The Department of French can be said to have started with the inception of the former Rivers State College of Education as in advanced Teacher Training College after the Nigerian civil war in 1970. This was after the Ministry of Education had recommended its take-off leading to its temporary quarters being opened at the Catholic mission of Stella Maris College on June 14, 1971 with an initial intake of 116 students. In January 1972, the College moved to another temporary site at Oromineke in D/Line, Port Harcourt.
French was already being taught as a course but only at the very elementary level with such subject as French grammar and essay writing at the basic level. The first known Acting Head of Department of French as a unit was Dr. Thaddeus J. Elijah whose stay was regrettable short owing to an accident that led to his demise while in active service. His successor, Mrs. Grace N. Offor resumed office in 1977, and with the help of Dr. Pal Obanya (now Emeritus Professor) who served as external examiner to the College. Other courses such as French Literature and French methodology were introduced. Dr. Obanya assisted by providing the scheme of work for the listed courses from the University of Ibadan and these were adapted for teaching in the Department of French. Other courses were subsequently added until the Department assumed a full-fledged status, culminating in its being chosen as one of the pilot Department of French in Nigerian Universities by the Federal Ministry of Education and the French Embassy Nigeria sometimes in 1998. It is worthy of note that up until the 1981/1982 academic year when the College started admitting students for the B.Ed. Degree programme, students graduated with a Nigeria Certificate in Education (NCE) after three years of study. The college then ran a remedial studies programme which proved to be a sure recruitment point for the Department of French, as most of its students were admitted from the programme. Indeed, the establishment of the remedial studies unit was a successful recruitment strategy for the College especially as its objective included:
Incidentally, one of the members of the Department and former Acting Dean of the School of Languages. Mrs. G.N. Offor, once served as Director of Remedial Studies from September 1987 to September 1990.
With the advent of the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) examination, the Remedial Programme was suspended and replaced with a Pre-Degree programme, which was in turn converted to Basic Studies programme. This greatly affected student's intake into the Department of French as students were required to possess a credit pass in French at the WAEC or NECO level before admission.
A remarkable event took place in 2009 when the Rivers State Government in furtherance to its desire to provide opportunities for high quality education for citizens of the State, decided to convert the Rivers State University of Education. The act was established by the University of Education Law No.8 of 2009 of the Rivers State Government which was passed by the Rivers State House of Assembly on October 15th 2009 and assented to by his Excellency, the Governor of Rivers State on October 20th 2009. The name of the university has officially been changed to Ignatius Ajuru University of Education, Rumuolumeni Port Harcourt.
The philosophy of the 4-year and 3-year programmes in French is to produce graduate teachers who possess a mastery of the French Language and at least one other foreign language; and who will display sound academic and professional training in education. This is With a View to producing well-trained teachers who will in turn teach French as a foreign language to non-French speaking students and adults in Rivers State in particular and in Nigeria in general. The training is also aimed at equipping students to function at international and diplomatic levels through exposure to international and multilingual course.
To produce top quality professionals who possess a mastery of French and other foreign languages, as well as the pedagogical skills to teach them at various levels, while aiming at excellence in the application of skills acquired.
Through excellence and mutual intelligibility, to contribute to global space and harmonious co-existence within the international sphere, and facilitate regional integration by using effectively the skills acquired through the study of French.