urged me to take the course and I started attending Zoom classes. Our teacher is supportive,” says Alinyo.
A student of Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics, Alinyo says the balancein act is tough, but Delf is one of her relaxing moments.
“Delf is fun to study and helps me unwind from a Biology class or a Mathematics problem I did not understand before. At the moment, I can introduce myself in French, I can read and write an essay. Speaking is still hard, but I believe it gets better with the levels,” she remarks.
She is aspiring to be a paediatrician who can work internationally. On top of French, she is also interested in learning Spanish.
Malik Sserwadda, a graphics designer and animator at Makerere University, says dropping French in Senior Two, he wanted to retrace his steps after realising that there is more work not only in Uganda but beyond borders. Sserwadda through his mother, the head teacher Zulaika Nakabuye joined the Delf class of girls. He believes with an added language in his bag, he will tap into international opportunities.
Doing most of the classes online, he was able to juggle his work, school and learning the language.
I excelled because the class almost seemed like an individual class. Teacher Michael was always checking on my progress and sending me reading materials. Some things were hard to grasp but the teacher would simplify them for me,” Sserwadda says.
Scoring 81.5 points in Delf A1 and now learning A2, Sserwadda has big aspirations better. As a fan of Paris Saint Germain, his dream is to see Kylian Mbappe, explore French culture and language barrier will no longer be a hindrance in work opportunities.
Motivation via gifts
Gifting proved to be one of the perks of learning the language after talking to the different graduates of the day.
They revealed that a lot of events and competitions have been happening in the school that saw them winning goodies such as shoes and T-shirts. They also revealed that learning Delf is easy and entertaining.
Léa Tracol, the attachée for culture and education on behalf of the ambassador of France to Uganda, says because they are future leaders, the graduates need to be proud of what they have achieved.
“Be confident and pursue your efforts of gaining new skills and the sky will be your limit,” says Tracol.
Karim Cwinya’ay, a teacher at AFK says “You need to keep practicing to keep your level of proficiency and better. Otherwise, if you relax, you may forget it.”