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Higher Education and the Rise of Early Political Elites in Africa

Higher Education and the Rise of Early Political Elites in Africa

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Published by Kolapo
Missionaries were the precursors of formal education in colonial times in Africa because schools were their main avenues for conversion. A Roman Catholic missionary in Nigeria indeed once said, ‘Those who hold the schools hold the country, hold its religion, hold its future.’ And a recent author has concluded that, ‘Formal education soon became the bait with which the young generation was enticed to Christianity’ in Africa. This article argues that Western education and more precisely higher education, was the launching path to political elite status in Africa.
Missionaries were the precursors of formal education in colonial times in Africa because schools were their main avenues for conversion. A Roman Catholic missionary in Nigeria indeed once said, ‘Those who hold the schools hold the country, hold its religion, hold its future.’ And a recent author has concluded that, ‘Formal education soon became the bait with which the young generation was enticed to Christianity’ in Africa. This article argues that Western education and more precisely higher education, was the launching path to political elite status in Africa.

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HigherEducationandtheRiseofEarlyPoliticalElitesinAfricHigherEducationandtheRiseofEarlyPoliticalElitesinAfricHigherEducationandtheRiseofEarlyPoliticalElitesinAfricHigherEducationandtheRiseofEarlyPoliticalElitesinAfricaMagnusMagnusMagnusMagnusO.. .BasseBassey BasseBassey
TheCityUniversityofNewYork.
AbstractAbstractAbstractAbstract
MissionariesweretheprecursorsofformaleducationincolonialtimesinAfricabecauseschoolsweretheirmainavenuesforconversion.ARomanCatholicmissionaryinNigeriaindeedoncesaid,Thosewhoholdtheschoolsholdthecountry,holditsreligion,holditsfuture.Andarecentauthorhasconcludedthat,FormaleducationsoonbecamethebaitwithwhichtheyounggenerationwasenticedtoChristianity’inAfrica.ThisarticlearguesthatWesterneducationandmorepreciselyhighereducation,wasthelaunchingpathtopoliticalelitestatusinAfrica.
IntroductioIntroductioIntroductioIntroduction
IntraditionalAfricansociety,powerrestedinthehandsoftraditionalelites.Thesewerekings,emirs,obas,chiefs,priests,influentialpeopleinsocietyandpeopleofwealth.Thesepeoplehadthepowertomakewars,administerpunishmentsandjudgecases.AttheadventofcolonialisminAfrica,thevariouscolonialgovernmentsusedtheserulingaristocraciesasagentsforcontrollingthelocalpopulations.However,half-wayintocolonialruleinAfrica,powerandauthoritypassedintothehandsofmodernpoliticaleliteswhothenbegantobrokerpowerbetweentheEuropeansontheonehandandAfricansontheother.Thesepoliticalelitesincludedthosewithhighlevelsofeducation,theintelligentsias,peoplewithoccupationswhichpaidthemlivingwages.SomeofthemhadadoptedEuropeanstylesofdressandafewhadacquiredfamilywealth.SomeofthemmaintainnuclearfamiliesthoughmanystillowedallegiancetotheextendedfamilysystemandmajorityofthemwereChristians(Bassey,1999;seealsoAjayi,1965;Lloyd,1966,1967;Ayandele,1967;Abernethy,1969).ThisarticlearguesthattherisetopoliticalpoweroftheearlypoliticalelitesinAfricawasdueinparttoWesterneducationbuttoalargeextentduetohighereducation;thankstotheactivitiesoftheChristianmissionsinAfrica.IthastobepointedoutfromtheoutsetthattheestablishmentofschoolsinAfricaduringcolonialdayswastheprimaryresponsibilityoftheChristianmissionsbecausethemissionssawschoolsasthemainavenuesforconversion.Indeed,asBishopShanahan,aCatholicmissionaryinNigeriaoncesaid,“Thosewhoholdtheschool,holdthecountry,holditsreligion,holditsfuture(citedinAbernethy,1969,p.41).AsEkechi(1972)has
 
MagnusO.Bassey
RHEA 
,vol.1.no.1,30-38
31
noted,FormaleducationbecamethebaitwithwhichtheyounggenerationinAfricawasenticedtoChristianity(p.176).Achebe(1965)describestheimpactofamissionaryschoolinUmuofiaonthepeopleofeasternNigeriaasfollows:
Mr.Brown’sschoolproducedquickresults.Afewmonthsinitwereenoughtomakeoneacourtmessengerorevenacourtclerk.Thosewhostayedlongerbecameteachers;andfromUmuofialaborerswentforthintotheLord’svineyard.Newchurcheswereestablishedinthesurroundingvillagesandafewschoolswiththem.Fromtheverybeginningreligionandeducationwenthandinhand.Mr.Brownsmissiongrewfromstrengthtostrength,andbecauseofitslinkwiththenewadministrationitearnedanewsocialprestige.(pp.166-167)
Withoutanydoubt,theeducationalmessageofthemissionswassavoryandinvitingtomanyAfricanswhosawEuropeantechnologicaldevelopmentasthehandiworkofhighereducationandwerewillingtomakethenecessarysacrificetoreaptherewardsofEuropeanpower.Also,highereducationheldgreatpromiseforthecolonizedAfricansaswell.Forexample,withtheconsolidationofEuropeancontrol,enormousopportunitieswerecreatedforEuropean-trainedAfricanswhowereneededtoperformminoradministrativeduties.Therewasneedforteachers,catechists,clerks,accountants,buyersandsalesrepresentativesbythemissions,schools,governmentservicesandtheemergingEuropeanbusinesses.Asaresult,WesterneducationwasseenbymanyAfricansnotonlyasanexcitingopportunitybutalsoasaninvestment.Consequently,schoolingbecameanintegralpartofthesocialfabricofsomeAfricansocieties.Foster(1965)arguesthat,Theschools,byincreasinglyfunctioningasagatewaytonewoccupations,representedoneofthefewalternateavenuesofsocialmobilityoperatingindependentlyoftraditionalmodesofstatusacquisition.WiththeexpansionofcolonialgovernmentservicesandthehighdemandforeducatedAfricans,visibilityofhighereducationincreasedinAfrica.Educationcametoplayverystrategicrolesinpeopleslives.ThisfactmusthavepromptedLloyd(1966)tosay,InAfricaschoolinggivestheeliteparentsaverygoodchanceofensuringthathischildrenwillenjoythesamestatusashimself.Hewentontoaddthat,well-educatedandwealthyeliteistendingtobecomeapredominantlyhereditarygroup”(p.57).Coleman(1965b)onhispartconcludedthat,upwardmobilityintothemoreprestigiousandrenumerativerolesavailabletotheindigenousinhabitantsinthemodernsectorwasusuallydeterminedbyeducationalachievementalone(p.37).Educationthereforebecamethesoledeterminantofeconomic,politicalandculturalelitestatusinAfrica.Withtime,educatedAfricanswereclearlyawarethateducationandindeedhighereducationwasthesinequanonfortheircontinuedpoliticaldevelopmentasAfricajoinedthecommitteeofnations.Aswewillsee,almostallthepoliticaltransformationsthattookplaceinAfricaatthistime
 
HigherEducationandtheRiseofEarlyPoliticalEliteinAfrica
RHEA 
,vol.1.no.1,30-38
 32
werelargelythebyproductsoftheactivitiesofeducatedAfricans.AndaccordingtoColeman(1965b),whetheras“activists,organizationbuilders,ideologists,ormembersofliteraryclass,thenationalistswerethosewhohadreceivedonetypeofformaleducationortheother(p.37).StudyafterstudyshowsthatthereisapositivecorrelationbetweenhighereducationandpoliticalelitestatusinAfricabecauseeducationhadamajorimpactonpoliticalattitudesduringthecolonialperiod.AsGrey(1979)putsit,thosewhowereeducatedinformalschoolshadahigherpropensitytoparticipateinpoliticsinAfricathanthosewhowerenotbecauseincolonialAfricansocieties,schoolsperformedthetaskofpoliticalsocializationandcitizenshipbyemphasizingthattheirstudentsbelongedtoonenationthatcutsacrosstheboundariesoffamily,tribeandvillage.Intheschools,historywastaughtinordertostirinterestinnationalaffairs.Civicsprovidedinterestingovernmentandcreatedself-awareness.Fromknowledgegainedinthestudyofsubjectslikepoliticalscience,governmentandcitizenship,highereducationbecameavenuesforagitationforself-government.However,insomeinstances,colonialschoolsmodeleddemocraticpracticesthatgavestudentsinsightsintotheworkingsofWesterndemocracies.Ogunsheye(1965,p.130)givesussomeinsightintotheinternaloperationsofsomeofthecolonialschoolsinAfricaandstates,Everyclass...haditsmonitorandeveryteachertrainingcollegeandeverysecondaryschoolhaditsprefects.Hecontinuesbyarguingthat,“Bygivingmonitorsandprefectsvaryingdegreesofresponsibilityintheclassorschool,acrudeattemptwasmadetoinculcatethevirtuesofselfgovernment(p.130).AsOgunsheye(1965)notes,moralandcharacterstrainingwereenhancedincolonialschoolsinAfricabymembershipintheBoyScouts.Accordingtohim,theBoysScoutsemphasizedcharacter-building,organization,cleanliness,truthfulness,readinesstohelpothersaswellashardiness.Healsosaysthatteamwork,espritdecorps,moraltraining,inter-groupcompetitionandcooperationamongstudentswereenhancedbygames,sportsandathleticsinschools.AccordingtoHussey(1946)(whowasaonetimeDirectorofEducationinNigeriaandUgandaaswellasanEducationalAdvisertoEmperorHaileSelassieofEthiopia),“asaresultofeducation,Africansbegantothinkmoreaboutpersonalandnationalproblemsandeventocriticizegovernmentactions”(p.73).ImportantschoolslikeWilliamPontyinDakar,Senegal;KingsCollege,Lagos,Nigeria;St.AndrewsCollege,Oyo,Nigeria;theProtestantKingsCollegeatBudoinUganda;theCatholicCollegesatKisubiandNamilyangoinUgandaandAchimotaCollegeintheGoldCoast(nowGhana)providedleadershiptrainingforstudents.Theseschoolsattractedstudentsfromalloverthecontinent.Abernethy(1969)pointsoutthattheHopeWaddellTrainingInstituteenrolledstudentsthroughoutWestAfricaincludingGhana,theCameroons,SierraLeone,TogoandLiberia.

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