Windsor

Windsor immigrant devoted to teach children French in home country

When children in Togo enter Grade 1 they speak 1 of 40 different languages, and French isn't one of them. A Windsor teacher is devoted to changing that.

When children in Togo enter Grade 1 they speak 1 of 40 different languages, and French isn't one of them

Serge Akpagnonite is vice principal at Lamothe-Cadillac in Windsor. (Amy Dodge/CBC)

When children in Togo enter Grade 1 they speak 1 of 40 different languages, and French isn't one of them.

A Windsor man is visiting his home country of Togo in July to implement a French curriculum for school children.

"French is the only language Togonese can speak and understand at the same time," said Serge Akpagnonite who has created the curriculum from his own experience in education.

Twelve years ago Akpagnonite moved to Canada, he studied education and is now the vice principal of Lamothe-Cadillac, a French-speaking school in Windsor.

Serge Akpagnonite with students in Togo. (Submitted: Heather Barclay)

About one year ago, he went online to get a visa for Togo and noticed a link for Support Education Togo (SET) on the embassy's website.

That organization has built 13 schools and renovated two since 2011 in southern Togo.

"To see that I can contribute in success for other people for me that's the best reward I can expect in life," said Akpagnonite.

Akpagnonite reached out to Donald Barclay, the creator of SET, who said he was looking for someone to help educate the children in the schools.

"We've seen kids going to school who have never gone to school before," said Barclay. "We've seen more young women attending, attendance is up, but we said to ourselves, is learning really going on?"

No government support for the program

Those running SET are doing so with no government funding, but rather the help of other Canadians.

"It has been a tough sell," said Barclay who has still managed to pull in $120,000 a year to pay for the construction of two schools.

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      Barclay said Togo is a country people aren't familiar with and don't share a vested interest similar to himself and Akpagnonite.

      Now the attention is turning away from the physical construction of schools to the practical application of programs, said Barclay.

      "We have 30 interim teachers on our payroll."

      Akpagnonite is partnering with those teachers when he returns to Togo in July. He will be sharing his curriculum with the teachers there to implement in the classrooms.

      "The way they react to what we are bringing in, I can foresee success coming, because they are eager to implement the program we are bringing to them."

       

      About the Author

      Amy Dodge is a video journalist at CBC Windsor.

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