For the love of Africa…

The tales of a Switzerland national who chose Nigeria by marriage

Mrs. Muriel Ijere-Crot

Mrs. Muriel Ijere was born on the 14th of December 1947. She was the first child of her parents followed by two boys. She developed a love for Africa at a very young age, drawing black people, palm trees and huts.

BACKGROUND

She went to Secondary School and Higher School, specializing in languages: her mother tongue is French, English, German and Italian. Her interest in Africa grew as she got older. At 18, she told her mother that she would not spend her life in Switzerland but in Africa.

She decided to continue studying French and English at the University level to be able to teach these languages one day. At the University she was always mixing up with African students until one day, on a train coming back from Freiburg-in-Brisgau (South Germany), she sat opposite an African, a #Nigerian and discussed with him all the way until Lausanne where they both changed of train.

A serious relationship developed between them. He was working in the ILO in the United Nations. When his contract ended, he left Geneva to teach at the Claremont Colleges, near Los Angeles. He could not return to his country Nigeria because of the civil war. He proposed marriage, kneeling down in front of Muriel and they quickly married in Cucamonga near Los Angeles.

Mrs. Ijere had to return to Switzerland for health reasons. Her first pregnancy was difficult. As she had to stay in her country for one year, she decided to attend a school to become a personal assistant in three languages. She also studied English at a higher level and obtain the Certificate of Proficiency, from the University of Cambridge (1966), which would give her access to an English University if she so wanted.

The whole family was able to travel to Nigeria in 1971. Mrs. Ijere wanted to finish her studies and registered for a course leading to a degree in French. She was qualified to do it in two years but asked to study for three years as she needed time to look after her family and also to get used to the life spent in Nigeria. She graduated in 1974 with excellent results.

She taught French in two Secondary Schools around the University, but the classes were crowded with forty pupils. Her husband advised her to teach on campus. So she applied to be an Assistant Lecturer and was successful. After one year of teaching in the Department of Foreign Languages and an interview, she was the only candidate chosen for her department.

She was granted a scholarship to study to obtain a doctorate degree at the University of Grenoble, France. After obtaining the master’s degree, she decided not to proceed to the doctorate and go back to Nigeria to look after her family. She really missed her husband and children. By that time, she already had four children and her husband was holding top jobs which prevented him to stay much at home. She decided to complete her family with two more children, one was born in 1978 and the last one in 1980, making a total of six children in ten years, two sons and four daughters.

The policy of the University of Nigeria to be promoted was the following: publish or perish! So Mrs. Ijere faced research which she enjoyed and published eight articles, mostly dealing with issues related to African society and based on African novels written in French. Her most famous article was titled: Lemariage traditionnel en Afrique: mille facettes fascinantes, published in 1986 in Peuples Noirs, Peuples Africains, an international journal in Paris. The translation of the title of this article would be: Traditional marriage in Africa: a thousand fascinating aspects. She talks about this theme in Switzerland to different groups who are very interested in that topic.

She was also an assistant editor for Okike, an international review of literature and African poetry. She was also active during conferences taking place on the University campus and delivering papers during conferences. Last but not least, she read and corrected the English in her husband’s numerous books, always finding some errors.

The situation on the campus became gradually intolerable. The students divided themselves in gangs, killing each other. They even walked in a group to the Vice-Chancellor’s Lodge and burnt it. The teaching staff was forced to go on strike and even going to the office to correct papers was not safe. As there was no teaching, there was no salary. One weekend Mrs. Ijere decided to travel to the village called Nsu, in Imo State, to fix a few places in the family house. As she was buying some building materials in the market, she and her daughter were attacked by armed robbers passing by. All the market people and her husband’s driver disappeared, leaving her alone to face the robbers. She was able to keep cool and gave them what they wanted without resistance to save their lives.

At that stage in her life, she realized that she could not live in Nsukka any longer as the place was not safe and she decided to go back to Switzerland with her last child who was fourteen years old and would encourage her a lot. Her husband refused to leave with her and decided to stay on campus to look after the remaining children. A completely different life started for her without financial security so she had to get work quickly. First, she was able to get some part-time teaching in different schools, then finally a full-time to teach French at a Hotel Management Institute in Montreux where she decided to retire at the age of 64. She also taught part-time at an American University in Leysin until the owner sold it to retire.

She wanted to continue being active during retirement and joined Wycliffe. It is a Christian organization which promotes the translation of the Bible in the entire world. She joined this organization and later was appointed to its Board when she finally decided to live permanently in Switzerland. She looked for possibilities of teaching in different international schools where missionaries would put their children to study so that they could have them close during their secondary education. When they graduated the parents would take them to the United States for further studies. Mrs. Ijere would propose a choice to Wycliffe and then wait for its approval to leave. Each mission would last three months. Her Church would give her some money and the rest was her responsibility.

Her first mission took place in the Rain Forest International School (2012), in Yaoundé, Cameroon. Then she went to Faith Academy (2014) in Manila in the Philippines. The last mission in that category was in a private school called Madagascar Christian Academy (2015), Antananarivo where she trained.

the present teachers. She volunteered to write up the full curriculum for the French classes provided it was done in Switzerland. She also taught in the Sahel Academy (2018) in Niamey, Republic of Niger. She was sent by SIM to teach French during six weeks to missionaries who wanted to improve their oral practice.

As she wanted to travel for shorter periods of time, she joined another organization called Gloeurope.org. Each mission took place in Europe and lasted one week. It consisted mostly of evangelization on the road, in parks and markets. One of the goals was to create an awareness of God in children through stories, games and songs. The missions took place in Sazava, Czech Republic in 2018 teaching English at different levels. Then she went to Eger, Hungary in 2019 and Chieti/Pescara in Italy in 2019 for evangelization.

She decided to travel to discover the world as she was getting older and not so energetic. She started with Europe and enjoyed trips lasting a few days: Turkey, Spain, Italy (Como & Milan), Germany (the Black Forest), again Italy (Firenze & Siena) and also Venice and Florence. The climax of the holiday was a cruise on the Mediterranean Sea with a stop in Marseille (France) and a second one in Barcelona (Spain).

Finally, she decided to visit some places she had longed to see:

– The island of Bali (2013) in Indonesia

– The Taj Mahal in India (2017)

– Egypt (2018) – a cruise on the Nile

– Thaïland / Yaoundé (2019) – traveling to the Golden Triangle in the North

– Israel (2020)

– Morocco (2023)

She is enjoying her retirement now as she worked hard between 1994 and 2012, some days leaving

home at 8 am and returning at 11 pm.

Conclusion

When she was young and reflecting on her future, she had dreams for her life:

– To live in Africa among the black people

– To have a good and understanding husband

– To have many children

– To study at a high level and teach languages.

In conclusion, we would stress the point that during her whole life, Mrs Ijere showed courage and determination to achieve these goals. Thanks to God and the support of her husband and children, she was able to fulfil her dreams and more.


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