Empire and Education in Africa

The Shaping of a Comparative Perspective

by Peter Kallaway (Volume editor) Rebecca Swartz (Volume editor)
©2016 Textbook VIII, 340 Pages


Empire and Education in Africa brings together a rich body of scholarship on the history of education in colonial Africa. It provides a unique contribution to the historiography of education in different African countries and a useful point of entry for scholars new to the field of African colonial education. The collection includes case studies from South Africa, Ethiopia, Madagascar, French West Africa (Afrique Occidentale Française) and Tanzania (then Tanganyika). It will therefore prove invaluable for scholars in the histories of French, British and German colonialism in Africa. The book examines similarities and differences in approaches to education across a broad geographical and chronological framework, with chapters focusing on the period between 1830 and 1950. The chapters highlight some central concerns in writing histories of education that transcend geographic or imperial boundaries. The text addresses the relationship between voluntary societies’ role in education provision and state education. The book also deals with ‘adapted’ education: what kind of education was appropriate to African people or African contexts, and how did this differ across and between colonial contexts? Finally, many of the chapters deal with issues of gender in colonial education, showing how issues of gender were central to education provision in Africa.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter One: ‘Lessons’ from the Subcontinent: Indian Dynamics in British Africa
  • Section One: Nineteenth Century
  • Chapter Two: Industrial Education in Natal: The British Imperial Context, 1830–1860
  • Chapter Three: Shaping Colonial Subjects through Government Education: Policy, Implementation and Reception at the Cape of Good Hope, 1839–1862
  • Chapter Four: ‘A Test of Civilisation’? Shakespeare, the Anglican Church and Mission Education in Victorian Grahamstown
  • Section Two: Inter-War Era British Territories
  • Chapter Five: The Role of Philanthropic Foundations in Shaping South African Colonial Educational Policy in the Early Twentieth Century
  • Chapter Six: Charles Templeman Loram: Education and Race Relations in South Africa and North America
  • Chapter Seven: Mass Education and the Gendered Politics of ‘Development’ in Apartheid South Africa and Late-Colonial British Africa
  • Section Three: German Sphere/East Africa
  • Chapter Eight: German Lutheran Missions, German Anthropology and Science in African Colonial Education
  • Section Four: French Colonial Education in Africa
  • Chapter Nine: Tracing Assimilation and Adaptation through School Exercise Books from Afrique Occidentale Française in the Early Twentieth Century
  • Chapter Ten: Protestant and French Colonial Literacies in Madagascar in the Early Twentieth Century
  • Chapter Eleven: Independence and Influence: Empress Mänän School—An Ethio-French Girls’ School in 1930s Ethiopia
  • Bio-Notes of Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index

| vii →


The volume arises out of a

Workshop on colonial education in africa

held at the

School of Education
University of Cape Town
4–5 July 2013
and sponsored by

International Standing Committee on History of Education 
 Georg Eckert Institut

Southern African Comparative and History of Education Society 

School of Education, University of Cape Town

Special thanks go to Kate Rousmaniere and Eckert Fuchs,
past presidents of International Standing Committee for the History of Education (ISCHE),
and to Charl Wolhuter, president of the Southern African Comparative and History of Education Society (SACHES),
for their enthusiastic support for this project, which focussed on bringing together young scholars in the field,
and to Deputy Vice-Chancellor of UCT Crain Soudien
for hosting the event.

| 1 →



This collection arises out of a concern about the state of research on the history of colonial education in Africa and a commitment by the International Standing Conference for the History of Education (ISCHE) and the Southern African Comparative and History of Education Society (SACHES) to sponsor a workshop at the School of Education of the University of Cape Town in July 2013. With the enthusiastic cooperation of Kate Roumaniere and Eckhard Fuchs (past presidents of ISCHE); Charl Wolhuter, the chair of the Southern African Comparative and History of Education Society (SACHES); and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cape Town, Crain Soudien, we selected twenty-five participants to share their work during a two-day meeting. The majority of those selected to attend were graduate students who had either just completed their dissertations or were well on the way to doing so. The chapters presented in this volume represent the fruit of that set of discussions which made us all aware of the formidable issues at stake in tackling this task, and demonstrated the enthusiastic commitment of those who attended. The majority of the participants came from Europe, North America and South Africa; there were two others from Latin America and one from Japan. Sadly, we failed to draw in any researchers from the rest of Africa despite strenuous efforts to do so. We hope that this volume is able to act as a stimulus to such work in the future as it demonstrates the challenges for historical scholarship in relation to the analysis of complex issues that remain crucial to contemporary educational policy development on the continent. ← 1 | 2 →

The relationship between the policies and practices of education in colonial Africa needs to be seen in the context of the emergence of modern forms of schooling globally during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The colonial powers, in particular Britain, France and Germany, and independent states such as Abyssinia, which are featured in this collection, were confronted by educational ‘revolutions’ at home and abroad. It is difficult to overemphasise the impact of political, social and economic change on the nature and scale of educational provision. The rise of democracy, nationalism and radical politics, industrial revolution, urban society and the advent of social science all had an influence on the emergence of educational policy as a distinct field by the middle of the twentieth century. All these issues had an impact in the colonial context.


The history of educational change has been studied in depth in relation to mature capitalist or First World contexts, but the investigation of the impact of those forces on imperial or colonial contexts has not kept pace. Despite a wealth of excellent historical studies of the construction of education systems in the years immediately after independence,1 the more recent literature has been patchy and often linked to contemporary fashions associated with the progressivism or the radical education turn of the 1960s and 1970s2 and the structuralism associated with the school of Development Studies or World Systems Theory in the fashion of Wallerstein’s work.3

As Bayly and others have pointed out, the understanding of historical change on such a broad scale has not yielded adequate results. The key to understanding colonial education in these times lies in linking these changes to specific contexts, which requires detailed historical work. It is not a question of there being an essentially British or French colonial educational system—or an Indian or South African system—but a question of how these evolving modern societies, and their educational systems, came to be created over time in widely differing circumstances. As Segalla has noted, ‘Colonial education systems are particularly (important) subjects for historians because they were the sites of close interaction between colonising and colonised populations, loci of cultural contact that illustrate “the dynamics and inner conflicts of colonial societies; the social spaces that served as zones of both contact and separation between colonial and colonised societies; the borders between groups and the question of how those borders are constructed’’’.4 Colonial educational history can only be satisfactorily explained if it is related to social, economic and political changes in the imperial heartlands and the specific circumstances of diverse colonial contexts. It is not just the economic imperatives ← 2 | 3 → of imperialism that drive policy formulation but also ‘the complex web of attitudes, legends, theories and institutions’ in which they are shaped.5 As May, Kaur and Prochner have recently shown, there were ‘evident synergies’ between metropolitan and colonial child welfare and education practices.6 This volume shows that considering diverse contexts in the same frame of analysis can be fruitful for constructing a more nuanced picture of colonial education policy and practice.

This is, of course, not the place to take up such weighty matters, but it is sufficient to point to the need for a vastly more complex analysis of these processes by relating educational history to the broader history and historiography of the colonial project. In the context of the British Empire, what is still missing from the literature is a comprehensive educational history that parallels the great works of colonial history such as the Cambridge History of the British Empire,7 the Cambridge History of Africa8 and the Oxford History of the British Empire (OHBE).9 Even in the most recent of these, educational issues are not highlighted as an aspect of the imperial project or resistance to that project. History of education has not found its place as a key explanatory element of the era of colonialism in the way that religion did with the publication of Norman Etherington’s volume on Missions and Empire in the recent OHBE series, or Black Experience and the Empire or Gender and Empire.10 This would seem to indicate that history of education has unfortunately failed to make sufficient impression on the field of studies. This collection hopes to demonstrate that there is much merit in foregrounding education as a key explanatory tool in colonial history. The recent literature on colonialism points to the need to understand the shifting nature of British paternalism11 and the need to understand how notions of ‘civilisation,’ that is, Christian mission, trusteeship, indirect rule, human rights, development or welfare, influenced changes in educational policy over time.

In the nineteenth century, the complex web of forces embracing the evolving political, social and economic trends associated with the industrial revolution, the political and social revolution at home, the emancipation of slaves, the role of religion and missionary enterprise, free trade ideology, Rights of Man discourses on economic and political issues, all influenced debates about the nature of educational provision at home and abroad. In the twentieth century, the legacy of the past needs also to be linked to the nature of European politics and to fundamental shifts in ‘home’ politics under the influence of world wars, the League of Nations, economic depressions, the rise of welfarism and the challenges of totalitarianism in Germany, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Japan, along with the perceived threat of communism to the project of colonial rule. In more recent times, the effects of World War II, the advent of UNO and the Cold War are key influences. Here the rising demand for political and economic rights in both the home and colonial contexts requires the attention of those seeking to explain the nature of educational debates and conflicts. ← 3 | 4 →

In the context of these complex forces, it is important to recognise that policies that evolved in one space and time to meet immediate needs were seldom easily transportable to other contexts and times. For example, indirect rule which evolved in Natal/Zululand in the late nineteenth century in the form of what came to be known as the Shepstone system12 was in many ways fundamentally different to Lord Lugard’s indirect rule in Northern Nigeria a generation later.13 Similarly, the ‘native policies’ of the immediate post–World War I era were not the same as those advocated by Lord Hailey in his monumental African Survey in 1938. The implications of these shifts in relation to notions of indirect rule and of adaptation in education have not been sufficiently recognised or researched.14 We need to be cautious about generalisations relating to the educational outcomes of these approaches to colonial rule.

In the twentieth century—from the Cape to Nigeria, from Morocco to Tanganyika—colonial governments were forced to confront the issue of how and on what terms colonial peoples would be ruled or prepared for the future. And the diverse peoples—ethnically, linguistically, culturally—had to engage with the terms of their overrule. In many cases, they were taking the initiative in establishing linkages with government and commerce. Everywhere schooling was becoming a significant issue in the lives of Indigenous peoples.

To locate that history, it is important to attempt a degree of periodisation so as to be able to capture the major influences on shifting notions of colonial rule and resistance—by the Colonial Office in London, Brussels, Berlin or Paris, by colonial officials in the colonies, by missionary networks that stretched from Europe and North America to Africa and Asia, by the Indigenous peoples, white settlers and the European public.

It is also of the utmost importance to understand the comparative links between social change and education at different times. How did ‘home politics’ influence events in the colonies? How did pressures for change in Britain at the time of the French Revolution, the Great Reform Act and the Factory Acts influence educational policy debate? How were the political pressures of Chartists, radical Christian movements, churches, humanitarian movements and human rights activists to influence educational policy?15 The Emancipation of Slaves was a key campaign that stimulated activists of various stripes in the early years of the nineteenth century. It had fundamental implications for colonial educational provision. This essentially colonial issue also had important implications for ‘the discovery of the English Poor’ at home as it gave rise both to arguments that supported the extension of state education to the poor and to opposition to such education, which was seen by many to present a danger to the stability of society, both at home and abroad.

Within the colonial context, Fred Cooper has argued that a central problem of empire building was that ‘colonial rulers needed to co-opt old elites and generate ← 4 | 5 → new collaborators, but such ties might soften the colonizer—colonized distinction’.16 Stoler conceptualises schooling and education as part of the ‘tense and tender ties’ of colonialism. ‘Such colonial institutions,’ she argues, ‘designed to shape young bodies and minds, were central to imperial policies and their self-fashioned rationalities. Colonial states had an abiding interest in a sentimental education, in the rearing of the young and affective politics’.17 Segalla extends this argument. He argues that ‘colonial schools aimed to produce willing collaborators among the colonized, but schools also created intimate contact between the colonizing and the colonized populations, producing the possibility that boundaries between colonizer and colonized might blur’. This helps to explain why colonial states and educational planners, at least in the twentieth century, ‘devote(d) so much energy to the policing and definition of these boundaries within the schools (in terms of curriculum choice), and why the school systems became places where the relationship between colonizer and colonized produced explicitly articulated theorizations about the nature of colonialism, of the colonizer, and of the colonized’.18

Given the limits of space and the nature of the chapters in this volume, it seems important to focus on two phases of educational development in this context, namely, the mid-nineteenth century and the twentieth-century inter-war era, in order to illustrate the potential of comparative histories of education.

Before undertaking that task, it seems appropriate to refer to chapter 1. Tim Allender has done exceptional path-breaking work on colonial education in India.19 We had originally hoped he would be able to attend our Cape Town workshop to share his thoughts with us on the comparative linkages between colonial education in British Africa and India but in the end he was unable to join us. He nevertheless generously offered to contribute a chapter to this volume. Allender argues that the major ‘lesson from the Sub-Continent’ for the majority of African missionaries and administrators in the inter-war years—and the dominant theme that coloured much of the debate at this time but was seldom specifically articulated—was that ‘India has much to teach Africa—by her mistakes!’20

The secular, Western academic form of secondary education that had dominated policy in India since Macaulay’s Minute of 1835, extended by Wood’s Educational Despatch of 1854, and modified by the Hunter Commission (1882–1883), was widely held by African educators to be inappropriate to their context. The favoured curriculum for African schools supported by missions, governments and foundations was ‘adapted’ education. This curriculum was shaped to the ‘needs’ of rural life and work in a traditional African context which focussed on home life, moral precepts, basic health and nutrition and work in the traditional rural context (see chapters by Cappy and Glotzer, this volume). In another model propounded, in particular, by German Lutheran missions, the significance of Indigenous languages and culture was highlighted in order to promote a ‘wholesome’ rural society and to prevent detribalisation and the decay of traditional ways of life (see ← 5 | 6 → Kallaway, this volume). The pioneering work of Edwin Smith, Alek Fraser and Arthur Mayhew, who were all involved in the crafting of mission education policy in both Indian and African colonial contexts, and defending the need for missionary and government cooperation in education, represents a very small beginning to a potentially significant project of comparing the experience of education in these different contexts. Not surprisingly, the issues are often similar—goals, access, curriculum, the role of religion, governance. In both contexts, the use of English as a language of instruction in schools was a major issue but its use in senior central schools was never contested in colonial India despite the fact that this remained a key issue in African schools through the period. Although the experience of education in colonial India is often seen as exceptional, there are good reasons for considering it in a broader context, as much as to highlight its distinctive trajectory as to trace similarities with colonial education elsewhere.

As Allender points, out Arthur Mayhew ‘was probably the most significant link between India and Africa’ in the inter-war era. After an extensive career in education in India during which he became Director of Public Instruction for the Central Provinces (1916), he was very influential in the Colonial Office and International Missionary Council (IMC) educational policy networks. As joint secretary (with Hanns Vischer) of the Colonial Office Advisory Committee on Native Education in Tropical Africa (ACNETA), he had considerable influence on the shape of thinking in mission networks and he wrote extensively on education in India and Africa.21

Allender points to the need for further careful study of these comparative insights and the necessity of seeing the reforms in education in India and colonial Africa in the context of wider thinking about the (changing) goals of colonial policy. These in turn need to be set within the framework of Hailey’s An African Survey (1938) and Keith Hancock’s broader review of Commonwealth politics, economics and policy in the late 1930s.22


Early Nineteenth-Century Reform

First, engagement of the British government with issues relating to education at home and in the British African colonies dates from the period which spanned the mid-nineteenth century. What Rebecca Swartz points to (in this volume) is the need to link domestic and colonial politics if the origins of educational thinking are to be adequately understood. These are to be located originally in Enlightenment humanism and discourses concerning the Rights of Man from the eighteenth century. These trends, first manifested in the French Revolutionary period ← 6 | 7 → from 1792, demonstrate the general long-term implications that Enlightenment philosophy had on British domestic politics in terms of what David Thomson called the social liberalism23 of the post-Napoleonic period with ‘the complex of new gropings towards political reform and social freedoms’24 as Enlightenment ideas found increasing accommodation with reformist Christianity. ‘By the 1840s humanitarianism had also become a vital component of Britain’s national or imperial identity’.25 Perhaps the most significant element of that reform in the early nineteenth century was the anti-slavery movement between 1780 and the 1830s leading to the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire in 1807 and the emancipation of the slaves in 1834.26

After the emancipation of slaves in 1834, the popular philanthropic movement of humanitarians, evangelical Christians and non-conformists that had served to bring victory to the anti-slavery lobby was extended to defend the humanitarian cause among the Indigenous inhabitants of the colonial empire. ‘The pressure cooker of reform’27 shaped in Britain’s domestic politics and in relation to the anti-slavery issue was now adapted to shape a humanitarian approach to Indigenous peoples of the empire (the Khoisan and African peoples of southern Africa, Australian Aborigines, New Zealand’s Maoris, Aboriginal people of Newfoundland and Pacific Islanders) that culminated in the 1837 Report of the Select Committee on Aborigines in British Settlements.28 This report explicitly called for ‘the instruction of the adults, the education of their youth, and the protection of them all [Aborigines]’.29 Although, as Andrew Porter points out, it was paternalistic in tone and took for granted Britain’s self-evident superiority, ‘it was deeply critical of the consequences of British neglect and expatriate activities’ and tried to put in place systems that would ameliorate this situation and encourage opportunities for religious instruction and the education of the native inhabitants. In an effort to promote these policies, Thomas Hodgkin and others used the lessons of the anti-slavery campaign to encourage the establishment of the Aborigines’ Protection Society (APS) in 1837 with the aim of investigating and publicising abuses and holding government and other agencies to account. This strategy had limited success in the mid-nineteenth century through the influence that the APS was able to bring to bear in London, but it soon foundered in the face of the devolution of political power to the white settlers in the areas where it was most active.30

While the prevailing atmosphere of change and political threat was maintained, it seemed to many reformers that the immense enthusiasm of the ruling class for the liberation of slaves in the West Indies and Africa was to be contrasted with their lack of sympathy for ‘free labourers’ at home in the cotton factories and coal mines.31 Yet the ‘discovery of the English poor’ manifested in the Reform Acts (1832), the Royal Commission on the Poor Laws (1832), the Factory Acts (1832–1833) and Chadwick’s Report on the Sanitary Condition of the Labouring Population (1842) demonstrated one strand of that social reform and the beginnings of state ← 7 | 8 → intervention in the economy and society. Whether we interpret these reforms as driven by Christian or humanitarian motives, or as part of a conservative strategy to ward off radical political change, there is no doubt that they had a significant influence on the development of thinking about education and the increasing state involvement in the education of the poor, even if this was a very gradual process. In this regard, Swartz lays particular emphasis on the State of Education report of 1834, Report of the Parliamentary Committee on the State of Education,32 as a key to understanding the evolution of such policy. This report also needs to be seen in the context of the earlier Reports of the Commission on Education of the Lower Orders in the Metropolis and Beyond, 1816–18 (the Brougham Report),33 the subsequent Report of the Select Committee on the Education for the Poorer Classes (1838)34 and the Report of the Select Committee on the State of Popular Education in England, chaired by Lord Newcastle (1861).35 These can all be seen as faltering steps to the Education Act of 1870, which set up the foundation for a state education system of elementary schooling.36

A reading of these reports demonstrates the powerful role of religion in debates about education and the divisions between the Establishment tradition and Dissenters or Non-Conformists over educational provision. The separation between working-class education and the system that was in place for those who participated in the Established church schools reflects in many ways the division in debates about who should have access to schooling in the colonial context. In Britain and the colonies, there was the beginning of debate over who was to go to school, the education of rural and urban children, the provision for boys’ and girls’ education, retention rates, funding and governance, the role of state, mission or private education and the degree of local control. The nature of the curriculum was a key element of debate. How far was the education of the poor or the colonised to be dominated by religious education and what role were religious bodies to have in the provision of education, and under what circumstances should they be supported by the state? What curriculum should be supported: the classical curriculum of middle-class Britain or a vocational or practical curriculum, which came to be known as ‘adapted education’ in Africa, related to the needs of the workplace? What was the role of science in the imparting of knowledge to working-class or colonial children? What language was to be used in schools (a question as relevant to Scotland, Ireland or Wales as it was to the Punjab or New Zealand or Natal)?

Helen Ludlow’s chapter demonstrates the extent to which an innovative experiment, based on the best Enlightenment scientific ideas about the power of education to shape society, was able to gain the support of the Cape government in the mid-nineteenth century. Under the influence of John Herschel, a well-connected scientist and astronomer living in Cape Town between 1834 and 1838, a systematic plan for the advancement of the education ‘of the lower orders’ was fashioned. This included the establishment of the post of Superintendent General ← 8 | 9 → of Education to institute firm government control of the field. He was also instrumental in the establishment of Government Schools in a number of towns which aimed at the schooling of all children regardless of race or class. The failure of the experiment by the 1860s due to the resistance of settler parents to the presence of Indigenous or slave descended children in the schools should not detract from the importance of the model and the motivation behind the experiment. This was an attempt to pioneer a form of education that was to take many years to achieve in Britain. The experiment serves as an important reminder that not all reforming zeal flowed from Europe to the colonial context.

It seems important to connect these issues if we are to understand the role of evolving humanitarian educational provision in the ‘rescue’ of the national working class as well as the Indigenous peoples of the empire. Swartz demonstrates how these educational ideas travelled between the reformist context of working-class England, Australian Aboriginal education and proposals for education of Indigenous peoples in Natal. Ludlow demonstrates how formal policy frameworks were beginning to operate in the mid-century—demonstrating early links between science and policy. But her work also demonstrates the shortcomings of such ‘utopian’ planning in a context that was not politically receptive to such innovation.

1860s to 1918: High Imperialism and Emerging Conservatism

After the mid-century, in the wake of the Indian Uprising (1857), the Maori Wars (1845–1872), a number of frontier wars in the Cape eastern frontier and the Morant Bay rebellion in Jamaica (1865), the humanitarian movement lost much of its political weight as a popular movement in Britain and from the 1870s the humanitarians finally abandoned visions of the sweeping transformation of Indigenous societies as settler governments gained greater economic and political control of race relations and arguments favouring biological racial differences gained wide support.37

One example of these changes can be demonstrated with regard to the schooling of Indigenous peoples in the Cape. It revolves around debates on the nature of the curriculum at the flagship Free Church of Scotland mission at Lovedale in the Eastern Cape around 1870 and reflects the way in which broader political trends influenced educational policy. It depicts the tensions that arose between traditionalists and advocates of reform who promoted what they advanced as ‘African needs’ (later to be called adaptation), reflecting the progressivist ethos of the times.

The founder and first principal of Lovedale Institution, William Govan38 held this post from 1841 to 1870. He defended his belief in the humanitarian value of classical studies, ‘through which he sought to provide Africans with an education that was up to European standards’. He stated to the 1863 Cape government Commission on Education that ‘our object is to give a good English education, also a ← 9 | 10 → higher education, including classics, mathematics, logic and theology’,39 though he did also introduce elements of industrial training under Governor George Grey’s plan of Industrial Schools in the 1850s.40 In his focus on a form of education characteristic of middle-class Scotland at the time, Govan was very much in line with the kind of education Brian Willan describes in his chapter as characteristic of the Anglican Kaffir Institute in Grahamstown at the end of the nineteenth century, which gave a central place to the promotion of Shakespeare and modern scientific thinking. Willan’s wider work on the African nationalist Sol Plaatje, who was schooled at Pniel, a Berlin Mission station near Kimberley, reveals that he was responsible for the translation, publication and performance of a number of Shakespearean plays into Setswana at the end of the nineteenth century.41 These insights call into question any simplistic assumption about the ‘cultural identity’ of the emergent African elite and the kinds of education they ‘needed’. These historical perspectives would seem to have direct relevance to present-day debates regarding the nature of ‘culture’ and the nature of the relationship between African ‘culture’ and the era of modernisation and colonialism.

When James Stewart joined the staff of Lovedale in 1867 after two years of experience as a missionary in central Africa, he challenged Govan’s approach, rejecting the model of ‘advanced education for the few’ in favour of ‘elementary education for the many’, and with the support of other staff took the dispute to the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. The governing council ruled in his favour. He then took over Govan’s position as head of the institution and proceeded to introduce a new approach to education. Stewart went on to head the institution from 1870 to 1905 and to elaborate an alternative curriculum that was to be praised in the 1920s by the Phelps-Stokes Commission for its adaptation to African ‘needs’ (see Glotzer and Cappy). Stewart emphasised evangelisation and the training of African workers and ‘set out to devise a new style of education especially suited to the circumstances of African life, and based on a combination of both academic and practical studies’.42 This practical education was aimed at matching Indigenous peoples to their lower status in colonial society and was associated with the educational philosophy that came to be elaborated in policy by Langham Dale, the Superintendent-General of Education in the Cape between 1859 and 1897.43 Such views were far removed from those of the earlier missionaries such as Govan, or the ideas that had motivated Herschel’s socially inclusive reforms for Government Schools put in place in the mid-nineteenth century Cape.44 The decline of the humanitarian ethos of the earlier age left Govan exposed to harsh criticism when he proposed education for the development of an equal standard with Europeans as this flew in the face of the unfolding politics of difference and exclusion that was developing in the Cape. This is of course an isolated event, but it is demonstrative of broader trends in educational debate that were characteristic of the period of paternalism subsequent to the Indian uprisings of the ← 10 | 11 → mid-nineteenth century and associated with the advent of the influence of Social Darwinism on educational policy thinking.

The two features of education that are highlighted here are therefore the potential expansion of the Cape education system in keeping with a broader vision of educational provision that emerged out of social reform agendas in Britain in the mid-century, and the question of curriculum. In relation to provision, the establishment of Government Schools in a number of Cape towns was to be a visible manifestation of state involvement and expansion of provision and an indication of the development of policies associated with the liberation of slaves. The failure of that initiative was a result of the lack of receptiveness in the communities to which the reforms were addressed and the fractured nature of the communities they were to serve—in terms of both race and class. In relation to the issue of curriculum, the debate over ‘reform’ at Lovedale is presented to give a taste of the considerations that need to be taken into account when examining educational change in colonial contexts.

Indirect Rule Meets Mandate Government and the Evolution of a Discourse of Development in the Inter-War Era

The rest of the chapters in this volume are concerned with the context of colonialism in the twentieth century and include French and German colonial education as well as the British background already explored. The topics dealt with are all framed by issues already articulated in the previous century, but they also indicate a quickening of the pace of colonial educational development and the ever-greater complexity of the issues involved.

Outside of South Africa, the first great investigation of colonial education conducted in modern ‘scientific’ mode was the report of 1911 conducted by Martin Schlunk, Inspector of Missions, under the aegis of the Hamburg Colonial Institute on Education in the German Empire. This included information and statistics on elementary and secondary schools (gehobene Schule) and arrangements for the teaching of practical work, management, buildings, costs, attendance and curricula. I have not been able to establish to what extent it was translated into policy.45

It was only after World War I and in the context of the League of Nations’ mandates system that the International Missionary Council (IMC) and American mission and humanitarian societies initiated the first significant inter-colonial commission of enquiry on African education. This set the stage for mission cooperation and joint government, mission and philanthropic foundation action in the field of education. It was funded by the Phelps-Stokes Foundation of New York and investigated all aspects of education in sub-Saharan Africa embracing most British, Portuguese and Belgian colonies as well as Liberia and Abyssinia (but ← 11 | 12 → excluding French colonies), through the purportedly scientific lens of educational studies as it was taking shape in institutes such as Teachers College in New York and the Institut J. J. Rousseau in Geneva.46 These two reports have provided the basis for much of the debate on African education ever since.47 They also formed the basis of the Memorandum of the Education Committee of the Conference of Missionary Societies of Great Britain and Ireland on Education Policy in Africa (1923)48 and the IMC inter-colonial educational conferences at High Leigh, near Cambridge (1924), and Le Zoute, Belgium (1926),49 which led to the establishment of the ACNETA. The subsequent publication of a Colonial Office Memorandum on Education in British Tropical Africa (1925)50 marked the first tentative move towards policy formulation and the coordination of mission and government educational planning. These reports laid the basis for what came to be known as adapted education and have been the focus of a good deal of subsequent debate about the shape of educational policy in Africa.

The key issues which summed up these policy recommendations were the following:

Education should be adapted to the mentality, aptitudes, occupations and traditions of the various peoples, conserving as far as possible all sound and healthy elements of the fabric of their social life, adapting them where necessary to changed circumstances and progressive ideas, as agents of natural growth and evolution.51

As A. R. Thompson points out,52 a number of government documents formulated in various colonial jurisdictions reflected the ethos of the Phelps-Stokes reports on the adaptation of African education in the early 1920s. These included the British Colonial Office Memo, the Antonetti Circular No. 8 concerning the organisation of public education in French Equatorial Africa and the Belgian Projet d’organisation de l’enseignment libre au Congo Belge.53 This plan was the educational aspect of what Hetherington has termed ‘the era of British Paternalism in Africa’ in which indirect rule, as formulated by Lord Lugard in The Dual Mandate in British Tropical Africa,54 was to provide the overarching philosophy of colonial rule, and adapted education, as formulated by Phelps-Stokes, was to represent its complementary educational philosophy.

This policy was crafted to suit the needs of the mandates in keeping with Lord Lugard’s notions of indirect rule, which ‘imposed a moral duty and a moral attitude’55 on the colonial rulers, to develop the resources of the ‘backward areas’ while offering protection to the Indigenous inhabitants.56 In that context, adapted education was interpreted by its critics as a key instrument of indirect rule aimed at slowing down the rate of change given what were seen to be the disastrous political and social consequences of widespread ‘Western’ formal education in India. This was a conservative reaction to the need for a new educational policy which did not entail ‘the advocacy of some liberalization of colonial administration (in Africa) in order to involve the educated African in the process of government ← 12 | 13 → (as had tentatively been the case in India) but rather to retreat to less education or a different kind of education’ that was held to be appropriate to African peoples—whether because of their rural location or their cultural history and circumstances.57 These policies also represented a new form of legitimation for colonial rule in a new-found governmental and mission commitment to the science of anthropology which often seemed to provide for the protection of traditional institutions, communities and cultures, seen to be under threat.58

The ideas that lay behind adapted education did not represent a unique African policy invention. They were based upon the well-established Tuskegee model of education for black education in the postbellum rural South,59 and the turn from direct rule in India after the Indian Uprisings in 1857 to an emphasis on education in the Indian village as the authentic representation of Indian social and cultural life.60 As Hetherington notes, the remarks to be found in Edwin Smith’s Golden Stool represent the best example of comparative analysis available at the time between the Indian and African education systems.61

Christina Cappy and Richard Glotzer each contribute a chapter on the interface between American foundations and African education during the inter-war era. They demonstrate the significance of interventions by Carnegie, Rockefeller, Jeanes and Phelps-Stokes in this regard. The smaller Phelps-Stokes Fund was significant in exploring issues of philanthropy and education in Africa, but the development of this sphere led to significant interventions by Rockefeller (specifically in regard to the International Institute of African Languages and Culture [IIALC] [London] and German research in Africa) and Carnegie (with specific reference to the provision of libraries, educational research capacity, the establishment of the Institute of Race Relations in South Africa and the funding of the Carnegie Commission of Enquiry in Poor Whites in South Africa)62 and the major African Research Survey in 1938.

Cappy relates these initiatives to the wider politics of humanitarian developments at this time and demonstrates how the foundations were able to engage these agendas and influence policy direction in a variety of political contexts through the careful brokering of power relations. Key individuals were able to craft agendas that shifted government thinking in areas such as education. Jesse Jones, the director of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, linked Southern philanthropic movements to American and international mission networks, and to the Colonial Office in London. Charles T. Loram, initially the Chief Inspector of Native Education in Natal and subsequently Stirling Professor of Education and Race Relations at Yale University in the 1930s, was a key broker of the adaptationist philosophy. Their careers seem to demonstrate the influential role of a particular kind of patriarchal race politics of the time.

As Glotzer demonstrates, Loram’s ideas about the relationship between race, education and society were based on his experiences of the civil service in colonial Natal, Southern philanthropy and adaptation of schooling, which influenced him ← 13 | 14 → strongly when writing his thesis at Teachers College during 1916–1917. Through constant contact with these networks over a twenty-year period he kept on track with these ideas and sought to extend them to the wider African colonial context as well as to Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, essentially ignoring broader shifts towards more progressive approaches to race relations outlined earlier that gained traction through IMC networks, and the Colonial Office by the late 1930s. Although he was a caring mentor to the African students who studied at Yale in the 1930s, his field trips to the South and to Indian reservations seemed to have been intended to demonstrate to them the limited scope for them in the larger world of race relations. As Glotzer speculates, this lack of flexibility might be attributed to Loram’s ‘civil servant mentality’ which stressed the role of patriarchal advisers like him, or it might have reflected a great reluctance to confront his own prejudices in a world where ‘race relations’ was taking on radically new dimensions. This would seem to explain the difficulty various researchers have had over the years in understanding the precise nature of his role as he tried to accommodate a variety of conflicting agendas in the various contexts in which he worked.

Jesse Jones and Loram joined with the IMC leader J. H. Oldham and influential mission leaders such as John Mott in the United States to build a formidable network linking government and missions to the foundations. The funding provided by the Carnegie and Rockefeller foundations made possible the establishment of the IIALC and the African Research Survey that provided the scientific background to educational policy discussion and linked British and American thinking to German and French anthropological research and policy development.63

A key element of the situation as it evolved into the 1930s was the intense criticism of these policies by Norman Leys, William H. Macmillan, Victor Murray and Leonard Woolf.64 Victor Murray noted that ‘there was a certain meanness about a good deal of African education. The Native is looked upon as a tool to be fashioned rather than as a new partner in the age-long process of bringing the world out of darkness into light. So everything is so utilitarian, so very much ad-hoc, so patronizing’.65 Macmillan criticised the fact that rural community units were now attributed with ‘a more definite sense of community value than they really contain’ and that indirect rule and adapted education were often seen as devices for ‘driving advancing Africans backwards into tribal life from which they were escaping and that this threatened to paralyse hopeful experiments for change and development’.66

By the late 1930s an emerging focus on development was beginning to gain traction and to contest the emphasis on indirect rule.67 Though it did not depart entirely from earlier formulations, the great Carnegie-funded African Research Survey research project headed by Lord Hailey launched from the early 1930s at Oxford University, which culminated in An African Survey of 1938, provided a new set of beginnings to thinking about African development and education. ← 14 | 15 →

In summary, the shift in focus in African education during the 1930s was by no means dramatic or revolutionary but it did reflect some of the currents of world politics and a growing assumption that education in Africa should have considerable responsibility for preparing Africans to govern themselves—albeit in some remote future. The intervention of the Depression, the rise of fascism and Nazism in Europe, the ‘threat’ of communism and the emergence of African nationalism all contributed to a climate in which education was to play an ever-increasing role in politics.

Instead of following the adaptation path, Hailey was able to formulate the goals of African education in the following terms: ‘In Africa education is, and is intended to be, an instrument of change’—‘school life must therefore be designed not only to equip (the African) to deal with his existing environment, but fit him for the new conditions which he will have to face and help him to take his own part in shaping those conditions’.68 He was here using much the same language that Murray had used in his path-breaking book nearly a decade earlier, though that debt was unacknowledged.69

The precise degree to which these changes influenced education in different areas is still open to research and investigation, but the events dealt with in these chapters reflect different aspects of this increasing flexibility of thinking about policy, whether in the context of British colonial policy or in the other contexts under review.

One key issue that provides a theme throughout these debates is the education of women and girls. This was highlighted in the Phelps-Stokes reports70 and taken up in a variety of subsequent policy discussions. In 1925 there was an IMC conference on the Education of African Women, and in 1936 the IMC conference on missionary education in Kenya and Uganda highlighted the issue of women’s and girls’ education.71 The presence of Sara Burstall and Annie (‘A. W.’) Whitelaw on ACNETU/ACEC from 1925 to 1926 provided some evidence of a gender balance, but as Charlotte Hastings has demonstrated they were constrained by the strong masculine dominance in the context in which they worked.72 Despite the fact that there has been limited attention to the topic of women’s education in colonial Africa to date, this provides a background to the extensive coverage of this topic to be found in Meghan Healy-Clancy’s chapter on women’s education in South Africa. Gender and education provide a wide framework for interrogating the relationship between society and education which embraces family life and customs, health and welfare issues, sexual practices, child rearing, human rights, economic conditions and approaches to religion and custom. Many of these issues were foregrounded at different times in relation to the ‘scientific’ understanding of African society and the search for means to more effectively control or develop the people involved. The relationship of women to society lies at the centre of notions of stability and detribalisation, which were never far from the minds of ← 15 | 16 → missionaries and colonial officials—and schools were a key means of intervention. Joanna Lewis provides interesting new perspectives on the politics of women’s education in colonial Africa and the issue of development.73 This is also an issue that is picked up in a very different way in the chapter by Pierre Guidi on an Ethio-French girls’ school in Ethiopia in the 1930s where issues of culture, language and nation-building are related to women’s education for the elite classes of an independent African state attempting to forge a compromise between the traditional and the modern.

UNESCO Era and the Era of ‘Development’


VIII, 340
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (August)
African colonial education historiography of education German colonialism British colonialism French colonialism West Africa South Africa Ethiopia Tanzania Madagascar colonial Africa
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2016. VIII, 340 pp.

Biographical notes

Peter Kallaway (Volume editor) Rebecca Swartz (Volume editor)

Peter Kallaway, a teacher educator/historian/comparative educationalist/policy analyst, is Emeritus Professor of Education at the University of the Western Cape and Research Associate at the University of Cape Town. A past and current member of the editorial boards of several academic journals, including History of Education, he is editor of The History of Education under Apartheid: 1948–1994 (2003); Education after Apartheid (1997); Johannesburg: Images and Continuities: A History of Working Class Life through Pictures, 1885–1935 (with P. Pearson, 1986); and Apartheid and Education (1984). Rebecca Swartz completed her Ph.D., "Ignorant and Idle: Indigenous Education in Natal and Western Australia, 1833–1875", at Royal Holloway, University of London, in 2015. She was funded by the Commonwealth Scholarship Commission. She is currently a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town.


Title: Empire and Education in Africa
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350 pages