33. Church Mission Society,?? The Fruits of Education (1896)
From: Church Missionary Society ?? (publ.) The C.M.S. and Education Abroad (London: CMS, 1922), 10-19. – The Church Missionary Society was founded in London in 1799 and became active in Sierra Leone in 1804 (where it founded the famous Fourah Bay College in 1827), in Ethiopia in 1830, in South Africa in 1837, in East Africa in 1844 and in Nigeria in 1857. It was considered the ‘missionary wing’ of the Church of England and played a major role in Britain’s African colonies, particularly with regard to the educational sector. While the interests of colonial administrations and missionary bodies were by no means always identical, the following ‘balance sheet’ of the achievements of the C.M.S. in Africa is saturated with colonial discourse figures such as ‘child-like natives’ in need of ‘adult guidance’ and echoes the views of ‘official’ British colonialism, as expressed, for example, in Lord Lugard’s The Dual Mandate in Tropical Africa (see text 1 above).
At this point it is well to pause and inquire what is the net result of the work carried on in the types of schools we have examined. What is education doing for the African? Are we turning out improved Africans or a poor imitation of the European?
To answer the first question, it is essential to realize the changes which education inevitably has brought to the life of the African. Imagine a nation without books, possessing only a slight idea of music, with few pictures and a scanty knowledge of drawing, often unable to perceive a subject in a photograph, a nation stunted in mental, physical, and spiritual development. Those among them who have come in contact with missionary education have in their reading had a new world opened to them; the music of the hymns and canticles has given their innermost feelings an instrument for expression; pictures, especially copies of the great masters, have supplied food for thought and put in a simple and intelligible way before them world facts which are quietly acting as leaven in their child minds. Their whole range of mental outlook has been widened by education. Their thoughts are new thoughts. And their life and its content have correspondingly been enlarged. Improved methods of industry and cultivation have led to the growth of trading, the establishment of small shop systems, better housing, the introduction of coinage, and the extension of communication with the outer world.
But more than this, a great spiritual transformation is taking place, the old fears and fetishes are giving way to the freedom and simplicity of the Gospel.
Among Christians immoral dances have been dropped, horrible ceremonies have quietly disappeared and are still disappearing, unable to continue in the light of the Gospel. The blackness of heathenism is retreating before the morning light of the Lord. It will be found that a new and great African nation is being quietly created, a nation of men and women to whom the Sabbath is indeed a “delight,” often far more than to their European masters, and who value the Word of God more than life. The Christian community is coming to fullness of stature, through the great C.M.S. ideal of self-support, self-government, and self-propagation; no longer an irresponsible child, it is becoming a responsible, reasoning being whose opinion in things that matter will become increasingly valuable.
The further question is often asked: “Is missionary education producing good Africans, or a poor imitation of Europeans?” In reply it must first be admitted that often the old ways of life have been exchanged too soon for the new; in the process something that was indispensable may have been lost. The recent Phelps-Stokes Commission has shown that in some cases the aim of “life in the village” has not been kept sufficiently in the forefront.1 Adaptations to village life must be the central purpose of the up-country school. English and its teaching must not wholly displace the unwritten literature or folk-lore of the African tribe. The garden and the farm must be as worthy a goal to the African boy as the clerk’s desk or the engineer’s lathe. But the missionary education which has produced African leaders like Bishops Crowther, Oluwole, Howells,2 is the best answer to the criticism just mentioned.
A nation does not reach maturity in a day. Africa has been happy in those who have helped to rear in their childhood the growing races of that great continent. Now that she lies open to the stream of immigrants who pour in for commerce, she needs, more than ever, a great-company of elder brothers and sisters who will guide her through the years of adolescence. [17-18]
34. Education in East Africa: A Study of East, Central and South Africa by the Secondary African Education Commission (1925)
From: Phelps-Stokes Fund, Education in East Africa: A Study of East, Central and South Africa by the Secondary African Education Commissionunder the Auspice of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, in Corporation with the International Education Board, Report Prepared by T.J. Jones (New York: Phelps-Stokes Fund, 1925). – The philanthropical Phelps-Stokes fund set up in New York in 1911 played a major role in promoting education for Black and Native Americans, but also for Africans in Liberia and in the African colonies of the British Empire. In 1920, the Phelps-Stokes Foundation set up an Education Commission to study educational conditions and needs in several African territories. The report of this commission entailed recommendations for the improvement of education (such as the extensive use of African languages in lower and middle school levels) that strongly influenced the work of the “Advisory Committee on Native Education in British Tropical African Dependencies” set up in 1923 by the British Government to generate educational policies for its African colonies. The combination of pragmatic recommendations to reform the education system in Britain’s African colonies and a paternalistic attitude towards the ‘special educational needs’ of Africans characteristic of the Report was strongly criticised by leaders of anticolonial movements in later decades of the 20th century. The following excerpts from the Phelps-Stokes Report address the question of reading material and languages of instruction for African pupils.
Reading and Elements of Community Life
Reading and writing probably surpass arithmetic in the possibility of adaptation for the presentation of community needs. Reading lessons may be filled with helpful suggestions as to health needs, such as nutritious food; cleanliness of body and clothing, of home and school. The upper standards may study the achievements in the realm of sanitation and hygiene by such men as Pasteur and other great scientists who have freed humanity from disease and suffering. The Old Testament, and especially the Mosaic laws, and verses from the New Testament may be effectively used to strengthen the interest of the pupil in health.
Agriculture and rural life are receiving increasing recognition in literature. Pupils of primary and advanced grade may profitably be given reading and writing tasks relating to garden and farm, and the life of domestic animals. Where pupils can read a European language the teacher may draw largely on magazines and books describing the remarkable activities of rural Denmark and other parts of the world where agriculture has received proper recognition. The Bulletins of the United States Department of Agriculture and also the Hampton Leaflets3 describe the influence of farm demonstration and various rural clubs that have increased the food supply and brought prosperity to the people. It is impossible to overstate the pressing urgency of the need for a richer school literature capable of being related to community needs. Few of the existing primers, readers and text-books in the English language lend themselves to this use. In African vernaculars, with a few notable exceptions, such books scarcely exist. There are, however, hopeful indications that this situation is now being realized, at least in part, and that Governments and missions are taking initial steps to meet it. Meantime much might be done by the wise allocation of small additional funds to enable teachers to purchase books and pamphlets on the lines here indicated as a basis for oral instruction. It is worth making inquiry of the Agricultural Department in each colony, as good material for the teacher may be available.
The home and family life have so full a place in literature as to make proper selection difficult. There are descriptions – again only for readers of European languages – of typical European and American homes; biographies of women who have realized the ideals of motherhood and the home in the full meaning of that wonderful place; discussions of fatherhood, with all its responsibilities; and stories of childhood and youth that are filled with inspiration. Both the Old and New Testament have many important references to home life and all that makes it sacred. In the more practical realm there is much material relating to the care of children and of the home, the relation of the sexes, the preparation of food and clothing, and the accommodation for sleep.
Sound ideas of recreation are amply presented in many pamphlets and books. The teacher can obtain – again in European languages – reading material from Europe or from America that describes the healthful games and amusements of civilized peoples. It would be helpful for the teacher to encourage the pupils to describe their own games as compared with those of other lands. Classroom discussion would doubtless result in sifting the desirable from the undesirable elements in the amusements. In the course of time it would be possible for schools in different parts of Africa to exchange compositions describing the games and various forms of recreation of different tribes. Effort should be made to include discussions of recreations that are designed to build up the physique, to quicken the mind and to develop sound ideals of character. [17-18]
Languages of Instruction
The languages of instruction rank with the ordinary school subjects as means of acquiring and transferring knowledge. These languages in Africa are usually the Native speech of dialect and the language of the European nation in control. Both these languages have, however, a contribution of far greater significance than that of the mere transfer of knowledge. The European language is not only the agency for acquiring information of the usual character; it is the means of uniting Africa with the great civilizations of the world. With full appreciation of the European language, the value of the Native tongue is immensely more vital, in that it is one of the chief means of preserving whatever is good in Native customs, ideas and ideals, and thereby preserving what is more important than all else, namely, Native self-respect. All peoples have an inherent right to their own language. It is the means of giving expression to their own personality, however primitive they may be. The processes of education must begin with the characteristics of the people as they are and help them to evolve to the higher levels. No greater injustice can be committed against a people than to deprive them of their own language. It is interesting and significant to note that one of the first and most emphatic demands of the nations that are now endeavoring to realize self-determination is to re-establish their own language. Even though it may be a futile attempt because another language is practically in control, the longing for their own language is natural and justifiable. […]
The Native people are as a rule eager to learn an European language. Their desire is based on an intuitive feeling that the language will open new opportunities, and also on experiences where a common language would have avoided many difficulties through the free and natural approach to the government officers. The Native leaders will become increasingly conscious of their dependence on European civilization for much of their progress. They will desire to help Africa to break through the agelong isolation which has kept in a bondage to superstition and suffering. Already they see the great resources, material and human, that may be developed through European agencies. It will not be long before they want to know such great physical sciences as chemistry and biology and to catch the inspiration of the great literatures. They will want through study of history and the social sciences to profit by the failures and the successes of other peoples. It is little wonder, therefore, that some Native leaders in Africa have almost been willing to forget their own language in their enthusiasm for the languages of civilization. It was natural for these leaders to mistake for generosity the narrow nationalism of European colonists in fostering an European language to the neglect of the Native tongue.
This emphatic belief in the value of the Native languages is not to be interpreted to justify the indiscriminate adoption of all African dialects as claiming encouragement and continuous use. While many African languages are rich in words with delicate shades of meaning, others, on the contrary, are merely dialects with only unimportant differentiations from the parent tongue. In many colonies there is a multiplicity of dialects spoken by small groups who are thus estranged from one another to the point of hostility. The process of selecting the Native languages of greatest value to the Native people is often exceedingly difficult. The comparative merits of several dialects in a colony may require years of scientific study. The testimony of Europeans or Natives who speak a particular dialect is likely to be prejudiced favorably by that knowledge. The ability to weigh the value of testimony as to languages must be based on real knowledge of the dialects under consideration. There are also geographical elements that influence the value of a dialect, such as the number of people who speak it, the status and potentiality of the people as compared with others of a different dialect, and territorial proximity.
Missionaries of several nationalities deserve much credit for their study of Native languages. Through their devoted efforts a large number of the dialects have been reduced to writing, and the Bible, either in part or in its entirety, has been translated into them. In this great achievement the British and Foreign Bible Society, whose work in East African languages will presently be noted, has rendered a service of incalculable value. A number of small text-books and pamphlets have also been translated into many vernaculars. Governments have not sufficiently encouraged this important service to the Native people of Africa. With full recognition of what has been done, the task, as has been urged in a preceding section, is only begun. There is now need for the active cooperation of Governments, missions and commercial organizations with scientific students of languages to make a thorough survey of African tongues and dialects, so that the present confusion and uncertainty may be corrected and that vernacular literature may be issued on well-directed and effective lines.
Looked at in the light of community needs, the belief of the teacher in all that has been said concerning the languages of instruction will be strengthened. With such a consciousness the teacher will be eager to know the Native dialects, so that intimate contacts may be established with every phase of community life. Through the Native language the older people will become known as well as the youth in school – their health, their agricultural needs and achievements, their village crafts, their homes, or lack of homes, their play, both good and bad, their music and folk melodies, whether degrading or inspiring, all will gradually unfold through the magic of the Native tongue. What changes will then follow in the teaching and the preaching; in the exchange of shop and field, of home and playground! The more real the insight into Native life through the Native language, the more real and the more intelligent will be the demand for the European language to serve as the medium for the transfer of whatever civilization has to give to primitive Africa in all phases of life. […]
The observations and experience of the long tour in East Africa support the conclusions and recommendations formulated in the report of the Commission to West and Equatorial Africa and they are presented herewith from Education in Africa, pp. 25, 26.
The elements to be considered in determining the languages of instruction are (1) that every people have an inherent right to their Native tongue; (2) that the multiplicity of tongues shall not be such as to develop misunderstandings and distrust among people who should be friendly and cooperative; (3) that every group shall be able to communicate directly with those to whom the government is entrusted; and (4) that an increasing number of Native people shall know at least one of the languages of the civilized nations. In determining the weight of each of these elements, it is of course necessary to ascertain the local conditions. It is clear that there is comparatively little, if any advantage in the continuation of a crude dialect with practically no powers of expression. It is also evident that the need for a lingua franca is not essential to a large group of people speaking the same language and living under conditions that do not require much intercommunication. It may even be true that some one of the Native languages may be so highly developed as to make possible the translation of the great works of civilization into that language. With due consideration for all of these elements and the modifying circumstances, the following recommendations are offered as suggestions to guide Governments and educators in determining the usual procedure in most African colonies:
1. The tribal language should be used in the lower elementary standards or grades.
2. A lingua franca of African origin should be introduced in the middle classes of the school if the area is occupied by large Native groups speaking diverse languages.
3. The language of the European nation in control should be taught in the upper standards. [19-22]
35. Colin Bundy, Early Peasants: The Cape before 1870 (1979)
From: Colin Bundy, The Rise & Fall of the South African Peasantry (London: Heinemann, 1979), 35-43. – Colin Bundy (b. 1944) is a South African historian who has had a most distinguished academic career, having been a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, Vice Chancellor of the University of the Witwatersrand, Director of the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London, and, from 2008-2010, Principal of Green Templeton College, Oxford. The extract below, taken from an influential book based on his Oxford doctoral thesis, is concerned with the impact of missionaries in nineteenth-century South Africa. Bundy rejects the view of their overriding influence put forward in The Oxford History of South Africa, and instead offers a critical perspective on the connections between their missionary purpose and the political economy of the time. He shows how the missionaries served British trade and commerce, consciously furthered class formation in African society, and purveyed ideas of European civilization. He also identifies the reasons for the comparatively low number of converts they were able to make.
The role of the missionary as standard-bearer for the commercial economy and western manners was one which missionaries themselves were not slow to point out, and they left no doubts as to the over-riding influence of missionary endeavour, precept and enterprise: “These stations were centres of trade and improved agriculture. The first plough that turned up soil north of the Kei was guided by the hands of a Wesleyan missionary. The first store opened in Kaffirland4 for the sale of clothing and agricultural implements was at Wesleyville.” And in the same vein, “the first cotton grown in South Africa […] the first waggon […] the first European type of house […] the first tilled lands and gardens” in Kaffraria5 were Methodist. More recently, an essentially similar assessment has appeared in the Oxford History of South Africa; missionaries take the credit for the establishment of an African peasantry: “Peasant communities […], began in 1783 with the foundation of the first mission station in South Africa [...]. Peasant communities began around mission stations.” (The Oxford History of South Africa II, 49).6
In this [chapter] it will be seen that there was a correlation between missionary activity and the spread of African peasant agriculture; that ‘stations’ or ‘schools’ served as foci of social change. It will also be argued, however, that other important factors operated independently of the ‘missionary factor’ in prompting and dispersing peasant activity, and that missionary enterprise was not the sine qua non of a peasantry that Professor Wilson suggests. One obvious alternative source for the technological knowledge that missionaries offered was work on the land of secular employers. There were also important transmissions of ideas, methods, motives and opportunities from one African community to another. […] Peasant skills and values were spread through a variety of non-missionary agents and channels: these included chiefs and other individuals, a variety of tenurial systems and other changes in economic and social relations.
The transmission of skills from missionaries to Africans was not the one-sided process that mission (and other) sources suggest: there was present, in varying degrees at different times and places, an active decision by Africans (individually or collectively) to partake of new skills, implements or life styles. What were hailed in the vigorous ecclesiastical press of the day as ‘missionary successes’ might justifiably be described in retrospect as ‘African successes’, in that the initial decision to invite the missionary and the subsequent cultural adaptations were conscious and deliberate choices by chiefs, clans or individuals. Anglican missionaries regarded it as quaint proof of the backwardness of the ‘native mind’ when chiefs welcomed mission schools, with the stipulation that reading, writing and manual skills be offered, but that religion be strictly excluded from the syllabus; yet viewed in terms of the threat that Christianity posed to the religious and political authority of the chiefs, and of the visible benefits accruing from a lay education, this was a discerning attempt by traditional African leadership to channel western education along selected lines.
Two linked features of the missionary presence in African societies are worth emphasizing: first, the role of the missionaries as torch-bearers of capitalist social norms and the market economy, as advocates of increased trade and commercial activity, and secondly, their contribution to class formation in African society. Missionary enterprise, ultimately, was concerned to transform social institutions and practices that were alien or incompatible with capitalist society into ones that were compatible, and hence to encourage a total change in the world-view of the people in whose midst they lived. As far as the extension of commerce is concerned, Professor Wilson has written that in South Africa trade “was welcomed by missions but did not arise from them”(The Oxford History of South Africa II, 50). This seems a less than satisfactory proposition; it understates the very close connection between missionary advocacy of ‘civilization’ and ‘modernization’ and trade. It overlooks the expression of an explicit and consistent missionary ideology in the nineteenth century, in terms of which the mission societies and their most influential spokesmen sought consciously to restructure African societies along lines that would attach them securely to the British capitalist economy.
Missionaries should ‘make a combined effort to effect a social revolution’, exhorted the editor of the Kaffir Express: the same missionary publication had spelled out the links between the civilizing mission and trade a little earlier. Why encourage Africans to live in square houses? the paper asked; and it answered its query thus:
with a proper house, then comes a table, then chairs, a clean table-cloth, paper or whitewash for the walls, wife and daughters dressed in clean calico prints, and so forth […] The church-going Kaffirs purchase three times as much clothing, groceries, and other articles in the shops as the red Kaffirs;7 but with a change in their habitations the existing native trade would soon be doubled. (TheKaffir Express, V, 55 (April 1875) and V, 53 (February 1875)
The missionary’s insistence on European dress, his propensity for measuring civilization in terms of the consumption of manufactured goods, his zeal for square houses and so on, all indicate a more potent link between the missionary and the trader than Monica Wilson allows.
As far as missionaries and class formation are concerned, it is clear that missionaries set out consciously and actively to promote economic differentiation and the formation of social classes, and that the mission stations provided auspiciously positioned vantage points, or pioneer columns, in this process. The strategy for ensuring conversions in ‘savage’ lands involved an explicit need to ‘tame’, to alter such societies to a degree whereby their members would be receptive to the Gospel as well as to the benefits of western civilization. Only by restructuring African societies in the rough likeness of their own European society could the necessary links be forged that would attach the African community securely to the Home Country, and permit all the benefits of religious, economic and social intercourse to flow between the two. From the conjunction of these processes – the establishing of the cash nexus and the restructuring of ‘savage’ society – missionaries believed that a whole constellation of beneficial results would flow. These were: a stimulated demand for the consumption of British goods, the increase of commerce, of civilization and of learning, the spread of Christianity and the defeat of heathenism, polygamy, and barbarism – in short, the extension of British control, protection, culture, economy, religion and language. It is not that missionaries were hypocritical or Machiavellian in their easy identification of the virtues of Christianity with the virtues of the British Empire: empire and the sway of the church were seen as two sides of the same coin. Duty and self-interest coincided. […]
From the earliest mission establishments, evangelical labours were seen within the context of a civilizing mission, that is, the introduction of western values and relationships into pre-capitalist societies. Social reform, [it has been suggested], is implicit in the teaching of any new religion, but was present especially in the nineteenth century when missionaries saw Christianity and civilization as interdependent and inseparable goals. The doyen of South African missionaries, the Rev. John Philip, wrote to the Lieutenant Governor of the Cape in 1820, outlining very clearly the secular and economic tactics and strategy of missionary endeavour:
Tribes in a savage state are generally without houses, gardens, and fixed property. By locating them on a particular place, getting them to build houses, enclose gardens, cultivate corn land, accumulate property, and by increasing their artificial wants, you increase their dependency on the colony, and multiply the bonds of union and the number of securities for the preservation of peace.
The championship of fixed settlements, of the sale of farm produce and of the purchase of ‘artificial wants’ are the keynotes to all subsequent nineteenth-century mission practices; Philip’s argument that the resultant integration of ‘tribes in a savage state’ into the colonial economy would bring stability and peace remained the major single secular justification in missionary writings for the rest of the century.
Philip also gave expression to another central tenet in missionary ideology: that by ‘scattering the seeds of Civilization’ missionaries would extend British trade, influence and Empire:
Wherever the missionary places his standard among a savage tribe, their prejudices against the colonial government give way; their dependence upon the colony is increased […] confidence is restored; intercourse with the colony is established; industry, trade, and agriculture spring up; and every genuine convert […] becomes the friend and ally of the colonial government.
He also specified that ‘a more liberal system of policy’ towards the Khoi and the Africans would make them more productive farmers, better customers of manufactured goods, reliable tax payers and willing labourers.8
But how were these devoutly wished for consummations to be achieved, and what particular weight did the missionaries attach to farming? In South Africa, as in Nigeria, ‘it was not so much agriculture that the missionaries considered the civilizing influence, as the commerce which resulted from it’. Agriculture was recommended to the tribesman as a means of producing articles of trade that would link him with Christian Europe. But in South Africa, far more than in Nigeria, there was also pressure upon the governing authorities to impel tribesmen to enter the capitalist economy as labourers.
Missionary ideologues addressed themselves to this problem in South Africa. Philip argued that the abolition of slavery and of the commando system9 would improve, not worsen, the labour market. He put the case for a workforce freed from coercion other than market forces (they would “prefer labour, in a state of freedom”): “allow them to bring their labour to a fair market” and farmers would “no longer have occasion to complain of the want of servants”. Methodist teaching, especially, favoured the creation of wage-earners and stressed the dignity of labour and desirability of manual skills. W.R. Thompson, first missionary to the Ngqikas, noted in 1819 that it was “the particular wish of the colonial government to introduce among the natives a knowledge of the useful arts of civilized life, and to train them to habits of industry” and to this end he took with him plough, harrow and spades.
It was not enough merely to accustom black hands to the necessary skills to equip them as labourers; they had also to be induced to supply their labour power to white employers. […]
The missionary societies desired conversions – and thereto a class of small proprietors, wedded to the cash nexus – and the colonists wanted labourers: missionaries looked to both Providence and the beneficent laws of Political Economy in their attempts to merge these aims. The settled nucleus of ‘respectable proprietors’ would generate the necessary labour supply, they argued. […]
Despite their own confidence and optimism, despite the enthusiasm and funds generated by the evangelical revival, and despite government assistance, the initial success rate of the mission societies was low. By 1850, a total of 16,000 Africans in the Eastern Cape (out of perhaps 400,000) lived on 32 mission stations, and as we shall see, missionaries had good cause to doubt the sincerity and ardour of the convictions of many of these. Particularly between 1836 and 1857, the mission records are a chronicle of abandoned stations, dispersed congregations, despondency and a fair measure of disillusionment. This failure to effect a mass conversion was in part due to the missionaries’ own mistakes and to their susceptibility to diseases and death, but more particularly due to the fact that most missionary effort was expended in the area where frontier wars were endemic for half a century, and most of all due to the political resistance of the Cape’s Xhosa-speakers and their leaders. […]
It was the creation of the mission stations or villages themselves that seems to have been a major factor in transmuting the cautious acceptance by the chiefs into (by and large) overtly hostile resistance. The station settlements dramatized the political, religious and economic threat to the old order, they made conspicuous the political disloyalty of converts, they served as a base for the missionary’s assault on rites and social practices, and they meant the physical absence of clan members, the withdrawal of their economic output as well as of their obligations. A chief summed up the challenge posed by the missions succinctly enough […] “When my people become Christians, they cease to be my people.” Equally to the point was the chief who told a Select Committee in 1851 “I like very much to live with [the missionaries] if they would not take my people and give them to the government.” Missionaries were also resented for their role as ‘the eyes and ears of Government’; they participated, and were seen to do so, in the process of annexation and conquest.
Nor did it escape the notice of Africans that the material benefits of mission life might be offset by new obligations and impositions. Traditionalist (or ‘red’) opposition to ‘school’ practices is typified by the reluctance of the traditionalists to become enmeshed in the novel dues of rent, taxes and other fees which were higher on mission stations than in surrounding areas. As peasants told an African preacher later in the century, “We are taught two things – the word of the Lord and the payment of rent.” […]
Against this defensive reaction, it might appear surprising that the missions won any converts, let alone that they prospered to the extent that they did. There were however powerful secular forces at work that aided evangelization. First, and corollary to the political resistance of some African leaders, there were others who perceived in the missionaries political allies, go-betweens, diplomatic agents and the like. Co-operation with a missionary might assist in coming to terms with external powers such as the British government, Boer republics, or rival kingdoms. Entire communities or clans that were clients, refugees, or in other ways subordinated in the existing political structure, would attach themselves to missionaries (the Mfengu, Thembu, and Barolong all did this).
Apart from such political considerations, at the level of chief or headman, there were other attractions for individual converts […]: the draw of technological innovations and material goods; the provision by mission stations of access to land […]; the role of missions as a sanctuary or refuge to those fleeing tribal justice. The political attractions summed up in the third of these categories are complex and manifold. Most simply, sanctuary might be sought by people fleeing from local quarrels or customary law. […]
Perhaps the most telling comment of all came from the missionary who wrote “As far as I know, the only people inclined to be Christians are those who despair of their own nation ever becoming anything by itself.”
Nor were the secular lures of mission life only material. Education (and the assistance it gave in coping with the demands of a cash economy and colonial rule) was a powerful magnet: the most common grounds for the unsolicited invitation to a missionary were the need for a school. There was a minor crisis in the Wesleyan Missionary Society in the early 1870s because numbers of Methodist Mfengu were defecting to the Anglican church, whose schools were held to be better as well as cheaper. The missionary’s knowledge of medicine and superior building techniques were also powerful attractions. Cultural gains might also be imagined rather than actual: if the missionary could convince Africans that his prayers were more effective in producing rain or ridding the area of locusts than the competing charms of the traditional priest or diviner, he could win new adherents.
From: Journal of the Royal African Society, 33, 131 (1934), 143-150. – Benjamin Nnamdi Azikiwe (1904-1996), one of Africa’s most famous nationalist leaders, was born in Northern Nigeria as the son of Igbo parents, studied in Nigeria and the USA and became a well-known journalist and newspaper publisher before embarking on a political career in 1944. A vocal critic of British colonial rule in Nigeria, he became Premier of Nigeria’s Eastern Region in 1954, Governor-General of (colonial) Nigeria in 1960 and the first President of the Republic of Nigeria in 1963. Having lost power in a military coup in 1966, he became a supporter of Biafra during the Biafra War (1967-1970) in Nigeria’s civil war??? and later Chancellor of the University of Lagos. Among Azikiwe’s numerous publications are books on African politics and culture such as Renascent Africa (1937)and autobiographical writings such as Zik (1961). In the following essay Azikiwe attacks the paternalism inherent in colonial educational policies and calls for an educational system based on equal opportunities and rights for Africans rather than on colonial concepts of ‘special educational needs’ of Africa’s so-called ‘native races.’
Education of Africans has been purposely converted into a “problem.” In all fairness to the noble work accomplished by Missions and Governments in Africa, frankness demands the conclusion that African education is not a “problem”; the African is a human being, and he could respond to any stimulus in any environment as would any other human being – all hereditary factors being equal. The attempt to transform the education of the African into a “problem” is not only a misdirected effort but an erroneous procedure. It is based on false conceptions of the mentality of the African. Thus African education has become impressionistic, and the European and American educators continue to perpetuate the myth of traditional anthropology on the mental inequality of races.
Modern anthropological scholarship does not subscribe to the notion that one race is mentally at variance with others. Moreover, the accomplishments of Africans in European and American universities during the past five decades, vindicate their mental capacity and also establish the fact that the brain of the average African can function in any environment just as that of the other races. In other words, the African is human, and is intellectually alert just as the average European, Asiatic, or American. What he needs is an opportunity to demonstrate his capabilities. Education knows no race or colour or creed. An Efik can win the M.A. from Columbia or Oxford or any university in the world, if given a chance. The same is applicable to a Zulu, Fanti, Ga, Mende, Wangala, Timni, Hausa, Nupe, Jekri, Popo, Ijaw, Ibo, Yoruba, Kru, Vai, Joloff, Mandingo, Bubi, or any other African tribe under God’s sun.
Translated into common terms what then do the achievements of Africans intellectually and educationally prove? Just these plain and incontrovertible facts: The African is not, and never has been, a problem; there is no such thing as an African educational problem; those who believe in such an oddity, are problems in themselves!
Broadly speaking, the average Liberian or Abyssinian is more educated than the average resident of African colonial possessions. Education implies more than book-learning and a collection of meaningless “degrees” after one’s name. It comprises the essentials of life, including a sense of pride in the fundamental rights of man. For this reason, the average resident of these two sovereign states has been better educated, for he lives in an environment of freedom and respectability, relatively speaking. He aspires to the highest offices of the land. There is no stereotyped “place” for him. His environment is devoid of inferiority complexes. He could achieve his dreams if he would only have the ambition.
Contrasted with the residents of colonial possessions, one discovers that despite their economic progress, the colonial Africans have been so mis-educated (to borrow Dr. Carter G. Woodson’s term) that their criterion of values is alien to their soil. The universities of Europe and America become the standardisers of their national ideals. A degree from Oxford or London or from the United States, becomes their supreme objectives. If a European should assert that a degree from a British university is the quintessence of culture, the African literati invariably retort with an “Amen.” If an American should claim that a degree from the United States is the only passport to intellectual achievements, the African, in his intellectual docility, accepts the same as final. Consequently, these mis-educated Africans imitate the characteristic jealousies and superciliousnesses of alien ideologies. They are so influenced thereby that they return to Africa laden with these sardonic manifestations of bigoted aristocracy and national idiosyncrasies.
True it is, the Liberian and Abyssinian educational systems have not been progressive. But the little they have done has been of practical value to their citizenry. While it has not prevented a section of their societies from preying upon the weaker ones, that is nothing singular. It is one of the anomalies of Western education and civilisation. Nevertheless, there is need for educational reform in all Africa. In addition to the subjects taught in elementary, secondary, and collegiate institutions, more emphasis should be placed on African anthropology, ethnology, and ethnography. African educators, be they black or white, should sift the excrescences of African culture and have a scientific attitude in order to delineate the durable and qualitative essentials of African sociology, philosophy, religion, ethics, art, music, law, and government.
Certain friends of the African have advocated industrial and agricultural education to the exclusion of academic and literary ones, as a panacea for the African educational “problem.” Whether the industrialisation of Africa will be conducive to the happiness of the aboriginal in view of the unhappy state of affairs in the industrialised West is not for consideration at the moment. No doubt these philanthropists, missionaries, and Government officials are sincere in advocating industrial and agricultural education. But this notion is maliciously false and a retrograde tendency. Just as Hampton and Tuskegee institutes10 have been unsuccessful in producing any outstanding graduates in the technical or agricultural field, for over five decades of educational endeavours, (see also the editorials in The Afro-American of January 3rd and 10th, 1931) so remarkably does this doctrine fail to pragmatise. It is curious that advocates of this measure should seek to apply to the African conditions which are not only unfavourable with the Afro-American, but are alien to the African mode of living.
Of course, one is not opposed to agricultural or industrial education. There is no need to beg the question for, sooner or later, the West will unconsciously drag Africa into its vicious net of industrialism and capitalism and “rugged” individualism, with their attendant ethics and values. But the basis of the theory for the industrial and agricultural education of the African is fallacious. It conceives the African as better adapted to industrial and agricultural pursuits, which is hardly true. In other words, so long as the African would be content at menial tasks, and would not seek complete social, political, and economic equality with the Western world, he is deemed to be a “good” fellow. But let him question the right to keep him in political and economic servitude, and let him strive to educate himself to the fundamentals of these modern problems, he is immediately branded as an “agitator.” He becomes a “bad” fellow for failing to stay in his “place,” which, of course, is the background.
On the strength of this, one humbly postulates that any educational theory which supports the regimentation of human minds and objectives is suspicious and ought to be cautiously examined. And then, the fact that the African is merely a “producer” of raw materials, and has no voice in the “fixing of prices” for his produce (and this is generally done for him at the exchanges in London, New York, Paris, Hamburg, or Brussels) renders his attempts at wholesale farming a sentence of economic servitude. If he were encouraged to study economics and banking, instead of farming alone, he might be able to “fix” prices, too; but outside Liberia and Abyssinia, he is not in position so to do. He is a subject or protégé (not a citizen or national) of European countries which maintain what has been mistakenly termed an “open door” policy, a policy which actually is a subtle means to lower the price of African produce in the various “spheres of influence,” for the consumption of European factories, and also to make the African dependent on what price Europe chooses to pay for African produce. No elaborate knowledge is required to understand this subtlety of colonial economics, yet advocates of agricultural education have failed to warn Africans of the Charybdis awaiting them after the escape from Scylla!
Industrial education may seem plausible, but it has its limitations as well. After industrial training, then what? How can the technically-trained African earn a decent livelihood when all avenues of higher appointments are closed to him and he is forced to worship the powers that be ere he could be considered for permanent and respectable appointment? It is nice to have technical ambitions, but as President Arthur Howe, of Hampton Institute, has observed: “There is little use in educating people unless they are to have opportunities to use their abilities.” [143-147]
How then shall the African be educated? Lest the author be misjudged, there is no ground to conclude that agricultural or industrial education should not be offered the African. Rather, it is the author’s conviction that these should be stressed only to the extent that not all Africans should become artisans and farmers. Farming is a wholesome vocation, so also are the industries. But the modern state – if the various colonies in Africa ever dream of their capability to develop into sovereign states – is a mosaic of all the professions and vocations. Education in Africa should consist of both literary and technical, and moral subjects in the curriculum of schools. Illiteracy should be diminished by the gradual introduction of compulsory elementary education throughout Africa. Mass education of the adults should be encouraged both by Governments and the African population. In other words, educate the African as a human being and not as a museum specimen or a fossil or preserved animal for scientific experimentation.
Several organisations and individuals who are interested in the “problem” of African education may be shocked at the tone of this modest and frank comment on their pet subject. Some might even consider the author ultra-radical in his pronouncements. But one submits with all deference to their feelings that at the basis of their philosophy of education, concocted as the best suited for the so-called “Native Races,” is the conception of mental inequality of the races so vividly and erroneously disseminated by such racialists as Count Gobineau, Benjamin Kidd, Lothrop Stoddard, and other pseudo-scientists who have appropriated the vocabulary of science and have prostituted its methodology and technique in order to prove what they want to prove, namely, the moral right to arrogate to one race a stigma of superiority to the detriment of another. This, of course, is what Professor Miller, of Bryn Mawr College, has termed “the rationalisation of a myth.”
Unfortunately these “friends” of African education, despite their paternalism and philanthropism, are humans. They like to be adored and flattered. The fact that they are performing a mission of mercy to “down-trodden and backward children of nature” bolsters their fixations of arrogance and pride, and they unconsciously become evangelists of the myth of racial inferiority. When an educated African challenges such an unnatural relation between his “civilizers” and himself, he is looked upon as a “problem.” Should he question the right of his rulers to prevent his active participation in the administration of the country, he is dubbed an “agitator.” He is thus caricatured as a “Europeanised African” for daring so to live and enjoy his life more abundantly. He is presented to the innocent world as an alienated individual from his indigenous folks. On the other hand, the aboriginals have been prevented by subtle means from imbibing the richness of Western education. Their education has been formalised. They are reduced to the four “R’s,” namely, Reading, ‘Riting, “Rithmetic, and Religion. Thus it is impossible to effectuate any social progress in the sense that the Western world knows it, within the next century. Yet the irony of this way of thinking is that African “backwardness” is judged on his failure to measure up to the standards of Western education which has been purposely denied him. [149-150]
37. H.F. Verwoerd, Bantu Education. Policy for the
Immediate Future (1954)
From: H.F.Verwoerd, Bantu Education. Policy for the Immediate Future (Pretoria: Department of Native Affairs, 1954), 1-24. – Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd (1901-1966) was South African Minister of Native Affairs from 1950 to 1958, when he was elected leader of the National Party and Prime Minister. After obtaining his doctorate at Stellenbosch University, Verwoerd went on in 1925 to the universities of Leipzig, Hamburg and Berlin. Regarded as the ‘architect of apartheid’ he was responsible for much of the legislation which imposed racial segregation on the country. After the Sharpeville shootings in 1960, Verwoerd took South Africa out of the Commonwealth and the country became a republic. Although he was personally convinced of the justice of the policies he and the National Party pursued, they generated bitter opposition both within the country and overseas. In 1960 an unsuccessful attempt was made on his life, and on 6th September he was assassinated in the South African House of Assembly in Cape Town. The following text is taken from a statement on the government’s education policy made by Verwoerd, who was then Minister of Native Affairs, in the Senate of the Union Parliament at Cape Town on the 7th June, 1954. In what is a remarkable account of his convictions he outlines the ideology behind the educational policy formulated in the so-called Bantu Education Act of 1953. The passages in bold type are as in the original.