Samuel Ajakaiye language assistant: from Oxford University to Max Joséphine high school in Cayenne
Samuel Ajakaiye is about 2m. With his athletic build and basketball looks, we can easily imagine him making a three-pointer inside a racket. However, this 20-year-old has been an English language assistant for 7 months at Max Joséphine High School. A unique journey for this native Londoner, who studied history and French literature at Oxford University.
In flawless French, Samuel recounts his journey from the UK to Guyana. He is passionate about French literature, which he has studied since college. The pleasure of this training allowed him to stay several times in French cities (Strasbourg, Nice, Marseille, Paris…). Oxford University, where he was a fellow, offered him other prospects, including coming to Guyana:
“As a history and French student, I am an undergraduate and have to spend a year in a country outside of England. The most obvious option was France, but for me there was an option to go to the French West Indies or Guyana. I applied to be a language assistant and was sent to Guyana. In England there are 3% black people and here the percentage is even higher. It was a unique chance to be in another climate, to discover another culture and a lesser-known part of the world.”
Born in London, Samuel is Nigerian through his parents. His father is a security guard and his mother is an accountant.
“After emigrating, my mother worked at Burger King in London and studied accounting. My parents always wanted their children, I have two brothers, to strive in school, college, high school and then university. We used to live in central London, the schools in our area were not ideal. We moved to the suburbs to find better public schools. Throughout my childhood, my mother stressed the idea that education was not about doing things that really interested me, building a career, and not just making money. I have to say that education has been the key to many of my opportunities. I am grateful to my parents! »
Samuel’s first choice was to go to Oxford. He was happy to get a place thanks to a very good dossier and various interviews with his future teachers.
Today, in October, he finds himself at Max Joséphine High School, a completely different reality that fascinates him:
“There are also vocational schools in England, but I had to adapt to a slightly different education here. Lycée Max Joséphine is a perfect example of diversity, perhaps like all the high schools here. At the beginning of the year, I gave presentations to various classes and wanted to know a little more about the students’ backgrounds. Most of them speak several languages, Portuguese, French, American… This surprised me. There are people learning more languages than I am, which really impresses me, and so are the possibilities. They are better than many establishments in the UK. And when I came here, I had an idea that the quality of the institutions would be much lower. I had to adapt, I thought everyone could speak a little English, but there are students who can’t. I had to find other means to make them speak my mother tongue. »
Samuel is as young as his students, with whom they sometimes play basketball or football. Its large size also helps them apply themselves: “I’m here to help them speak English, I can talk to them and talk about things that are important to them, cultures, their daily lives, and for me it’s the best way to learn the language…give them the passion and motivation to want to speak English , I want to succeed in Guyana. »
There are different approaches with teachers, but Samuel particularly appreciates the work done through the use of news stories, exchanges on social networks or even comments on posters on sexism and misogyny from the 1960s. The goal is to enable students to express themselves. All the things he misses while learning French…everyday things.
These few months in Guyana feed Samuel’s thoughts about South America. First of all, the position of Guyana, the only French-speaking entity on the continent. For him, he sees this region more as part of the West Indies and at the same time touches on all the diversity of South America. He had a vision from England, nothing more exotic.
A visit to Suriname further opened his eyes to colonialism and its various effects:
“I’ve learned more in 3 months on this continent than I have in several years and it’s not over yet…”
Openness to different cultures enhanced by a team of about thirty language assistants from Europe, Colombia, Brazil and other countries.
Samuel lives in the center of Cayenne, where he doesn’t feel out of place because it reminds him of London’s Peckham, where he grew up. He found this mix of foreign population with different food, cosmopolitan market or different languages heard on the street.
In the near future, Samuel hopes to become a utility consultant in the field of energy and natural resources and then focus on development issues in Nigeria and other African countries using English and French. But he understands that these are only predictions, which can still change because he is only 20 years old, he adds with a laugh.
He ends his stay in Guyana in April. In February, he will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and at the end of March in Martinique, which will give him a better idea of the realities of the Amazon and the Caribbean.
- University of Oxford : An English university known worldwide for its teaching quality. The city of Oxford is located 90 km northwest of London
- language assistant : a device that allows foreign students to contribute to the development of language and cultural skills in the context of learning a foreign language at the host school.