The brochure presents the results of Antoine de Leocour’s fieldwork. It is a valuable contribution to the knowledge of Niger, and of the education of the country’s elite.
The enquiry consisted mainly in three interviews of old pupils of the Mission School of Dogondoutchi. Antoine had initiated a thematic interpretation which was completed in 2011 by Dominique Berlioz and Françoise Roy, members of AECIN.
What the Mission school was.
In 1941, Father Constant Quillard, a missionary from the Redemptorist Fraternity, arrived in Dogondoutchi : “ I experienced extraordinary joy and peace. I felt that somehow this would be the first mission outpost, that I would build there my first straw hut”. Founded in 1947 by the Redemptorists, the Dogondoutchi Missionary School is still now famous all over Niger for contributing to the education of the first generation of the country’s graduates and leaders. Contrary to state schools whose pupils were at the start either the village chiefs’ sons or children living close to the school, the mission school recruited its pupils in rural areas, without discrimination. None of them would have benefited from any schooling if they hadn’t attended the Mission. It was the Mission School that enabled them to get on. Most of them opted for a teaching career, but some became journalists, administrators, government officials, university lecturers.
Every one of them insists on how lucky they were to have attended that school quite by chance. The so-called Bearded Men (objects of the children’s curiosity and of their parents’ fear) recruited by force, helped by the colonial administration, the young bushmen whose parents did not understand the school’s goals. Many children ran away, others stayed, adjusting willy-nilly to their new environment. Quite soon, observing the success of the first generations of pupils, the parents who at first had been worried and had often protested, became aware of the benefits of schooling. Back in the village, on days off or holidays, the so-called white men’s children were made much of and often excused from the toughest tasks.
In the interviews, the ten old pupils fondly recall their days at the school. The boarders’ regulated schedule, their difficulties in adjusting to community life, the teachers’ stern discipline, the fights, the outings to the backwater, the coin given by parents and shared with friends, the whirliwig, football games, film shows, Sunday dinners, catechism, … What links the mission school old pupils is far more than mere comradeship, they form a brotherhood. Even now, any observant outsider can bear witness to the strong link that unites them.
Plunging into the exciting and instructive stories of their lives, one understands why up to this day Michel Hamma Issa, Jean Maïdabo, François Daoura Waho, Ousman Dan-Lélé, Joseph Seydou Allakaye, Luc Maïdagi, Marc Elo, Karimou Jean-Marie Ambouta, Maïno Bétou, Serge Guero Bida, have maintained such a strong brotherly feeling.
The topics of the brochure
The 30-page brochure covers the following topics :
- The first contact with the Whit Fathers, the enrolment
- First arrival at the school
- Back to the village, and relationships with friends and family.
- Studies, career, personal involvement
- Questions about religion and culture.
- The future of Niger.
To conclude, ten biographies sum up the interviewees’ lives.
Antoine de Léocour
Antoine made a solidarity stay through Tarbbiya Tatali in Niamey and Dogondoutchi during the summer of 2008, as part of his Master’s studies in ‘International Migrations , devising development cooperation projects’, at the University of Poitiers (France). On that occasion, he collected the ten testimonies from old pupils of the Mission School, which provided the contents of the brochure.
His love for Africa led him to return to work in Africa, not in our association, but for international NGO’s. He worked in humanitarian projects in CentreAfrique
Antoine was shot to death near the border between Niger and Mali on January 8th, 2011, He had been abducted by Al Qaida in Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), the evening before in Niamey, at the Maquis Toulousain. He was 25 years old. His friend Vincent Delory had joined him in Niamey for his wedding, and the circumstances of their deaths are still unclear. What is known is that the Nigerien Army tried to stop the abductors’ convoy, and lost three members , Aboubacar Amankaye, Abdallah Aboubacar, and Abdou Alfari, and that the French Army also took part.
In memory of Vincent and Antoine
A commemorative tablet for Vincent Delory and Antoine de Léocour was unveiled on Friday April 21st in the garden of the Hotel National des Invalides’ Senior Officer, in Paris. The State Secretary in charge of Aid to Victims, and their families and friends attended the ceremony. It reads:
In memory of Vincent Delory and Antoine de Léocour, victims of terrorism . They were 25 years old. Antoine and Vincent, childhood friends, were kidnapped on January 7th 2011 in Niamey in Niger. They were killed the next day, January 8th 2011, in Mali, during the operation launched to rescue them. Let us remember them.