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Lessons from the first lady? Brigitte Macron to return to classroom

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by Laurence BENHAMOU and Adam PLOWRIGHT

French first lady Brigitte Macron, a career-long teacher who has kept a low public profile, is set to return to the classroom in a new adult training college for school drop-outs.

Macron, a French and drama teacher until 2015, has accepted a supervisory and teaching role for a new school in a suburb of Paris and another in a rural area of southeast France.

On Monday, she visited the Paris facility of the “Institut des Vocations”, which is also backed by rap star Ben J and celebrity chef Thierry Marx and is being financed by French luxury giant LVMH.

The school in the Clichy-sous-Bois suburb in northeast Paris will open its doors in September along with another college near Valence in southeast France, offering courses to around 50 school dropouts aged 25-30 every year.

“It won’t be like the lessons that I gave to pupils before, but more in the Anglo-Saxon style, interactive,” the 66-year-old, who used to teach at prestigious private schools in her home town of Amiens as well as in Paris, told reporters.

She said the school aimed to give its students, who will be paid 1,000 euros (1,100 dollars) a month, “the foundations to be able to enter the workplace.

“We know they need to know the four operations in maths, to know how to write French, to express themselves, to construct arguments in a written text. I want to give them a taste for literature,” she added.

She did not specify how often she would teach in person, but she will chair the teaching panel of the new institute which she hopes will roll out other colleges around the country.

– Object of fascination –
Brigitte met Emmanuel Macron, 41, while he was a student in her school in Amiens and began a relationship with him while he was still a teenager, causing a minor scandal locally and anger in their families.

Since entering the presidential palace in May 2017, she has been an object of fascination in the French media but keeps a low public profile, accompanying her husband only for major state events.

A recent book about her by a French writer entitled “He was just 17” — the second tome devoted to the first lady in less than a year — said she had struggled with the constraints of her new public role.

But she remains an influential informal political advisor in private to Macron and has said she likes sneaking out of the presidential palace incognito to meet ordinary French people.

Former interior minister Gerard Collomb, who fell out with Macron last year, recently credited her with having a better instincts than her husband, who is derided by opponents for being out of touch.

“She used to go out. She saw more what was the reality of France,” Collomb said in an interview on Europe 1 radio last week.

The mother-of-three became entangled in an early public row shortly after Macron took office over plans to create a formal position of first lady, which would have given her an office and a budget — an idea that was eventually abandoned.

She has since said that she intends to devote her time to her twin causes of education and helping the handicapped.

Other private companies are interested in following the example of LVMH and sponsoring other training colleges, which are designed to tackle France’s chronic high unemployment rate, she said.

“We are going to duplicate it,” she said, adding that oil group Total had expressed an interest.

Rapper Ben J — real name Fabien Loubayi — said the new schools aimed to provide opportunities “to the invisible, people I see during my concerts. It’s important to offer them a hand up, to give them confidence in themselves.”

Agence France-Presse

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