Pap Ndiaye and French Education

The appointment of Pap Ndiaye as Minister of National Education and Youth should not be taken lightly. Not only for “the ideological war” that this ministry usually incubates, but also for the symbol that will represent this man from now on, whom I then first met in Bamako, at home, for his birthday and during his participation in the film ” Blacks in France”, which I wrote together with Aurélia Perreau and which France 2 broadcast on January 18.

The ministry he holds does not resemble those tailor-made portfolios of ministers or secretaries of state as if they were intended to ensure a good conscience for the French political class and to calm the grumblings of minorities: la Francophonie , Sport, Integration, etc. . Founded in 1828 under the name “Ministry of Public Instruction” and renamed the Ministry of Education in 1932, His was to revitalize the education system and coordinate public education. History teaches us that this is the domain of the most ideological issues, each of which has its own definition of what French education should be and what it should nurture.

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We recall, for example, that in 1994 two emblematic works by Martiniquais Aimé Césaire, “Cahier d’un retour au pays natale” and “Discours sur le colonialisme”, were on the program of the Terminales littéraires. They were to stay there for two years, but on July 27, 1995, an entry in the Official Education Bulletin had them expelled and replaced with Louis Aragon’s “Les Yeux d’Elsa.” François Bayrou, who was Minister of Education, will judge, according to the comments of “le Canard Enchaîné” of September 13, 1995, that the Aragon collection “more representative of French literature” that the texts of Aimé Césaire…

A new minister with his own story

He knows, we know: Pap Ndiaye will be met by those who champion a Judeo-Christian education on the one hand, and those who demand a rereading and rewriting of the history of France on the other. Skin color will once again be on the menu of discussions, as it is in our time that the presence of blacks or mixed race in the French political arena has declined. The list of these great black French political figures would be long, but let’s name a few, such as Gaston Gerville-Réache (1881-1906), one of the important figures of the Third Republic and Vice-President of the Chamber; Hégésippe Légitimus (1868-1944), who sat in the Assembly with Jean Jaurès and Léon Blum – nicknamed “the Black Jaurès”, he was only 30 when he entered parliament; Gratien Candace, Vice-President of the Chamber of Deputies between 1938 and 1940; Blaise Diagne (1914-1934), the first African to be elected to the Chamber of Deputies, was appointed Secretary of State for the Colonies between 1931 and 1932; Gaston Monnerville (1897-1991), who presided over the Senate for more than nine years…

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These characters, and many others, are sure to revolve around Pap Ndiaye, whose father was Senegalese and whose mother was French. Some will be his inspiration because they are part of his past, even his present. But the new minister has his own story. He has his own path, far from that of the black continent he walked alone in the early 2000s. If he has the freedom and right not to be held hostage in a camp, he will also be reminded that neutrality has never raised individuals to the rank of heroes.

In short, he has an arduous task, until then only a talented academic, with among his family a famous sister, Marie NDiaye, winner of the Femina and Goncourt prizes, who had chosen to leave France to to live in Germany because she disapproved of Nicolas Sarkozy’s election as President of the French Republic…

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