Brigitte Macron, France’s first lady, is to return to the classroom to teach French to adults who left school without qualifications.
Mrs Macron, 66, was a French and drama teacher before stepping down in 2015 when her husband, Emmanuel, 41, hit the political high life as minister then president. Indeed, she even directed his stage debut in a play when he was a 15-year old pupil at the school where she taught in Amiens, northern France.
The pair married in 2007 and she went on to act as his mentor, coach and advisor during his presidential campaign. Since then, she has played a high-profile role by his side internationally but remained relatively discreet at home.
But according to her Elysée aides, starting from September, she will go back to school to teach young adults aged between 25 to 30 French and literature “once or twice a month” at a college located in Clichy-sous-Bois – the deprived Parisian suburb from where nationwide riots erupted in 2015 leading to a state of emergency.
The first year will sign up 50 students.
The last teaching post the First Lady held was in a prestigious private lycee in Paris’ affluent 16th arrondissement.
A second “institute” for young adults without qualifications will open in Valence, southern France, next year. Both go by the acronym LIVE – The Institute of Vocations for Employment, in French.
They are being funded by LVMH, the world’s biggest luxury group owned by Bernard Arnaud, France’s richest man. The First Lady often sports its fashion accessories, such as Louis Vuitton bags.
Mrs Macron has taken charge of the “pedagogical committee” tasked with drawing up the school’s curriculum and whose members include Thierry Marx, a celebrity chef famous for running eight cookery schools for the unemployed, and rapper Ben-J.
The aim is to give a kick start to some of the 300,000 “invisible” French who fall through the education net in France.
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During the nine-month course, students will be taught basic skills in French, history, mathematics and English, as well as given more hands-on advice on writing a CV to boost their confidence in seeking a job, and even spotting “fake news”.
Sportsmen and women, artists and other notable figures will also come and give presentations, according to Le Point.
Mrs Macron will give “regular” lessons but the aim was not to become a full-time teacher, said her entourage. The “lessons” would not take the form of lectures but rather “exchanges over a book”.
“Her husband has been aware from the beginning. He hopes it will inspire others to do the same,” an aide told Le Parisien.
Mrs Macron had been due to announce her decision to branch out from being a full-time First Lady last week.
The idea was to do so in the wake of a key televised address her husband was due to give on Monday in response to the “yellow vest” revolt and ensuing three-month nationwide “great debate”.
However, she was forced to postpone the announcement after Mr Macron binned his speech minutes before it was due to go on air due to the devastating fire at Notre-Dame cathedral. He was due to officially unveil new measures at a major press conference at the Elysée on Thursday evening – his first since taking office.
The announcement comes after a discreet two years as First Lady in which Mrs Macron offered support to a number of causes in the fields of education, disability and autism without throwing her weight behind one in particular.
The shift comes after the departure of a string of presidential advisors whose relationship with Mrs Macron was widely reported as “glacial”. “They dream about her dying,” one friend told the authors of a recent unofficial biography.
While her husband has faced accusations of being an arrogant and out of touch “president of the rich”, Mrs Macron has also been submitted to verbal abuse by some “yellow vests”, who booed her at a charity football match in February in Reims.
Ava Djamashidi and Nathalie Shuck, authors off Madame La Présidente, said Mrs Macron, heiress to a chocolate empire whose family had staff at home, wanted to avoid at all costs being seen as “a modern Marie Antoinette” by meeting the people and reading 200 letters per day.